When my friends call me for help, I instinctively try to do whatever I can do ‘assist’. But when it comes to something as personal and stressful as looking for a new job, this isn’t always the best approach.
Just doing stuff for the sake of demonstrating your friendship is neither useful nor helpful. Instead, it takes listening, understanding, and employing a whole lot of tact. Read on for five ‘friendly’ strategies on how to really give your friend some job search help.
#1 Listen, then listen more
Listening comes first, since you are a friend — not a job search consultant. Give your friend time and space to vent their frustration or to speak about their worries uninterrupted. Validate feelings, offer acknowledgement, understanding, and support, and let your friend know that you’re present in the moment.
Good listeners ask good questions to ensure that you clearly understand your friend’s goal. Is your friend just venting anger or is he or she getting started on an organised job search? Again, do as much listening as possible, and avoid assumptions that what you would do in his/her circumstances is necessarily your friend’s game plan, too.
#2 Know your place
Avoid rattling off ideas for now. Keep going back to #1 and ask as many questions as possible to see how best you can help. If you have some ideas up your sleeve, gently offer a couple of suggestions and see how your friend responds. Depending on where your friend is in the process, you might offer to:
- Help your friend to brainstorm a list of friends and professional contacts who could help with their job search.
- Pass along any relevant job openings you see.
- Send your friend relevant job search tips and articles.
- Make an introduction to a recruiter you’ve worked with.
- Attend networking events with your friend.
- Read your friends resume.
- Share your friends resume with people in your network.
#3 Avoid career advice unless you’re in the person’s field
Job hunters are on the receiving end of a lot of repetitive career advice, and even worse, much of it wrong. If you haven’t been in the job market recently, you might not be aware of how much job searching may have changed and you can easily annoy your friend or lead him on a wild goose chase. Don’t just offer job search help for the sake of it.
#4 Spend some time with your friend
Spend some quality time with your friend – maybe go out for dinner or the movies, or just hang out together without asking how the job hunt is going. When you go out, consider picking up the bill, and occasionally consider doing things that don’t cost money, like sports or going for a walk. You don’t want to make money an issue but be aware and sensitive that your friend is likely hard up for disposable cash (or will be soon).
#5 Manage the friendship – avoid awkward situations
This one is very important for the sake of the friendship. Think about what you’re willing and able to assist your friend with. Be clear about your commitment to your friend and manage expectations. Avoid over promising and under delivering.
Finally, it is possible that your friend will not follow your advice or help. Don’t be offended — it’s nothing personal. Job hunting sucks and it is a long, personal process, and your friend’s pace may be different than how you would approach it. Just be a good friend and remember that your roles may be reversed somewhere down the line so just try to help them hunt wisely!
Ps. Feel free to share this post or comment with your own job search tips. You never know, you might make some new friends. J