So, despite all your hard work, when it came down to it your position was on the chopping block and you were recently laid-off. The grim reality of today’s troubled economy is likely hitting home for many young women striving to reach their career goals. But there is some good news. If you made it over the six month hump chances are you may qualify for unemployment benefits. And due to the uncertain job market, many women are learning to be creative and take advantage of this “extended vacation.” So, don’t panic. Here are some ways to make unemployment benefit you:

Plan: If you need to take a little time to sulk, go ahead. Get it out. Now it’s time to think, plan ahead and save as much a possible. More than likely your unemployment benefits will be less than what you made while working, so come up with a budget for yourself. It may be helpful to defer any student loans you have as well and ease up on or eliminate credit card usage. Decide how you can use this time wisely and what your next move will be.

Travel: If you were holding out on that lovely week of paid vacation time, only to get the pink slip before you could take advantage of it, why not treat yourself now? It doesn’t have to be as extravagant as what you had in mind before, but a quick getaway to the islands or a road trip with (or without) the girls can give you time to woo-sah, refresh and regroup. You never know how a change of environment may inspire you. Volunteering or working abroad may even be something to consider.

Get a trade: Getting a massage therapy license, learning how to sew or bake, or capitalizing off skills you already have, are all ways to help supplement extra income (and could even become a long-term source of income). The extra money can go a long way during this time, and hopefully you won’t find yourself penny-pinching in between unemployment checks.

Go for it: With the economy in limbo, more and more people are going into business for themselves. If you’re dreading getting back into the rat race and have aspirations to be self-employed, now is the time to go for it; and luckily you have a source of income without the constraints of working. But, whether you want to start a blog, consulting firm, holistic spa, bakery, etc., be sure to do your research, get sound advice and come up with a business plan. Self-discipline is also crucial. It’s important to set realistic goals, deadlines and schedules for yourself and stick to them.

Network: Whether you’re striving to find another job or start your own business, it’s always about who you know. Surrounding yourself with people in your industry or those who can give you business advice is essential. Stay on top of events and places in your area that will likely draw the kind of people you want to rub elbows with and be sure to have business cards handy. In addition, take advantage of social-networking sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

Live: Get in shape; take that dance class you’ve wanted to try out; start jogging or bicycling in the morning; sign-up to be a mentor; visit the museums in your area—live. When we’re trapped in the hustle and bustle of a 9 to 5, it’s often hard to make time for the other little things on our to do lists. So while your “thinking of a master plan” now is also your chance to partake in some of the things you never seemed to have time to before.

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