Looking for a job is hard. And sometimes, knowing how to support someone who is looking for a job is even harder. It’s tricky to strike the balance between being a supportive cheerleader and a well-intentioned, overbearing nuisance. Here are some ideas for how you can help a Job Seeker get through this difficult time and find their dream job.
Show up. Listen. Support. (repeat, repeat, repeat)
Your Job Seeker is having all the feels at the moment. They might feel rejected, sad, lonely, unsure, doubtful, scared, and a lot of other intense emotions…often at the same time. They may want to talk about it, and they may not. Either way, show up. Let them know you’re there, if they need to talk it out, whenever they’re ready.
If you’re long-distance, make time in your schedule for a marathon phone or FaceTime catch-up session. The Job Seeker will appreciate the distraction and a serotonin boost from chatting with a familiar face.
If you live in the same area, make plans to sync up. It can be very therapeutic to talk things through, especially if there was a difficult release from their prior employment. Plus, the Job Seeker needs an outlet to vent their frustrations and work through how they’re feeling about their future. Draw them out, let them talk, and, most of all, LISTEN with a sympathetic ear.
Communicate & Commiserate
Check In, But Don’t Harp
Checking in intermittently with a Job Seeker is key; it lets them know you’re there for support. But, make sure you’re approaching it the right way.
Most likely, your Job Seeker has a wide support network of friends, family, work colleagues, etc. Consider the possibility that if each of those people sends your Job Seeker a text like, “What’s the latest with the job search????” or “Got any nibbles yet????” or “Any interviews scheduled????”, on a regular basis, the Job Seeker can feel embattled, like they have 438493794739 bosses they need to report their status to.
Not to mention — if they’re trying to do something else to distract themselves (some good suggestions here!), fielding an update request lands them right back into a frustrated mindset, especially during weekend or after-hours when they’re likely trying to destress.
Listen, I know your intentions are good. But the truth is, the Job Seeker is probably a little more sensitive right now and likely to feel hyper-conscious. Give them a break and try to put yourself in their shoes…especially if you’ve worn those shoes before and remember how hard and frustrating the process is.
Laughter Is The Best Support
A better alternative is to send a message to keep their spirits up — perhaps a funny gif, video, or picture, and/or a motivational message like, “Hope you’re having a great day and finding the best job EVER. I know the right thing is out there for you and I’m cheering you on every step of the way.” Or even just a simple “Thinking about you and sending you a long distance high-five. You got this!”
Speak in your voice and share something uplifting that will resonate with your Job Seeker. The goal is to give them a bump of support and let them know you’ve got their back.
Offer Your Talents and Assistance
Share Your Experiences
These days, it’s common to have a job-loss story of your own, or at least from someone you know. Have you ever been laid off? Did you once job search for six months before you found the right fit? Did you ever bomb a job interview? By sharing these experiences, you’re letting the Job Seeker know they are not alone, it’s happened to the best of us, and they will get through it.
Show empathy and share your anecdotes about how a disappointment led to a better opportunity and how you learned from the experience. Your survival story and commiseration will be very meaningful and resonant to someone who’s in the thick of it.
Review Their Resume, LinkedIn Profile, and/or Portfolio
If you’re experienced within your Job Seeker’s industry, or if you’re just word-savvy, offer to give their resume or LinkedIn profile a review. Check for spelling and grammar mistakes (tip: it helps to read it backwards!), look for formatting errors, and point out any missing information. Give it a careful read and make helpful, constructive suggestions that could plus-up their documents and help them get noticed, or at least past those pesky ATS bots.
When someone is looking for a job, they have probably tweaked their resume 4,790 times (and counting). It is nearly impossible for them to look at it objectively anymore; you will see things they can’t. Share what you see first, where your eyes jump on the page, and what sections are difficult to read. Does the resume convey their breadth and depth of experience? Does it include quantitative, measurable information to show how they grew/saved/managed/sold/created for a company? Cast a critical (but helpful!) eye and make that resume shine.
Share Your Goodies
Offer to share your resume, cover letter and standout thank you notes for inspiration or even straight-up plagiarism. Even if the Job Seeker gets a few good “action words” or phrases (e.g. enabled, collaborated, data-driven, acumen), any little bit helps, especially if their resume could use some sprucing up.
