5 things you can do or say to help a job seeker

I had intended this to be a post about how to motivate your teams for success, but the other day, I read a post from CareerBuilder stating the 7 things people looking for work are tired of hearing. You can read it here. I have written about this subject in the past on another site. As a professional still “in transition” I can relate to many of the items on the list. It must be nice to have so much free time is especially fun to hear from people. Yeah, it’s so much fun sitting at home or wherever knowing you’re not contributing to your family income, eyes bloodshot from all the online job boards, and wondering when it will end.

Unless you have spent significant time out of work, or, like me, are chronically unemployed, you have no idea how your words, no matter how well intended, can do more damage than good. Statements like you should really look into [completely unrelated job] or you’ll find something soon, don’t really help as much as you think they do. Those kinds of statements only add to the frustration. Do you really think that I haven’t looked at unrelated jobs just to bring in something? Yes. Yes, of course I have. And before you ask, yes, I have reached out to my network to see what is available or seek assistance from them.

There are many lists online telling people what NOT to do or say, so I wanted to submit 5 things you CAN do or say. As a friend or family member of someone who is seeking the next step or is in transition, you may feel just as hopeless; not knowing how to help or what to say. Every situation is different, but below are some ways you can be of some assistance in a meaningful way.

LISTEN. Sometimes all people who have been on the search for a significant amount of time is sometime who will listen without judgement. It is highly frustrating searching and searching for a job. We scour every job board imaginable, come up with as many keywords as we can think of for our search, write and re-write our resume/cover letter for every position. Then, when we find one that seems to be a great fit, either we do not receive any word back or the dreaded rejection email hits our inbox. So, if you are connected with someone who is on the job hunt, sometimes we just need an ear to vent on, to listen to our frustration and possibly a shoulder to cry on.

Help with making connections. You may think that there is no one in your contact sphere that may be a good referral for your out-of-work friend, but you never know who knows who. Ask some people in your network, see what may be out there. Believe me, we would gladly take any recommendations or new connections to our network. There may not be a direct link to a new position, but one or two tiers away from that new connection may be fruitful.

Offer distractions. A distraction could be as simple as buying your seeking friend a cup of coffee or as generous as taking them to a sporting event with that extra ticket you have. It’s important to understand that a majority of the time, job seekers have to almost shut down their extra activities in order to conserve their resources. That means, someone who was once able to eat out or attend that baseball game will have a hard time justifying the cost of such a thing. That simple gesture of reminding your job seeking friend that the situation isn’t quite as bleak or at least offering a distraction from the frustration would be quite welcome. I guarantee that once that job seeking friend lands that next job, your generosity will not be forgotten.

Offer to take a look at a resume or cover letter. Sometimes, job seekers are so wrapped up in what they’re writing or the positions they’re looking for it’s easy to overlook some small details that could make a difference in their resume. We may not always take your suggestions immediately, but offering any sort of assistance is better than asking if we have found a job yet.

Ask how you can help. This is a simple question, but yet the answer can sometimes be complicated. A job seeker could be overwhelmed by what they could use help with and may not have an answer right away, but we will have one. The simple gesture of letting us know that you’re willing to help in any way does go a long way. However, when we do finally come up with a way you can help, please follow through. Nothing is worse than feeling let down by a friend or family member when we’re already feeling let down by hiring managers who say no to our qualifications.

Looking for a job that will both fulfill us as well as support our family is hard work. It’s overwhelming, frustrating, exhausting and can cause depression or worse. As a man, what I do for work is part of my identity. When I’m not working full time, it hits right to the core of who I am. The same may be true for others out there.

What do you think? What other things can you think of that friends and family can do to help? Leave them in the comments.