This is a very subjective answer, but as said, "this is a question with many possible facets". Besides, I guess most general-use advice on programming career advancement has already been mentioned. :)
If that happened to me, I'd use the opportunity, now that there's finally more time, to:
- think a bit more about what to do in life in general
- travel around (a lot more than what's possible on summer vacations) while not hopelessly too old for that
- after that, at some point, get back to work, perhaps trying to get a job abroad (a new experience for me)
- Try not to think about the whole thing too much right now. Maybe see someone and talk, or just relax alone, depending on what it feels like then.
- think about good people I haven't seen in a long time, but should
- think about places in South America and elsewhere to visit in the coming months
- I wouldn't make any specific plans, only play around with ideas and endless possibilities
(Apart from meeting those people and booking flights, etc):
Update LinkedIn page:
- add more details about the latest job (in my case, I loved it and learned heaps, so there are many things to tell)
- ask for recommendations from colleagues, especially the ones I respect the most
- at the top of the profile, explain my situation and mention that after a certain period (say, 6 months) I will be available for such and such position, mainly in Helsinki, but why not in London, Dublin, Amsterdam, or other European capital.
That would be the only resume updating I'd do in the short term. And it's not a big task, since (in my experience) LinkedIn is quite naturally kept reasonably up-to-date all the time. When nearing the return to the corporate world, I'd get into all that more deeply.
In the following months (occasionally, in an internet cafe somewhere):
- Respond emails from recruiters I got while still working (mainly because of Linkedin profile), and (hopefully) those received during the break. Perhaps preliminarily start arranging an interview somewhere, if something interesting comes up.
Of course, for most people, this kind of reaction to getting laid off is not possible without:
Whenever you have a job that pays well (i.e., more than you really need for day-to-day living):
- Put some money aside so as not to be financially dependent on having a job all the time
Some might say this is risky, and that taking a long time off might lessen your chances of finding a good programming job again. Perhaps, but you can also look at it this way: Right now, with this global economic situation, it is not the best time to find a new (good) job. Several months later we're probably a lot wiser about where all this is going. (Of course, it might turn out to be even more difficult to get a job then.) Anyway, it may be just the right moment to do something completely different; something you've thought about, but never done because of being a bit stuck in a rut with your career, or afraid, or just too comfortable with status quo.
Whatever that would be in your case; for example if you're an entreprenurial type, why not take the chance to start your own company (perhaps with colleagues also laid off or otherwise interested joining you). Read this, if you do. :)