8 ways to help a job-searching friend or relative

If you have a friend or family member who’s unemployed and looking for a job, there are lots of things you can do help – but it’s also important to avoid saying or doing the wrong things. Here are eight things to keep in mind when someone close to you is engaged in a tough job search.

1. Don’t constantly ask for updates. You might be tempted to regularly ask if your friend has had any calls for interviews yet or whether she’s heard back from that place she talked to last month, but trust that if she has news to report, she’ll tell you. It’s frustrating and even embarrassing for job-seekers to have to repeat over and over that they don’t have any progress to share yet.

2. Avoid giving unsolicited career advice unless you’re in the person’s field. Unemployed people are on the receiving end of a lot of career advice, much of it repetitive – and even worse, much of it wrong. Especially if you haven’t been on the job market yourself recently, you might not be aware of how job search conventions have changed and you may annoy your friend or lead her in the wrong direction. But if you give advice anyway…

3. Don’t take it personally if she doesn’t take your advice. She might have already tried what you’re suggesting, or she might have her own reasons for knowing it’s not right for her. Similarly, pass along job opportunities that you see, but don’t follow up and ask, “Did you apply for that job I sent you?” Trust that your friend is an adult capable of managing her own job search.

4. Offer to connect her with people in your network. Share her resume, make introductions, and think of people you might help her reach out to. Many jobs are found through personal connections, so don’t underestimate your power to be a huge help in this regard.

5. Attend networking events with her. It’s tough to walk into a room full of strangers alone. Offer to go to networking events with her so that she doesn’t have to – but then make sure that you get out of the way when she strikes up a conversation with a possible connection.

6. Don’t tell her that it must be fun to have so much time off work. You might be tempted to observe that it’s nice to have plenty of times to run errands and watch TV, but you’ll sound insensitive to the stress and anxiety she’s almost certainly dealing with. Being unemployed isn’t a vacation.

7. Do something with your friend that has nothing to do with job searching. Take her to dinner or a play, or just hang out together without asking how the job hunt is going. When you go out, make sure that you pick up the bill – but also consider asking her to do things that don’t cost money, like watching a DVD or going for a walk.

8. Understand that it might take a while. Don’t expect your friend to find a job immediately or express surprise that she’s been searching for so long. In this market, job searches take months, and in some cases a year or more. Some well-meaning friends try to help with “tough love” – telling the job searcher to just work harder and the offers will come. This can be excruciating for the job searcher, who be working far harder than you know. Keeping the judgment of the conversation is one of the most supportive things you can do.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 74 comments… read them below }

  1. Sasha*

    This is so timely! I was just talking to a friend last night who is job searching in my field and offered to help him. I made one introduction this morning for him at my company. Do you have any suggestions on things to say, not to say, when making introductions/networking connections? I want to communicate to my contacts that I think he is smart, capable, and dependable, but without being pushy. Thanks!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Explain why you think he’s awesome! That’s not being pushy — pushy would be a series of “I really want you to hire him… are you interviewing him? …. are you still considering John? … you should really consider John!”

    2. COT*

      When recommending someone (which I take very seriously), I’ll tell the hiring manager once: “I think Bill would definitely be worth considering. He’s great because x,y,z… let me know if you have more questions.” Then I drop it and let the hiring process run its natural course. I want the hiring manager to make her own decision about Bill, not feel pressured by me to hire him even if he’s not the right fit.

      I figure my job is to help Bill get his foot in the door, his job is to be his natural great self in the interview process, and the hiring manager’s job is to decide if he’s the right fit.

      1. Sasha*

        Thanks! I promoted him a little and described his experience to the hiring manager, and they seemed interested, so I think he has an “in,” but I just didn’t want to be obnoxious. I can see the difference between just explaining why he’s awesome, and being an annoying badger.

  2. Katie in Ed*

    This is such sensitive and thoughtful advice. Very well-meaning friends and relatives fall into these traps frequently. More than anything, a job searcher’s support network’s goal should be to support the searcher through an extremely emotionally challenging time. Job loss can be a huge blow to the ego. Friends and family can help soften it.

  3. Janet*

    Great list! The “do free things with your friend’ is awesome. I always hated when friends would ask me to go to an expensive sushi dinner or to a concert and I could not afford it – made me feel more cut off from my friends.

