Beyond some supportive words of encouragement, how can friends and relatives best help a jobseeker through a trying job hunt?
Being sensitive doesn't hurt.
"The worst thing well-meaning family and friends can do is . . . tell them to get off their butt and get a job," cautions Tom Sartoris, a Sacramento career and vocational counselor. "Looking for work is much harder than showing up for work."
Who Do You Know?
He recommends that family and friends ask what they can do to help and suggest community resources that could be useful. Friends can also ask people they come in contact with - in the mall, at church or in other social situations - if they know anyone who is hiring.
It's wise to give the jobseeker some space. "If the person is sincerely looking for work and you are questioning them constantly, all you are doing is raising their blood pressure and aggravating them," Sartoris says.
He also suggests to those in a stressful job hunt that they read Why You Can't Be Anything You Want To Be, by Arthur Miller.
Sartoris advises jobseekers to be flexible while looking at alternatives.
"Some people may not want to be a clerk . . . but managers make good money with good benefits," he counsels. "One of the best approaches is to get a job, get a better job and then a career job."
"In these times of higher unemployment, I usually tell people to keep looking even if it involves going back to school," comments Leslie Franklin, a marriage and family therapist at Union Family Therapy Center in San Francisco. "I tell people to stretch themselves and to look for things they longed to do."
She recommends the job hunter's bible "What Color Is Your Parachute" as a great workbook for career exploration.
Carol Christen, a career counselor with JobhuntersBible.com, advises against asking your unemployed friend or spouse to run errands, babysit, clean out the garage, or reroof Great Aunt Edna's barn.
"The job hunter's focus should not be diverted from job hunting," she contends. "Most job hunters spend seven to ten hours a week job hunting. On average, they only see five employers a month. No wonder the dismal task of finding a job drags out for months!"
She also advises spouses or partners against telling the jobseeker to write a resume before they start their job hunt.
"Resumes are the last way that employers prefer to fill vacancies," she reveals. "Employers prefer to hire from within or through their personal or business contacts. That is why time spent building a network of people who are doing the job you want to do is such an effective strategy. If the job hunter needs a resume, it should be tailored to the specific job they want at a specific company."
Tell your job-hunting friend to tap their network for names of other people who were recently unemployed, but have now found work they enjoy.
"They have just been through the job hunt and their war stories and learning are fresh," she notes. "Having just passed over the hot coals of unemployment themselves, they are often eager to help others."
Christen says above all be supportive. This will help buoy the jobseeker's self-esteem in the face of the constant rejection that is second nature to a job hunt.
The jobhuntersbible.com offers these additional tips for friends and family of the newly unemployed:
- Don't greet them with the question, "Did you get a job?" If you are living with them or a close friend, you will be one of the first to know.
- Job hunting is a job. The job hunter should be spending at least six hours a day at it. Help them keep track of the number of phone calls they make each day, the number of job related e-mails they send, how much time they spend on the Internet or at the library. These statistics will help your friend feel they are keeping at the business of looking for work.
- Encourage them to begin job hunting immediately. Facing the job hunt is much like getting back on a horse that has thrown its rider. Fears only pile up if you don't climb back on that horse right away.
- Sit down with your newly out-of-work friend or spouse and draw up a budget. What are their resources and how long can they afford to be without a paycheck?
- Encourage them to put together their own "Job Hunt Advisory Board." This should be three or four people who are positive personalities, creative thinkers and capable of giving the out-of-work person a no-nonsense critique of their job-hunting efforts.
- Stress to your partner or friend that they need to assess their best skills and the fields in which they would like to use them. Target two to three types of jobs and get to know people who are currently working in those jobs. These people can become their eyes and ears to learn about new vacancies.
- Remind the jobseeker to send a thank-you note to everyone who takes the time to meet with them.
Finally, if the job search drags on for more than three months, Richard Bolles, author of What Color Is Your Parachute, recommends that jobseekers do other things besides the job hunt. He advises they "Seek out a career counselor for help. Go out, get active, volunteer someplace, take a college course, be a blessing to this Earth even though you don't yet have a job."
And in time they will once again be back on the payroll.