Five Things Not to Say to Someone Who is Unemployed
Everyone wants to help a friend in need. Especially during the summer when hiring often slows down and depression over a job search can be at an all-time high. And if you have a friend who is currently in job search, the natural tendency may be to try more diligently to help him during this time of year.
But before you start dishing out advice, make sure it's actually helpful. Consider these typical comments/suggestions that many well-meaning friends make during someone's job search. Are you really helping, or could you be massaging your message to add more value to your friend's search strategy?
- I'm sure things will pick up in the fall. This is a cop out on your part and just a way to make the conversation an easier one for you. Show some genuine empathy and let your friend know that you understand that the summer can be a difficult time to be in a job search and that you are there for him and are willing to offer emotional support.
- It's brutal out there; I have another friend who has been out of work for 18 months. Perhaps you are trying to make your friend feel better by showing him he is not alone in his struggles. But comparing two people's job searches is like comparing apples and oranges. So many factors -- including the person's profession, industry, geography, years of experience, resume, quality of their network, and general search strategy -- can influence the length of the search. Rather than focus on what you think is the norm for a job search, concentrate on ways you can help your friend accelerate his. Invite him to events or social functions where he may be able to meet people to expand his network or offer to introduce him to one of your colleagues.
- Let me take a look at your resume; maybe I can offer some suggestions. Unless you screen or write resumes on a regular basis, don't offer to critique someone else's. What you think looks professional may not be what hiring authorities, recruiters, and applicant tracking softwares are looking for. Refer your friend to free resume-writing workshops in the community or a professional resume writer instead.
- Have you posted your résumé on any job boards? I hear a lot of people are using (insert job board here). Believe me, most job seekers have already explored this option with minimal results. Hearing the suggestion from you is like rubbing salt into a wound. Rather than recommending that she show up at a job board party with thousands of other applicants, offer her an introduction to someone in your network.
- Maybe you should start your own business. You've always been good at (fill in the blank). While your suggestion has good intentions, your friend might not be ready to wrap their head around the concept of starting their own business. And they might not really be cut out for it either. Starting a business requires an enormous amount of thought, time, energy, and introspection. It is generally not an ideal short-term solution to a job loss.
If you know anyone in a job search this summer, offer them a meal, an ear, an introduction, and your time. They will get much more mileage out of that kind of support than often-misplaced suggestions for what they "should" be doing. Don't focus on the quick fix solution; instead focus on supporting and being there for your friend.