Friday’s Hot Tip: 5 Ways to Help Your Unemployed Buddies

I decided to follow up on Sunday’s post about dealing with the unemployed with some good tips on helping out friends and family members who find themselves without work. These tips are based on what I’ve experienced being unemployed/underemployed, and what I wanted from my friends and loved ones during that time.

1. Start with asking, “How can I support you?”

These five little words should become a mantra for you, as this phrase works beautifully in many situations when someone is experiencing difficulty in their life. In an unemployment scenario, it gives the other person the power to decide what they want or need as they process the loss of their job. Pro tip: don’t ask this question just once, either. Whenever they need to vent about their job search, interviews that went nowhere, or their struggles to stay afloat, it’s your opportunity to ask what, if anything, they need from you.

2. Don’t assume you know their master plan post-layoff.

As I briefly mentioned in Sunday’s post, unemployment can give someone the opportunity to pursue life-long dreams. It opens the door to write, start a business, make a career change, travel, or volunteer. And believe it or not, they might not want a full-time job again. Everyone’s situation is different – give them space to figure out what’s next, and if you remember Tip #1, then they might just let you in on what they are dreaming up.

3. Keep your comments about money to yourself.

Trust me when I say someone who is unemployed (or even underemployed) does not want to hear you complain about the state of your bank account. Nor do they want to hear your comments about what they are doing or not doing with their money. Like politics, sex, and religion, discussions about money can kill a conversation, and in some instances it can kill a relationship. Do yourself and your friend a favor and hold your tongue.

4. Don’t radically alter your communication style or forget about them altogether.

Just because someone loses their job doesn’t mean they are a social pariah and you need to leave them alone. By the same token, if you were having phone conversations with them every couple of weeks, don’t suddenly start calling every other day. Be sensitive to their situation and let them guide the conversation when it comes to work or career topics, but feel free to talk about current movies, TV shows, books, music, local news or happenings. Or you could even talk about your pet’s antics or the latest celebrity scandal. The key is to keep things normal.

5. Let them mourn the loss of their job.

Momcat always told me, “When a relationship ends, it’s a death and it needs to be mourned.” She was talking about romantic relationships, but this also holds true for the relationships we have with our jobs, which are just as complex and layered as any love relationship. Give them space and time to grieve, and allow them to dictate when they are ready to move on in their career.

Have your own tips to add to this list? Leave them in the comments section.


How to Really Deal with an Unemployed Person

Earlier today I read a post on The Awl about proper etiquette in dealing with someone who is unemployed and how to talk to them. The more I read, the more annoyed I got. “This writer obviously has no freakin’ idea what it’s like to be unemployed for longer than 3 months,” I muttered to myself. “She also has no idea what it’s like to be unemployed when you’ve already been in the workforce for at least 10 years.” I read through the comments and while some people had truly helpful comments, the others were just as clueless as the author. I sent the post to my friend Giles, who is brilliant and wise, and who also happens to be unemployed. He was just as disgusted as I was.

Since the whole point of a personal blog is to tell the world what you think, regardless of anyone else’s opinion on the subject at hand, I figured I would use my blog to publish a counter-argument to the list of do’s and don’ts provided by Ms. Georgopulos. Having spent long periods of time being unemployed and/or underemployed, I think I have a decent grasp of the subject matter.

She writes: Stop calling it funemployment.

Moxie says: Who the hell is using that term anymore?

She writes: Get them out of the house early on…Have fun when you go out together.

Moxie says: Respect their wishes and don’t make their unemployment about YOU.Yes, it’s uncomfortable to know people who aren’t working while you still have your job. But unless you were actively involved in screwing up the economy and/or forcing my employer to lay me off, I am not blaming you or holding you personally responsible for my unemployment. Are you doing something fun and you want my company? Then call me up and ask me to go with you. I know my money situation, you don’t. Let me decide if I can or want to join you.

She writes: Try to think of them when opportunities come up.

Moxie says: I’m only going to say this once, so pay attention: the ONLY time it’s okay to send along job listings from CareerBuilder, Monster or any other website is if the person you are sending it to said it was okay. I did not ask you to be my headhunter. If and when I do, trust me, I will let you know.

She writes: Consider a barter system.

Moxie says: If you’re someone I don’t know very well, I don’t want to barter with you because most of the time it smacks of pity and charity. If you want help with a DIY project at your house, ask me. If I want to do it, I will. Otherwise shut up.

She writes: Avoid asking how their day went.

Moxie says: You know what? I may be doing a hell of a lot more than you think. I have time to read, write, figure out HTML, and bring peace to the Middle East. Don’t assume my answer is going to be full of complaints and bitching, or weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.

She writes: Don’t take it out on them when you’ve had a bad day.

Moxie says: If you have any semblance of intelligence, you know to avoid doing this to anyone, much less someone who doesn’t have a full-time job. If you want to vent about the moron who keeps stealing your stapler at work without getting any sort of advice in return, then preface your conversation with, “May I vent for a couple minutes?” T-Wizzle and I do this with each other and it works beautifully.

She writes: Don’t shrug off their weird habits.

Moxie says: I don’t even know what this means. What business is it of yours if I’m constantly muttering to myself? I could be working out peace treaties with the PLO by talking them out – how the hell would you know? You’re too busy bitching about your missing stapler at the office.

She writes: Keep in touch during the day.

Moxie says: Just because I don’t have a job doesn’t mean I want to hear from your sorry ass 24-7. And this suggestion from the article’s author is extremely insulting:

Maybe even forward them “classified” emails from work that illustrate how B-O-R-I-N-G the 9-to-5 is. “Just got an email from HR about keeping the office kitchen clean—again! I bet you’re at home doing something really creative or on the verge of doing so! Miss you!” Forward. That’s all.

NO. Do not do this. Because while you think you’re being cute by pointing out how silly the corporate lifestyle is, you are subtly suggesting you are better than the person receiving this message because you have to put up with it. If we want to be reminded of how wackadoodle corporations can be, we can watch reruns of “The Office.”