A Small Handbook for Talking With The Recently Unemployed

Here’s a great article I found via Consumerist about how to talk to a friend who has been recently unemployed. I approve and would like to share the following quotes with suggestions:

1. Don’t ask “how’s the job hunt?”
Do you know how many times a day someone hears this if he is unemployed? Ten. And even if it’s not ten really, it’s ten in his head.

There’s a reason this is number one. Seriously, people ask me this in person or on Facebook or Twitter every time they contact me. Seeing that I have a blog and Facebook and Twitter, I am pretty open with my life, so you will probably know when the job hunt is going well. In the first few days after I was laid off, I had a lot of people ask: “So what are you going to do?” Uh, I dunno, look for another job?

It’s like when you know that a friend has a sick grandmother. You may think that asking about her shows you care, but it really just reminds your friend that grandma is sick. Ask about the weather, the Steelers, politics, anything but how the job hunt is going unless that is followed by:

5. Offer up one good contact.
You do not need to pretend that connecting in LinkedIn is going to help this person. I mean, they should have been building their network long before the layoff loomed. But you could offer up one person you know well who could talk with the person laid off.

The day I got laid off and was e-whining about it on Facebook, one of my ex-coworkers dropped me a ‘hello’ message and hooked me up with a contact that has led to one of my top prospects. Most people in the industry who I’ve talked to have the decency to say ‘I’d help you out, but we aren’t hiring.’ That’s fine too. It’s much more useful than ‘Sorry to hear it, man. Good luck.’

Just don’t tell me the same advice that everyone already knows. ‘Have you tried monster.com? Careerbuilder?’ Yes, I watched the Super Bowl too, guys. I love my parents dearly, but every time we have this conversation I want to blow my brains out:

Mom: Did you see that job on monster.com?
Me: What job?
Mom: Oh, your father found it. [Off phone] WHAT WAS THE NAME OF THAT JOB?
Mom: He says just go onto monster.com and type ‘designer’.
Me: Mom, there are a million different types of designers. Can Dad send me the link?
Mom: He says it is right at the top of the listings.
Me: That… doesn’t help.

7. Don’t be shy about gratitude
Tell a co-worker who’s been laid off that you miss him or her. And what you miss. It’s hard to keep up morale when you’re looking for a job. And so often we forget what we are talented at because rejection makes us feel totally un-talented.

It’s true. Yesterday I had an ex-coworker remark that he felt it ‘was a shame’ that I ‘never really got my chance’. And that absolutely made my day. When you send out your resume to fifty places and forty-eight ignore you while two say they aren’t interested, and you look at mouth-breathers still at your old employer who didn’t get fired, it’s easy to believe that the problem is fundamentally with you. It’s not. But sometimes one needs reminded.

I’d like to add my biggest idea to the list:

8. Don’t treat old coworkers like their unemployment is a conagious disease.

A week after I was laid off, I was allowed back to pack up my desk. The two guys who sat near me were there a typy-typing away on their project, but they never once turned around to say ‘It’s a bummer man, nice working with you. Stay in touch.’ They knew I was there. One of my former teammates made eye contact with me and then put his head down and walked away. Really, guys? Didn’t we just have lunch together a week prior? And I got along great with them. It really made me feel like shit.

Look, I know that you don’t know what to say to me. It’s uncomfortable for the both of us. But I’m still the same guy I was when I was pulling a paycheck from the corporate masters (a better person, even!), so if you sever ties with me or ignore me, I think that either: a) you only pretended to be friendly with me because we worked together and thus you are a big phony or b) you think that being pink-slipped is communicable or that your boss will be mad at you if they see you posting on my Facebook wall* and thus you are a big idiot. So phony or idiot, your choice.

I’m very glad (sorta) that there are so many comments on the linked article how COBRA is unaffordable for everyone. I thought it was just me.

*Unless you have a boss who watches your Facebook for any outpouring of support, ahem.

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