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by SixFigureStart | January 13, 2009


Those looking for some levity amidst the tsunami of depressing news about the economy could do worse than check out The Irish Times' recent annual awards for "management twaddle."* Among some of the more noteworthy (and amusing) awards handed out by writer Lucy Kellaway are gongs for "Best New Job Title," (hint: it's 17 words long) and "Treating Your Employees Like Animals" (to a council in England that promised its employees they could "earn … a chocolate treat" if they remembered to switch off their computers).

If all of that isn't enough to make anyone who's recently been laid off heave a sigh of relief at getting a break from the B.S. (however unwanted that break may be), then how about the news that you haven't actually been fired? The category for "Best Term for Sacking People" gives a special mention to those companies partaking in "dynamically rightsizing" their workforce (which sounds kinda like vigorous liposuction, if you ask me), but reserves the gold for those who chose to "upgrade" their employees onto the unemployment line instead. How did a term for getting a free promotion to the champagne-sipping section of the plane gain equivalence with getting fired? Funny you should ask. According to Kellaway, "A reader reports that when she was fired by her U.S. company in mid-2008 she was told: 'We are going to upgrade you with immediate effect. We are going to allow you to move on in order that you can you use your talents and skills more effectively and thus upgrade your career and opportunities.'"

As hilarious (or depressingly cynical) as that particular piece of corporate twaddle is, it's not actually the worst way to think about your circumstances if you've recently been laid off. Sure, you don't want someone giving you a letter with directions on how to locate the silver lining as they're handing you a big ol' pile of cloud, but thinking positive never hurt anyone in the job market. There are countless stories of people out there who have bounced back stronger than ever after losing a job, and many more who have found their true calling only after suffering a setback in the marketplace. Heck, it's happening in the investment banking community right now.

Looking upon an enforced hiatus from the working world as an opportunity to upgrade your skills, qualifications or knowledge in your particular field is a lot healthier (and more likely to get you back in the workforce ahead of your competition) than self-pity. And for some, the upgrade may even come in terms of happiness—trading a hated job or career for something that makes you feel good.

So there you have it. As difficult as it might be, try to think positively. In this economy, the chances are your layoff was an economic decision rather than a personal one (i.e. you were sacrificed to try and save the company rather than let go for poor performance), so there's limited mileage to be gained from focusing on the details of the layoff. Instead, try and focus on the opportunities in front of you, and don't be afraid to cast off in an entirely new direction if that's what appeals. Difficult advice to swallow? Of course. But who knows? Follow it and one day you may get an offer worthy of the title "upgrade".

 --Posted by Phil Stott, Vault Staff Writer

*Thanks to Vault writer Ingrid Ahlgren for sharing the article.