Monday, December 28, 2009

How to support an unemployed friend

With the current unemployment rate almost 10% nationwide and MUCH, MUCH higher in certain areas, chances are, you know someone who is unemployed. My experience with unemployment is surprising to me. I thought that I would always be able to find some kind of job. I even gave a very inspiring speech to my coworkers (when I still had coworkers) that no matter what happened with our company, we would be okay, because we were strong women and would land on our feet. Turned out to me true for them- me, I'm still struggling to find my footing. The reality for me right now is that I need to find a job- more accurately I need to find a paycheck and health benefits. And it's NOT easy- said job needs to provide enough income in order to provide child care for my 15 month old and still something to take home at the end of the week. I'm struggling with the idea that I am not "worth" enough to an employer to be able to help support my family. I am so blessed to be able to stay home with my child and spend the time with him, no question, but I am still struggling. And chances are, if you know someone who is unemployed, even if they were laid off from a job they HATED, they are struggling with it too. So here's my advice on how you can help them during this time:
  • Write a letter of recommendation- If you are in a position to write them a letter of recommendation, do it. If you offer and they decline, do it anyway. You never know when your friend might actually need it for a potential employer or maybe they will just need a reminder of their good qualities on a bad day.

  • Recognize that staying home has its challenges too- In talking to one of my former co-workers about our lives post layoff, she commented on my "easy life". She found another position with our old company that required her to work crazy hours and commute more than an hour each way. I realize that her situation was less than ideal and I don't know if I would want to trade places with her, but the idea that I was on easy street since I was home taking care of my then nine month old was offensive to me. Whether you have a child or not, looking for a job is WORK. Taking care of a house and a family is WORK. Don't assume that your unemployed friend sits around sipping fruity drinks or catching up on Oprah and whine about having to go to work all day. I assure you, your unemployed friend would trade places with you.

  • Offer childcare- if your unemployed friend has kids, offer to entertain the kid(s) for a few hours. I cannot job search while my son is awake. I cannot make follow up calls to potential employers with him in the background, screaming. I cannot research prospective companies while he is around. I would *LOVE* if someone offered to entertain him for an hour or two, even for me just to get my thoughts together. Offer more than once if you are turned down. Sometimes people are afraid to admit that they can't do it all. (Hello, my name is Jamie and I can't do it all.)

  • Don't brag about your raise. If you just got a raise at work and maybe also landed a part-time job that you can do on off hours from your house, I as your unemployed friend am maybe not the one to gush to about that. I am happy for you, really, but at the same time, I am here just looking for one little job. The fact that you have TWO just doesn't seem fair at this point in the game. But really, I'm happy for you...

  • Don't badmouth people who accept unemployment benefits- before I became unemployed, I had a friend who blasted her brother-in-law for accepting unemployment benefits. It went something like this: "I would never collect unemployment, I could always go out and at least get a job waiting tables or something that would pay more than unemployment!" This whole experience for me has been incredibly humbling. You don't really know what it's like until you've experienced it for yourself, so be careful about criticizing the choices that other people make, especially in front of your unemployed friend.

  • Understand if your unemployed friend is a little grumpy and be willing to give a little more than you're getting right now. Looking for a job is emotionally draining. There's a lot of rejection and it wears on a person. Your unemployed friend is going to be cranky and needs your understanding and support right now.
Happy Job Hunting!


  1. What a valuable post!
    I just stumbled on your blog, and I'll be back. Your words to those with unemployed friends are wise ones, indeed.

  2. Jamie,

    Me again!
    I'd love to link to this post for one I'm writing about moms helping other moms.
    Okay with you?
    Let me know.

  3. Thanks for commenting today. I love reading your blog. You've got talent girl! Keep it going!

  4. Hey Beth! Thanks for such kind words. I'm here thinking that surely you must have meant them for someone else's blog... I just followed you with Google Friend Connect, though I've been subscribing to your blog for a while in reader. Just thought you might like to know! Hope your weekend's going well!