    I will say that depending upon the relationship, sometimes some tough love is needed. My husband went through a long period of unemployment and had interviews and was applying for jobs without getting offers and we finally had a huge ol’ fight where I told him he had to try something different and really start telling people what he wanted and what he could do. Lots of “Don’t you think I’ve done that!” and “Try it in a different way!” back and forth but it pushed him to contact a new recruiter and within a few short months, she found his dream position for him.

    But I would not start a “try something different in your search, dammit!” fight with a friend or casual acquaintance. Sometimes though when you’re really close to the searcher, you can tell when they need passive support and when they need a kick in the ass.

  4. Anon*

    I think this is particularly sensitive with spouses. If you see your spouse working hard, getting calls and interviews, maybe not scoring the job yet, leave them alone. Especially if you don’t work in their industry. I mean, there are people not getting interviews. You know your spouse, and if you don’t trust them to be an adult and find employment, you made a serious mistake marrying them. Also, money may not be what it used to be, but do get them out of the house, even if for just dinner or just a movie (not both). It’s not fair for them to be stuck in the house going crazy all the time and using the “We need to save!” as an excuse for not going out occassionally. This article struck a nerve.

    1. Jamie*

      I can’t imagine how tough this must be on spouses.

      I love my husband, but we’re in radically different fields and his law enforcement point of view where you work for the government is just another world away from my career in the private sector.

      I vent about work at home a fair amount (quelle suprise – I know) and his well meaning suggestions to my work problems leave me shaking my head a lot of the time.

      One thing that’s really tough actually, is he has a very wrong and inflated sense of what he thinks I’m worth on the market and while intellectually he knows I have a better feel for that than he does, he doesn’t really accept what I tell him.

      1. Ellie H.*

        To your last paragraph – I agree.
        When I was looking for a new job this past August my parents were very confident I would be able to find something quickly (they turned out to be right) but in the meantime I was extremely upset. Of course, it is wonderful when your loved ones have such faith in you and a high opinion of your abilities,
        but it can actually be frustrating to hear “Don’t worry, you’ll find something, you’re awesome” when that makes you feel like your concerns are being ignored. It can be more valuable when someone acknowledges that it’s reasonable for you to be worried. Of course, taken to an extreme, this can become self-pity/unproductive complaining, but I think it’s incredibly important to feel that your feelings and perceptions are valid.

        1. Jamie*

          It is hard – because when you know it’s coming from a place of total support it’s hard to tell people they are being supportive all wrong and to stop it.

        2. Katie in Ed*

          I think it’s crucial to validate feelings in all times of crisis. When you’re suffering from loss – a job, a loved one, a home – you can feel alienated and disoriented. Someone telling you “it’s all going to be all right” doesn’t feel very sincere when you are suffering greatly.

        3. Rana*

          Yes. The general effect of people trying to “cheer” me up by telling me that I am awesome and of course will find an amazing job was for me to think either (a) Wow. You are so naive about what the job market is right now. or (b) Great. I really must suck then, since if I am so amazing, I must also be doing something really, really wrong to be failing so badly.

          Neither was helpful.

        4. LPBB*

          My boyfriend is wonderfully supportive of me during my job search, but sometimes his support ends up making me feel *worse* about my lack full-time employment. I feel (irrationally I know) like I’m letting him down or disappointing him each time I get rejected for a job.

          It’s crazy–I really treasure his support and reassurances, but there is a tiny part of me that feels like it would be easier to go through this alone so that I’m the only one that would be disappointed or finacially impacted.

          At least he is fairly realistic about the job market and his comments are couched in those terms. Blithe reassurances that my awesomeness is so self-evident that I’ll have no trouble finding a job would just make me feel that much worse.

          1. Lulu*

            This, totally. I tend to discount my parents’ opinions on this front anyway, as they are 1)biased and 2) know zero about my workplace abilities (or lack thereof) or the current job market. But every time they try to talk about how awesome I am at _____, I just feel like I’m not only a loser for being unemployed, but hugely disappointing everyone on a daily basis by remaining so. I don’t even like to tell them when I’m applying for jobs anymore (so of course they probably think I’m being a total slacker, but beats the alternative). If you don’t have direct experience of someone’s employability/work talents, this kind of “encouragement” is just not helpful.

