How to Encourage an Unemployed Friend

Career Blog

Redundant Businesswoman Leaving Office With BoxWhen people are suddenly unemployed they can often feel frustrated, powerless, even victimized. While they might put on a brave face and instantly engage in activities such as sending resumes and researching companies, lack of results, especially over time can deteriorate their demeanor. Add financial concerns to the mix and it makes for an emotionally debilitating experience.  

You can help by having them step back from the immediacy of the situation and focus on activities that they can control and that will ultimately contribute to the success of their search. For example, you can ask them to:

  1. Take a self-assessment that uncovers or validates their professional strengths and the type of job they should pursue 
  2. Define their professional brand: clarify what they are known for and which portions of that identify they want to retain or adjust in their next role.
  3. Recall their career achievements and practice how they would communicate those on both the resume and an interview.
  4. Identify their Deal-breakers: When desperation sets in it’s easy to opt for a career Band-Aid. Some things however are simply not negotiable. Having a written list will help ensue you don’t settle for something you’ll regret e.g. that 2 hour one way commute.

The desire to assist is a noble one, but your contributions should be purposeful. Remember, general questions or undefined offers of support are not helpful. When a friend’s family member dies asking, “Is there anything I can do?” is nice, but useless. Offering to cook a few meals, babysit the kids, or mow the lawn on the other hand are specifics that hold real value.  

When someone’s career flat-lines you have to be equally specific. Offer to review his or her resume, role-play an interview, discuss their dream job, or simply let them vent about the departure in order to avoid the mistake of badmouthing a previous employer on a future interview.

Sometimes however what they most need is space. Losing a job is tremendous hit to one’s sense of self. If they ask for time, give it. Just be sure to check back after a week or two to ensure they’ve reengaged in the process and are making progress.

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Be sure to check out my new book The Introvert’s Guide to Job Hunting and follow me on Twitter at @timtoterhi

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