Cover letters and thank you notes should be tailored to each job and, thus, can be a huge time-suck. By sharing your documents, the Job Seeker can have more variety to choose from when crafting their correspondence to make a good impression on a potential employer. When they’re under pressure to write THE BEST COVER LETTER EVER for a job they really want, it is *super helpful* to use someone’s template or borrow a few powerful keyphrases.
Offer to practice interviewing. This can be especially helpful if your Job Seeker has been out of the job search for awhile and needs to brush up on their interview skills. Role playing with you as the interviewer allows them to practice their situational stories and get their STAR interview response technique down pat.
They can polish their answers for the dreaded, “what are your strengths and weaknesses?”, or “tell me about a time when you failed”, and the inevitable end-of-the-interview question, “Sooooo…do you have any questions for us?”. And, most importantly, they can get comfortable humble-bragging about themselves and how they once saved their prior company, like, $10 billion dollars. NBD.
Take Them Out For A Treat
Take your Job Seeker out for a treat – ice cream, coffee, drinks, dinner, movie, a round of golf, whatever – and don’t let them pay…even when they offer. They’re just trying to be nice — don’t let them.
You’re earning a paycheck right now, they’re not. Just consider it a benevolent gift and quality time spent. Plus, they’ll probably return the favor once they’re gainfully employed again.
In the meantime, you’ve been a bright spot in their week and made them feel good. Be the generous, lovely person you are and treat someone who may be feeling low.
Be A Hype Man (Or Woman)
Check if there’s anyone within your network you could connect your Job Seeker with. Even if a potential job is not available, informational interviews over a cup of coffee can help the Job Seeker learn more about a company or job function and get their name out there.
You can also facilitate a simple intro on LinkedIn to connect someone you know at a company your Job Seeker is interested in. It’s easy to do, takes 5 minutes, and can give them an edge amongst the other applicants vying for attention.
Since 70% of jobs are found through networking, by connecting the Job Seeker with someone in your network, you’re giving them a better shot at finding something permanent.
Build Them Up (Buttercup)
If you are a former colleague of your Job Seeker, take a moment to share your thoughts about their job performance. Remind them of how they went above and beyond to help you on a project, or when they taught you how to improve your negotiation skills, or how they’re a really strong writer.
Everyone likes to hear praise, but Job Seekers reallllllly need to be reminded, especially when facing frequent judgment and rejection during the job search. So, tell them how awesome you think they are (the more specific, the better) and let them bask in the warmth of those compliments for a few days.
Be A Taskmaster
Ask your Job Seeker for help doing a task they’re good at, or might really enjoy. When job searching, you can start to feel a bit inadequate. By asking your Job Seeker for assistance, the halo effect can benefit you both — they are empowered to accomplish a challenge and you get to reap the benefits.
Perhaps ask them to: organize your closet; cook a delicious dish; repair something in your house; teach you how to use Instagram; help fix a computer or electronics issue; design a custom workout routine; create an awesome playlist; or put together an itinerary for an upcoming family vacation. In effect, you will help them flex their “work skills” and channel their energies into something really productive and beneficial to both of you.
Offer A Welcome Distraction
When job searching, it is common for a Job Seeker to feel isolated and alone. They are probably spending large amounts of time reviewing endless job descriptions, working on various cover letters or applications, and/or following up with contacts and recruiters.
So, offer yourself as a fun distraction. The absolute best way to support someone looking for a job is to spend quality time together. Giving someone your time and attention will divert them from the day-to-day doldrums and make them feel lighter and happier.
Take a walk together outside, meet at a local park for a picnic lunch, bring dinner over, have a play date with your kids (or dogs!) or just the two of you. It doesn’t have to be extravagant (a long, gossipy walk is free!), but again, don’t let them pay for anything. The point is to spend quality time, connect with someone you care about, and get their mind off their troubles.
Celebrate Their Victories
And finally, FINALLY, when at long last, your Job Seeker secures that shiny new dream job that totally completes them in every way, take them out to celebrate.
Your Job Seeker has made it through the unstable, demoralizing, scary, icky job search, and you were their unwavering support all along the way.