How to Help Loved Ones Who Become Unemployed

Published: Sep 01, 2011

 Job Search       Networking       

You may have escaped the axe at work, but chances are you know someone who has lost his or her job and can use a helping hand.  As a friend or family member, you certainly feel a responsibility to be there for your loved ones, but what can you do; what should you do; and what should you avoid doing when it’s time to give back?

find job, helping hand
Don’t tell them everything will be ok. 
It might be nice to hear, but the newly unemployed hear those words differently than the way you intended them to sound.  They might be angry, because you have a job and think "What do you know about my situation?"  They might feel like you are trying to pacify them.  And most times, they just want to wallow in their misery.  It’s part of the healing process.  They want to feel bad for a moment and you’re interfering with that.  In reality, you do not know if everything will be ok, so it’s best not to get someone’s hopes up, because if things get worse, what will you say then? 

Don’t tell them, you’ll get a job soon.  There is a certain level of disappointment when everyone tells you, “don’t worry, you’ll get a job soon,” and you don’t.  It’s as if they are letting people down.  It also begs the questions, “Everyone said I would get a job, but I haven’t…what’s wrong with me?”  In truth, it’s the economy that’s wrong and it might have nothing to do with the unemployed person, but that simple comment actually places undue pressure on the jobseeker, regardless of if it was intended. 

Send them the right job postings.  The biggest mistake friends make is just sending any job posting to their friend.  For the first couple of months of unemployment, it’s fair to say that an unemployed jobseeker is allowed to be slightly picky in his or her job search.  Ask what they are exactly looking for in terms of a job and listen to them.  Then ask, “If I run across something, would you like me to send any your way?”   If they say yes, look for jobs in their field and email possible matches to your friend. 

Open your door to them.  If your loved one is struggling and has to cut services to make ends meet, and they need to use an Internet connection or a printer for their resume, make sure they know they can count on you in their time of need.  It’s hard to find a job in the first place, but if you are lacking the tools necessary to get the job done, it is almost impossible.  This simple gesture will get them on the right track again.  On that note, if they need a ride to an interview and you can help out, open your car door for them, too. 

Help them network. Introduce your friend to anyone you know who could help their career.  There are ways to go about this without being pushy.  You can simply ask a colleague or connection to meet with your friend through an informational interview.  You can connect them via LinkedIn.  You might even throw a party and make sure your friend attends, so he or she can meet industry players who could help them further their job search.  Never say, “If there is anything I can do, I am there,” without meaning it.  It’s important to follow-through with your promises. 

Be a real friend.  First, let your friend vent.  Only offer advice if they ask.  Sometimes, they just want to complain and knowing they have a friend there to listen means a lot to them.  Second, help your friend deal with the stress by not having to deal with the stress.  Find cheap, preferably free, ways to enjoy each other’s company – basketball, watching a game on TV, playing video games, working out.  Help them keep their mind off their troubles and it will help them de-stress and become better focused for the job search ahead.  Finally, don’t offer money, but find ways you can help your loved one deal with their financial difficulties in a more creative way.  Invite friends over to hang out and then order pizza.  Free meal.  When they offer to pay, just say, “You’ll get me next time.”  These little ways help your friend without it being thrown in their face.  A good support system can make a big difference in someone’s life. 

--Jon Minners,