All of us know someone who is unemployed or going through career a transition. Often times we feel helpless and don’t know how we can support them. Over the past few years, I’ve been contacted by several friends and former work colleagues that have been the victim of downsizing or just unhappy with the way their career has been unfolding. Sometimes they are in a dead-end job, they work for a boss who is a tyrant, or they don’t like their workplace culture.
While everyone’s situation is different, here are some of the ways that I have supported friends or colleagues who are struggling with their employment situation.
Just be there: Often times there is little I can do to help someone, but I can always make myself available for a conversation or show them that I truly care. Try being a good listener. Giving all kinds of advice probably won’t be what they are looking for. If I haven’t heard from them in a month or two, I’ll give them a call or send them a text message to let them know I am thinking and praying for them. Don’t follow up too often as this can lead to frustration, especially if they don’t have anything positive to report.
An opportunity in disguise?: This is the first thing that comes to mind when a friend tells me they’ve lost their job. Of course they don’t see this as an opportunity because they are on a roller coaster of emotions: anger, fear, sadness, embarrassment, depression, to name only a few. When the time is right, I might ask them: “If you had a magic wand or could paint the picture of the perfect job, what would it look like?” Helping them get in a positive mindset might bring a new perspective into their career decision.
Hold them accountable: When I was searching for a new job, I would love to have had an accountability partner. This person can help you set goals and make sure you deliver on them. Some of the key goals might be: get out of bed at 7 am every day; spend 5 hours daily on your job search; schedule 10 phone conversations per day; meet 3 people for coffee per week; workout 45 minutes every day. Come up with a serious and a fun consequent for those goals that are not met.
Share your story: Have you ever lost your job or gone through a difficult career transition? If you have, then share your story with your friend and let them know what you learned from the experience. What would you do differently if you had a chance to do it again? I’ve found that sharing a personal experience is often better than giving advice.
Get organized: Getting organized is part of the accountability scenario described above. I’m convinced that you need to document the activities that you are doing during your search process. This starts by filling a spreadsheet with all the friends and work colleagues that you can think of. These are people you will contact to 1) inform them of your work transition, 2) schedule a meeting with or, 3) ask them to make an introduction to one of their friends or colleagues.
Record the highlights of the conversation, such as what you agreed to, when you plan to follow up. These are critical steps and take a lot of discipline. But, only if you do this, will you remember who you spoke to 10 weeks ago and what if anything they agreed to do for you.
Ask for help: Most people don’t like to ask for help as they feel like they are imposing on someone. When you are looking for a new job, you’ll need to get over this feeling and simply ask. I’m referring here specifically to asking people you know if they can introduce you to one person they know whom they think might be able to help you find a job. These will typically be professionals who are in the line of work that you are interested in.
Update your resume and LinkedIn: It is worth the investment of getting a professional to help you update your resume and another one to improve your LinkedIn profile. Learn how to use LinkedIn either by watching YouTube tutorials or paying a professional for some training.
Be open to less pay: Depending on what your cash reserves look like, there will come a time when you’ve got to start working again. If your heart is set on earning as much or more as you were in your former job, you might be disappointed. The key is to get back into the labor force, be productive, positive and have an income that covers your expenses. Be open to a job that while it doesn’t pay you as much as you used to make, it is teaching you some new skills that you can market in the future.
Prepare for interviews: Having interviewed hundreds of candidates for many different types of jobs, I am amazed how poorly prepared many of these candidates were. Many had not done any research on the company they were interviewing with, they didn’t come with pre-written questions and were not prepared to give good answers to behavioral questions that I asked. Before going to an interview, candidates need to do their homework. They must show the interviewer that they are well prepared and informed about the company, the industry and the position. The accountability partner can help with a dry run interview, asking tough questions and giving critical, but positive feedback.
Reduce your costs: Finding a job can happen fast or it can drag on for months. Hopefully you have put aside an emergency fund to help you weather the storm. Even if your bank account is in good shape, I would recommend aggressively reducing your current expenses. This can include everything that you have taken for granted: eating out, visits to Starbucks, magazine subscriptions, a second car, a favorite hobby, even cable TV. Make a budget and stick to it. And realize that this is only a temporary situation.
Say “Thank You”: On your journey you will be asking a lot of people for their support, time and contacts. Remember to thank them for helping you. I suggest hand-written cards after you’ve met with someone. Let them know how much you appreciate their support.