Job Search Survival – 8 Ways to Help Your Friends and Family
Often, when friends need help, our instinct is to do whatever we can to “fix” the problem. But, when it comes to something as big, personal and stressful as looking for a new job, this isn’t always the best approach. If you have a friend or family member who’s unemployed and looking for a job, there are lots of things you can do to help—but it’s also important to avoid saying or doing the wrong things. Here’s our take on US News’ eight things to keep in mind when someone close to you is engaged in a tough job search.
1. Don’t constantly ask for updates.
Asking your job seeking friend or family member for constant updates can be overwhelming and frustrating. Those closest to a job seeker are often tempted to regularly ask for updates. Trust that if there is news to report, they will tell you. It can be embarrassing for a job seeker to have to repeat over and over that they don’t have the new job yet, lost an offer or haven’t heard back from an employer.
2. Avoid giving unsolicited career advice.
Unemployed people often receive a lot of career advice. This career advice is often repetitive and often incorrect. If you haven’t been on the job market yourself recently, you might not be aware of how job search conventions have changed. While your advice may be well-intentioned you may annoy your friend or lead her in the wrong direction.
If you must give advice anyway…
3. Don’t get offended if he/she doesn’t take your advice.
You are not experiencing the every day efforts of a job search. A job search tactic that works for one may not apply to another, so be kind if the person passes on the advice. It doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate your help or want your involvement. It may mean they have strong instincts and realize what will work for them.
4. Offer to connect them with people in your network.
If you and your friend are in even a remotely related field you have contacts who could help. If you do, you can offer to send a resume out to people in your network, make introductions or a recommendation to a hiring manager. Many jobs are found through personal connections, so don’t underestimate your power to be a huge help in this regard.
5. Offer to network with them.
It’s intimidating to walk into a room full of strangers alone. Offer to go to networking events as a companion but then make sure that you get out of the way as conversation strikes with a possible connection. In addition to networking events, sometimes an outside perspective helps a job seeker realize all the connections they already have. Sit down over coffee and pour through people you have in common including friends, neighbors, co-workers, colleagues, and even casual acquaintances. Most people have many more connections than they realize, and often don’t know the professions of casual acquaintances.
6. Don’t trivialize unemployment.
You might be tempted to observe that it’s nice to have plenty of times to run errands and watch TV, but you’ll sound insensitive to the stress and anxiety anyone unemployed is almost certainly dealing with. Being unemployed isn’t a vacation and can make a job seeker feel powerless.
7. Do something else.
So often family and friends of job seekers can get wrapped up in the job search process. Go to dinner, a movie, a play or just hang out together. When you go out, make sure that you pick up the bill—but also consider asking to do things that don’t cost money, like watching a DVD or going for a walk. Just make sure that you’re there for companionship, regardless of what’s happening in the job seeking process.
8. Give time.
Don’t expect your friend to find a job immediately or express surprise that at the length of the job search. In this market, job searches may take months, and in some cases a year or more. Some well-meaning friends try to help with “tough love”—telling the job seeker to just work harder and the offers will come. This can be excruciating for the job seeker, who might be working far harder than you know. Keeping the judgment out of the conversation is one of the most supportive things you can do.
The job market is very competitive right now, as any job seeker will tell you. If someone close to you is in the process of a difficult job search right now, try to follow this advice. Offering your support without being overbearing can really help motivate your friend or loved one to continue through this difficult process.
Image credit: Marc Falardeau