HIMTM PSA: How to talk to an unemployed person.

Here at HIMTM, I like to entertain and educate my readers. And I think it’s time for a little public service announcement – how to talk to your friends who are unemployed.

We know you care. Really, we do. And we don’t fault you for asking how we’re doing. It’s just that, in addition to you, everyone else is asking how we are doing. It’s like when you’re dating someone for several years and everyone is asking when you’re going to get engaged. You know people are asking because they’re interested and because they care about you, but if you have to answer the question one. more. time. you are going to lose your damn mind.

So, in the interest of making everyone’s lives better, here is my guide to talking to an unemployed person.

  1. Please don’t ask us any variation of the following question: “Anything new in the job search?” Here’s why: if something good was happening – an interview or an offer – we’d be so excited that we would volunteer the information without you having to ask. If we haven’t scored an interview or a job offer, you asking if anything is new just makes us rehash all the failures we’ve had. No, I’m still waiting to hear back from the interview I went on six weeks ago, or nope, didn’t get that job. Again. Now imagine having to say that multiple times in a day. It makes us feel like shit. Just trust that when something happens, we’ll let you know, and you not asking does not mean you don’t care.
  2. Actually try to find out what it is we want to do. “Marketing” is a pretty broad field. I’m pretty sure 95% of my friends have no idea what my old job was and what I’m looking for now. And that’s fine, because I have no idea what 95% of my friends do for their jobs. But if you truly want to be helpful, ask us what time of work we’re looking for – what skills we want to use and the type of position we want to get. Then you can really be helpful. Which brings me to…
  3. Be careful with “I know a person…” I know that most jobs come about by someone knowing someone who knows someone who knows someone. And I have never said no to talking to someone, because they may see the perfect job for me down the road and send it my way. But at the same time, use the information from #2 to inform #3. It will be much more helpful to me and won’t waste your time or your contact’s time.
  4. Asking “have you thought of…” Yes. We’ve probably thought of it. We have nothing to do but sit around and think of things these days. A better way to phrase this would be to say “I did this and it really worked.”
  5. Sometimes we don’t want advice. We just want to vent. You shouldn’t feel pressured to offer a solution. We know you don’t have one, and it’s fine. Just listen to me bitch about how I haven’t put on a bra in four days. (“My boobs don’t have to go to boob jail anymore!”)
  6. Don’t feel like you can’t tell us your problems because they’re not as big as ours. I may chime in with a “well, I’d give anything to have problems with the copier these days,” but I’m still listening. And I do feel your pain, and I do want to listen to you. (See #4. I have all the time in the world to listen.)
  7. Likewise, don’t be shy about telling us good news. I am still very capable of being excited for a promotion or a new boyfriend or a pregnancy.
  8. Buy us a drink, but not dinner. Don’t get me wrong – I am incredibly thankful for my friends who have bought me dinner over the past few months. Incredibly thankful. But dinner makes me feel inadequate. I can’t pay everyone back for all of the dinners, but I will be able to buy everyone a drink over the next few years.
  9. When in doubt, suggest a new book or television show. The Kindle and Netflix are our best friends.

If you follow these guidelines, I promise your conversations with unemployed friends will be more productive and enjoyable. And you’ll get a free cocktail somewhere down the road.


5 thoughts on “HIMTM PSA: How to talk to an unemployed person.

  1. I think this advice goes for anyone who is actively searching for employment whether or not they already have a job that barely pays the bills. The one I hate the most is, “Have you thought of this?” I’ve spent the past four years applying for jobs and going through interviews. Yes, yes I’ve thought of that. I feel your pain and wish you good luck!

  2. When we were discussing my job search this summer my uncle said to me “why don’t you just get something?”

    I wanted to punch him in the face!

    I watched 2 episodes of Pushing Daisies the other night, it just makes me so happy! I am testing out HuluPlus for a month and was curious to see if it was on there. It’s not, but they do link you to thewb.com that has I think the whole 2nd season if you need a distraction:


  3. I ā¤ you. I've been unemployed and job searching since, oh October '11. That's right, ELEVEN. In that time, I've interviewed, networked, applied, networked, interviewed, applied, all over and over and over again…The old "have you thought of…" in your advice I loved…because a resounding Yes. I have thought of it, and I did it. And it got me nowhere. I've also had a 6-month internship and a fellowship and a consultancy…and have networked through all those networks. And did that result in any full-time offer anywhere? Again, le sigh. So, the old adage of "organizations want to find a place to keep good people" is sort of bull in this economy…a budget is a budget is a budget. It would take at least two hands for me to count all of my friends who have flitted in and out of jobs in the time that I haven't even had one. That stings.

    Anyway, just wanted to say that I really loved this post, 110% feel your pain, and when you're feeling low, just think of me…going on month 16 of endless, thus-far fruitless job searching.

  4. This is great…. although… I am pretty sure I have violated at least half of these things.

    Oh BTW… while I am here… Anything new with the job search? jk šŸ˜‰

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