For me, I saw the writing on the wall for my 9-5 job about a year before I got the layoff notice. I had plenty of time and money to look into and try various things (day trading, FOREX, note purchasing, plus various real estate sub markets). So, I did. I chose real estate for a number of internal and external reasons that I'll get into in another post.
If your time frame or budget don't support that, there are alternatives.
If you have limited time, spend about a month searching out all the info you can find on various blogs and seminar web sites. Avoid any seminars that are too general (some of them are very good but you will have time for those later). If you know what you want to do, look for single speaker/product seminars within your "travel zone" (whatever that is for you). If you still don't know exactly what you want to do, go to a multi speaker, multi day seminar. That is the best way to expose yourself to the many possibilities.
At the initial seminar, you will generally be given the opportunity to give them money to learn more about the topic you chose. If this is a multi speaker seminar, find out from the seminar staff what the deadlines for signing up are. The reason is that you don't have time to play with multiple seminars and if something looks good at the beginning of the seminar but something better comes along at the end, and you don't know the sign up deadlines, you either have to sign up for both or pass on the first and hope that something better comes along. If you must, sign up for both. Attend the one that will work best for you and only attend the other if you end up having the time. It is not the optimal use of your money but it is an optimal use of your time.
If you have a limited budget but more than one year, go to as many multi speaker and other free seminars as you can. Don't buy into any of the products. They always have buy it now incentives at seminars. This is because they give the seminar host a cut of what they make and the host wants people to sign up at the seminar. The seminar will be back next year. They will offer the same deal or a better deal next time. When you spend your money, make it count.
If you are easily swayed, bring along a partner who have more willpower and give over your wallet. The speakers are trained to make it seem like the only people with success in their lives are the ones that pay them money "now." Once you've heard these from 2-3 dozen speakers, you learn that success does not come from giving your money to someone to learn something, it comes from giving your money to the right person to learn the right thing.
If you have Time and Budget
This was my route. I went to many multi speaker and single speaker seminars I bought a number of different products and follow up seminars (one might say too many but if I didn't I might not have found the one that did it for me). I learned that the same deal is offered every time the speaker presents it. I might have waited on some if I had known that. Oh, well. At least you can learn the easy way. So, if you have over a year and the budget, see as many different seminars as you can. Do go to the general self improvement seminars. You will want to take them eventually anyway and you have the time and the budget now.