Supporting Your Job Searching Friends (Without Getting Your Head Bitten Off)

Posted March 19, 2013 by Marcy Twete in Life After Five
unemployed friend 2

We’ve all been through it, your incredibly talented, beautiful, and dynamic best friend just got fired or laid off. She’s down and out, she’s depressed, she isn’t believing in her abilities, and as her friend, you just don’t know what to do. Or, even worse, you have a friend who has been looking for a job for a looooong time, she’s running out of hope, and is constantly having her hopes dashed by rejection after rejection.

Whether you’ve been there or not, we can all empathize with job seekers, but the truth is, we don’t often help in the right ways. You think you’re “just trying to help,” only to find you’re getting your head bitten off weekly when it’s clear you’re just not helping. We’re giving you the tips to keep your friendships friendly even when one of you is in the throes of a job search.

What Shouldn’t You Do or Say When Your Friends are Job Searching?

  • The words “have you tried.” When I first moved to Chicago and was job searching full time, so often someone would say, “Have you tried” or “Have you thought about volunteering?” Here’s the truth. No matter how good your “have you tried” suggestion might be, it will always be met with annoyance. “Gee, no, jerkface, I’ve never thought of searching online! I was just expecting someone to find me on the street and offer me a job.”
  • Don’t start every conversation with “How’s the job search going?” When someone is job searching full time, it can be daunting. Let them bring it up in conversation, and don’t pressure them with the “how’s it going” questions. If you do, don’t be surprised to find tears or anger at the other end of the line.
  • Your experience is not the same as hers. When someone is job searching, we often try to compare her search to a search we’ve done before. Don’t say “When I was job searching” or “here’s how I did it,” because it can often make a job searcher feel like you’re saying you did something better than she did or that you’re criticizing her progress.

What Should You Do or Say When Your Friends are Job Searching?

  • Pay for a drink or dinner if you can. One of the biggest stress points of the job search is financial. If you have the means to treat your friend to a drink or dinner when you meet, do it. Even if she fights you for the check, she’ll appreciate it in the long run.
  • Offer up your network. While I wouldn’t suggest giving her specific suggestions on whom to meet with, I would say something like, “Hey, feel free to take a look at my LinkedIn connections. if there’s anyone you think would be a good connection, I’m happy to introduce you.”
  • Send jobs when you see them, but do it without pressure. If you’re the kind of person who sees a lot of job openings, whether in your own company or in others, be willing to send them along, but do it without pressure. Press forward and write a quick email that says something like, “Saw this job and thought of you. Take a look.” That gives your friend the notice that you’re looking out for her, but not that she has to do what you say she should.

Overall, you want to be supportive without being pushy. Trust that your friend will do what’s right for her and for her job. That’s all you can really do.

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."