Know Somebody Out Of Work?


My guess is you know someone right now who is unemployed. That person could be a personal friend, a family member, the neighbour next door or one of your acquaintances. If I’m right, your mind has already identified them by name as you are reading along. What if anything are you doing to help them out?

I mean that’s what you should be doing isn’t it? Helping someone out at a time when they need more help than they are asking for? If you’ve ever been out of work yourself, you know what it’s like. While it’s a different experience for everyone it can be a time of embarrassment, shame, humiliation. For the lucky among us, it can also be a time of opportunity, a fresh start in a new direction or the same direction but with a new organization.

So what can you do? Well to begin with it’s pretty important to find out first-hand how the person you know is handling things; get their perspective on being out of work before making any assumptions. You might for example be all prepared to be sympathetic and understanding, talking almost with reverence in hushed tones only to find out they are euphoric.

If its genuine happiness that they are no longer working for an organization and are greatly relieved to be free, you yourself might have to change your intended role from a comforting best friend to a cheerleader. How comfortable are you with those pom-poms?

Conversely, you might be more comfortable speaking with a person who has already started to move on and is looking for alternative work, but the person themselves is still in shock and denial. You might be ready for the next stage where seeking employment is what it’s all about, but your friend is still feeling like a casuality in a train wreck called Life. Switch off your employment counselling and start with emotional triage.

This is a sign of a really valuable person; the ability to listen and observe a person in a given situation, make no pre-conceived assumptions, and then adapt oneself to what you see and give them what they need at that time. This is so much more beneficial than giving them what you perceive they’d need because it’s what you’d want in the same situation.

Now you may not have a level of comfort dealing with someone in whatever state you find them. This of course is your issue, not theirs. Given that one of you is out of work, I’d say it’s your responsibility not theirs to adapt. Can you do that? Some can and others can’t. You might be the kind of person who is more than willing to help but only when the person snaps out of what you call their own pity-party. In the nicest way possible, you might be entirely right to gently let them know when you will be most useful to them if it’s not now.

You run the risk of course of being seen later by the person as not being there when they needed you. That of course isn’t the real issue; you made an offer of help but didn’t have the necessary interpersonal skills to deal with the person in the state you found them. You made an offer of help when they themselves transitioned to a place where you could meet them and provide help then.

Now one of the most common things people fear who are out of work is that they get left out and forgotten. In their minds, the world is carrying on quite nicely and they are missing out. The solution for these types is to keep them connected. Maybe it’s a phone call, dropping off a meal (which gives you another opportunity to speak with them when you collect the serving dish you delivered it in).

Having someone over to watch a comedy movie and share some drinks and snacks. They feel connected and included, there’s no awkwardness over money as there would be in paying to see a movie at the theatre, and the laughs the movie generates would do everyone some good. By the way, totally avoiding the topic is NOT a good idea. Talk about how things are going, where are they at and ask how you might help them best. Then show the movie and sound genuine when you say goodnight and you’ll stay in touch.

What else can you do? If you both have a previously paid for membership in something – the gym, the golf club etc., make plans to go and keep that part of your relationship ongoing and them active. You might hear bitterness, talks of revenge and anger. Make your own assessment of how serious the person is and don’t over-react and think they’ll carry through on 90% of what you hear.

You can also look for jobs they might be interested in and pass them along, offer to be a personal or character reference for them. Offer to proofread anything that might help them out. Just plain ask what you could do to help. You don’t have to have all the answers to solving their problem.

If they are willing to give you their resume, you could also speak (with their permission) to other people and see what if anything you can come up with to help them get back in the game.

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