When your loved one is undergoing a job hunt, it can feel like your job hunt too. You can get stressed watching their stress, feeling helpless on what you can do to support them. But in our attempts to be supportive, we can make missteps and say the wrong thing, such as “At least, you have more free time!”
Our “helpful” comments and suggestions can become one more burden that the job seeker has to carry. Here’s how to do it right:
Listen to their frustrations
Recognize that you are not in the driver’s seat in this job hunt, you’re a passenger along for the bumpy ride. If your partner or close friend wants to vent their frustrations about a job falling through, your job is to listen and respect their hurt feelings, not offer pointers on what they could have done better.
Searching for a new job, particularly when you are unemployed, can be a demoralizing process that leeches away at your self-esteem. You can be a confidence booster by offering words of affirmation and a judgment-free zone for your loved one.
“Some well-meaning friends try to help with ‘tough love’ — telling the job searcher to just work harder and the offers will come,” Ask a Manager’s Alison Green cautions. “This can be excruciating for the job searcher, who might be working far harder than you know. Keeping the judgment out of the conversation is one of the most supportive things you can do.”
Don’t hound them about it
You may think it’s helpful to check in regularly with your loved one about their job hunt, but those good intentions can become one more added pressure. This is one thing I personally experienced during one period of unemployment. Some family members would kick off phone calls asking if I had gotten a call back for an interview, and it would be dispiriting to have no good news to share. To be supportive of your job-hunting loved one, make sure that the job search is not your only topic of conversation.
Maintaining a healthy relationship during a tough time requires knowing what the other person needs. And that means communicating about it. For anxious individuals, you can express your feelings to your loved one assertively by sticking to “fact, feeling, fair request,” as clinical psychologist Dr. Arianna Brandolini d’Adda suggests.
Based on that understanding, here’s one script you can tell your job-seeking loved one: “Today was the day of your job interview (fact). Do you want to talk about it (fair request), or would that be overwhelming (feeling)? I’m happy to hear about it or we can just sit and watch your favorite TV show (fair request).”
Help with networking if asked
Your loved one may want your help with crafting a cover letter, but sometimes, it can be easier to find an accountability buddy who is not necessarily emotionally invested in the outcome. Each job seeker is different in how they approach the hunt.
Part of supporting your loved one is recognizing that your strategy to a job search may differ from theirs. If your loved one is open to you being more involved, try attending networking events together. It can make a room full of potential contacts less scary to know that you have someone in your corner.
As The Muse advises, “Volunteer to attend a networking event together (believe us, it makes the whole process so much less intimidating). Make sure you split up, and when you meet someone who’d be a good contact for your friend, you can easily introduce the two of them.”
Above all, remember that your presence can be a present in itself. Show compassion to your job-hunting loved one by telling them that you respect and care for them so that no matter what they are going through, they know you will be there for them.