What to Say and What Not to Say When Someone Loses Their Job
If you’ve been in the workforce for at least a couple of years, you’ve probably experienced job loss. If you’re one of the lucky few who haven’t been laid off, quit or fired, then you probably know someone who has. Regardless of whether you’ve experienced uncontrollable job loss or had a loved one experience it, it’s a soul-crushing experience and one that can affect more than just the individual.
Until a little over a month ago, I had been in the position to only watch friends go through the process of layoffs. I have helped friends network and ultimately end up with positions that they enjoyed. Listening to their anxieties and experiences gave me a window into what it was like, but never did I imagine myself being in that position, until, I was. There’s a mix of support and tough love that can be appropriate, but remember there are right and wrong ways to go about both!
Listen without judgement
Not having a job, even if your job is terrible, is arguably worse in every situation than working in said job. A job loss will come as a blow to someone’s self-esteem and they may not want to talk about it, at first.
Only now, over a month after I lost my job, am I willing to talk about it. Most family, friends and colleagues have been very supportive, even helping me get the part-time job I have until my full-time job starts this coming week. Others have only added to the anxiety of losing a job.
When someone is talking about their job loss and their fears, LISTEN. Withhold judgement of any kind, even if the job loss was because they made a big mistake at work. Do not start rattling off things like insurance loss, paying the bills, because that will only increase their anxiety over finding a job, which could hinder their employment search.
Remind them of what they’ve lost
Remind them of their $200/month student loan, mortgage, loss of insurance etc. They already are well aware. They also know of the bills that they have and that their income from their previous employer will be ending within the next two paychecks.
Help them network
Virtually every single one of the jobs I’ve gotten has been through networking. Sometimes I’ve been offered the job during the interview and walked out with a new job. Help them connect with someone who has connections or can provide services to make their resume and cover letter stand out amongst the crowd.
Give them dead ends
- “Oh XYZ has a job opening." Not.
- “XQY is hiring.” But the job doesn’t really exist.
- “Let me talk to Mr. Burns…” But he never does.
Do any of these sound familiar? These can be great if there is an actual job (and a good one) that these sentences are built on. However, telling someone that someone can give them a job or someone is hiring without any grounding is a waste of time. If such advice is built on the foundation of a known job, follow through with it!
Give them positive feedback on their work finding a job
When someone is looking for a job, that should be their job. If someone is putting in at least 32 hours a week networking, applying to jobs, attending job fairs, etc. then praise them. Job searching in itself can be a defeating process. No one enjoys getting rejections or finding out that the job that interviewed for went to the son of someone in the company that’s less qualified or other scenarios.
Criticize them when they haven’t found a job
Finding a job can be hard depending on a number of factors. If someone is doing all the right things, but still hasn’t found a good job (hopefully with benefits) or even a part-time job to make ends meet until a good job comes along, don’t criticize them. Seriously, don’t. Finding a new job can take only a few weeks or even a few months. Unless they’re watching TV all day and never applying to jobs or networking, why criticize them? Things are tough out there.
It's Not the End
Being laid off ranks pretty high on the list of 'Bad things that can happen to you'. However, is isn't the end of the world and you WILL find another job. There are hundreds, if not more, employers out there who want to hire someone who just lost their job that want to hire someone exactly like them. Remember to reinforce that to someone who lost their job and continue giving them support as they job search and even once their new job starts (because new job anxieties will be there!)
In closing, remember to reinforce these things to your family member, colleague, friend or if you yourself lost a job;
- Job loss is not permanent
- It can be a blessing in disguise
- Everyone has skills that make them a fantastic candidate
- There are resources out there that can help (recruiters, unemployment etc.)
Most importantly, continue to help them keep their confidence high and if you can afford it, take them out for dinner. That may give them just the boost they need to apply for a job that night that turns out to be their new job.
Questions & Answers
© 2017 Alexis