Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ten Tips for Getting Along With Jobless Friends

Losing your job in the midst of the worst recession since the Dirty Thirties is a little like falling down a rabbit hole. It's easy to feel like your world has shrunk and you are "shutting up like a telescope," as Alice in Wonderland opined after realizing she was only 10 inches tall.
Everything looks different from the vantage point of unemployment. Your life is in limbo. Your plans are on hold. Even friendships get out of sync.
"You should say what you mean," the March Hare went on. 
"I do," Alice hastily replied. "At least -- at least I mean what I say -- that's the same thing, you know." 
"Not the same thing a bit," said the Hatter.
If your conversations with unemployed friends sound like a Mad Tea Party, here are a few tips to help you reconnect:
1. Do reach out. Email, call, check in with them. Job loss leaves you feeling out of step with the busy world.
2. Skip the well-meaning cliches like "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade" and "when one door closes, another opens" and "you're so talented, I'm sure you'll land on your feet." Your friends have already heard them all.
3. Ditto for pep talks about how it took you only a month to find a job when you were laid off in 1999. This recession is a different animal. It's taking much longer to find work of any kind.
4. Don't give unsolicited jobhunting advice. Your friends don't need a career counselor. They need a friend. Let them vent or have a down day without trying to fix it.
5. Do offer your network of potential job contacts and pass on leads. Then step back and let your friends decide what to do with them.
6. Do invite them over for dinner. Going out to a restaurant and a movie is a luxury that ended with the pay check. What matters is spending time together.
7. Practical gestures are huge. Offer to babysit or let them use your photo-copy machine or drive them to the airport or lend a great book. 
8. Don't make job loss the #1 topic. Acknowledge it and move on. Your friends will welcome a break from talking about jobhunting, the terrible economy and whether the recession has bottomed out.
9. Think twice before complaining about that expensive kitchen remodel or the lousy weather on your Caribbean vacation. Your friends might not sympathize.
10. Do keep trying if you hit a rough patch. Your cranky unemployed friends will thank you.
(Photo: by Sarah G.)


  1. Cranky? Who's unemployed and cranky? GRRRRRRR.

  2. Very useful, thoughtful tips, Ruth. Nicely put.