What your unemployed friend actually needs

Do’s and Don’ts to support your friend who is in transition, between jobs or just plain unemployed

A recently unemployed client shared, “Becoming unemployed is emotionally wrought, especially if you’re like me and your whole identity is wrapped up in your career.”

Supporting someone through a job search is tricky business. What words can you offer to help them through this difficult, sensitive time? What can you actually do for them? As a job search coach, I give you my advice.

Avoid These:

Don’t be dismissive. “You will be fine.” or “All my unemployed friends got jobs in less than 3 months.” These words belittle his experience and may not give the hope you intend to give. Remember, your intention may not be equal to your impact.

Don’t offer well intentioned advice. “My friend got a job by doing this… you should do that!” Your friend may be in an entirely different situation, with an entirely different set of skills than your other friend. Also, be sure to ask, “Can I give you some advice?” before you launch in with your well intentioned ideas. And please, if they say, “No thank you,” hold your tongue!

Don’t say “I know how you feel” or “You must be thrilled to have all this free time!” I have news for you. If you are not currently unemployed, you don’t know how she feels. This is another common mistake that will trivialize the situation and make you seem oblivious to the reality of her feelings.

Don’t ask again and again, “How’s the job search going?” Your friend is still a friend who has interests outside their job search. Ask him about something that isn’t related to the job search. Tell him a funny story. Be human. Rest assured, he will invite you to celebrate when he lands a new job.

Do These:

1) Ask her what she is looking for and what she really wants to do. What industry or job title or company is your friend targeting? She’ll feel empowered by making these choices. You’ll have what you need to start thinking of introductions. Be a good listener. Listen with compassion and without judgement.

2) Connect with your friend on LinkedIn. While you’re at it, update your own connections. You never know when they will be useful to you, or your friends.

3) Offer to attend a networking event with him. Help him find the event, and be his wingman. Having a supportive person in the room can make all the difference in one’s confidence.

4) Offer to loan out your extra laptop or electronic device.

5) Offer to baby sit or help out in other ways. It’s easy to get consumed by household duties and family obligations when you’re not working.

6) Offer to meet her mid-day, perhaps at a local coffee shop or library, to encourage 2 things: getting out of the house to avoid isolation and increasing her job exploration productivity.

7) Offer to get together for fun stuff the two of you would normally do. Hiking, a potluck, $5 movie night, chatting on the phone, walking your dog, getting coffee on a weekend. Be mindful when inviting him to events that are overly expensive.

8) Offer to do a mock interview, especially if you have experience hiring. The experience will be very helpful.

9) Be honest and supportive when you offer to proof read resumes, LinkedIn profile, cover letters, business cards. If you are tech-savvy, consider offering support with online applications or monitoring their online reputation.

10) Last, but not least…help your friend see the positive. Count their small wins. 10 phone calls, and 5 resume submissions? AWESOME!!!!

And of course, send your friend to JVS!

Job seekers – what do you think? What other ways would you like to be supported?

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