Nine Do’s for Friends and Family

When a close friend or loved one becomes unemployed, it’s hard to know what to say or do. Even after my husband and I started telling friends and family about our circumstances when we were going through it, things felt strained with other people. If you know someone who is “in transition,” here are some tips on what to do.

DO:

1. Let them talk… or not. Being let go from a job is an emotional blow. There are the immediate concerns about how the bills are going to be paid. Many also feel a loss of identity and a lack of direction. It is very natural for the one out of work to want to talk to process everything. If this would describe the person you know, lend an ear and let him/her get it all out without interruptions.

But say your friend doesn’t want to talk about it. That’s fine, too. Don’t force the issue. Not everyone wants to keep focusing on the job loss. Or they may have someone else that they choose to discuss things with. Whatever choice the job seeker you know makes, respect it.

2. Ask “How can I help?” Trying to process the change in the employment situation and develop a plan to deal with it is challenging, to say the least. Folks in this boat may be doing all they can just to keep their heads above water. To have an offer such as this can be a lifeline.

3. Preface offerings with “Would it help if…?” This method is good for two reasons: it makes a specific suggestion and it respects the job hunter by allowing him/her to be in control of what happens. With the loss of control in other aspects of life, this matters a lot.

4. Offer to take the kids. With the time spent on a job hunt being equivalent to a full-time job (and then some) done at home, this is a huge help. Conducting phone interviews, attending networking events, and even getting a chance to work on the résumé without interruptions are just a few of the benefits of this for the job seeker.

5. Offer to make a meal. With the sudden loss of income, budgets become very tight. Plus, there is the aforementioned stress of still having activities that equal a 40+ hour work week. A meal now and again (or perhaps setting up a schedule of meals among friends for a week or so) is appreciated.

6. Suggest going for walk (or any other free/low cost activity). Yes, the job hunt is time-consuming and is the most important thing to be working on, but everyone needs a periodic break from it. Giving your friend a reason to step away from the computer for a time helps them rejuvenate a bit and stave off burn-out.

7. If you work in the same field, suggest going to a networking event together. It can be hard for a job seeker to go to networking event after losing a job. The thought of facing people can just seem so daunting. To take networking out of a job hunting strategy, however, is a bad choice given that job seekers are more like to find a job through networking. Having someone else to go with them to the event, however, makes it much easier to say “yes” to this opportunity.

8. Introduce them to people you know who could help. Whether or not you work in the same industry, you may still have connections that could be useful. Another friend or a cousin, for example, may have a career in a similar line of work. Before making such introductions, however, be sure to ask the job seeker’s permission to pass on their name.

9. Have patience with them. Losing one’s job is discombobulating, to say the least. It’s understandable if the person seems to be acting out of character. After all, life has just been turned completely upside down. Being a source of support will go a long way to smoothing out the lows that come along with this situation.

What other suggestions would you add to this list of do’s?

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