      2. Anonicorn*

        My husband is a teacher, which is also a world away from just about any other type of job. When I was unemployed he kept suggesting that I get a certification and teach – “Uh, no. In fact, hell no” – to the point that we would argue about it.

        And now that I am employed his (increasingly less frequent) advice is so off base from the corporate world that I’ve learned to simply nod and move on.

        What was my point? I guess it’s that spouses can be just as difficult to deal with, particularly because they are likely picking up the financial slack and sharing similar emotional stresses. The self-esteem issues that can develop during unemployment takes its toll on the people who care about you.

  5. HL*

    Wonderful list – my favorite items are:
    #4. Offer to connect her with people in your network.
    #7. Do something with your friend that has nothing to do with job searching.

    This is what I’ve done for others when they were in extended searches for work (just dragging someone out of their “cave” to go for a walk can make their day), so I place a high value on these actions.

    #2 is also of note, because it covers the “Why don’t you start your own business” and the “Have you tried so-and-so” folks…

  6. jmoon*

    As someone who is currently unemployed, these are spot on! #1 is the worst…I’ve started telling people that I will rent a skywriter to announce when I’ve found a job and that’s how they’ll know. Thanks for posting.

    1. LouG*

      Yes!! I finally started responding with a quick “if I find something, I’ll let you know.” Out with friends just trying to relax after a long day of looking and applying and refreshing my email a million times, the last thing I want to hear is “so how many interviews have you landed so far?” Seriously?

  7. ChristineH*

    Heck to the yes on #2!! I get the “have you tried…” and “why don’t you try school social work/work in a hospital/some other area I’m not interested in…”. Even from well-meaning counselors! I don’t mind getting suggestions, but most are from people not in my field and/or don’t really understand my interests/preferences. I had a close friend just yesterday send me a link for a clinical social work position, this after having recently had a LONG conversation with her about why I’m not interested in clinical (e.g. individual and group therapy, crisis intervention) social work!!! I love my friend, but she can be a bit ditsy sometimes, lol.

    1. Anonymous*

      I think this is one of the ones I have the most trouble with, as a well-meaning friend.

      Those of us who are employed tend to think you should broaden your search and relax your requirements after a certain amount of time. I can see where we probably suggest things that aren’t even a possibility because we don’t know your skill set, i.e. just because you’re a social worker doesn’t mean you’re particularly qualified to do crisis intervention if you’ve done something else for 5+ years, regardless of whether you even want to do that work.

      But. . .I can’t change my mental model. I don’t think 99 weeks of unemployment benefits really helped anyone, and I think the less-than-ideal job is often the stepping stone to the next great one. (I don’t mean trying to take a McJob, just being more open to all the possibilities within your field and area of qualification.)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Agreed — there does come a point where the person needs to broaden what they’re willing to do, partly because the longer someone is out of work, the less attractive they’re generally becoming to employers in their field. If it’s only been a month, not an issue — but if it’s been a year and someone is turning down interviews or jobs because they’re not sufficiently aligned, I’d worry. Because they longer it goes on, the fewer interviews and offers they’re likely to get that are in their field. At some point, you need to simply take a job — or at least understand the consequences of your decisions if you decide not to.

        That said, whether it’s useful to point this out is heavily dependent on your relationship with the person and how receptive they are to this viewpoint.

        1. Rana*

          A question about broadening the search… my impression when I was doing this was that one had better odds if one applied for positions that were a good, solid match for your skills (because then you would be competitive) than for ones that were more of a stretch (because then you’d be competing with candidates who were a better fit in terms of having the precise skills and experience needed).

          What does one do if the positions out there tend to fall not into “good fit”; “stretch”; and “poor fit” but only “good” and “bad”? That is, that job listings seemed either perfect matches (but very, very few available) or completely inappropriate. I mean, if your skills set is very specialized, it might be hard to convince employers in distantly related fields to take a chance on you, especially when there are also a bunch of in-field candidates to choose from.

          (Caveat: I couldn’t manage it, so I’m curious about how people who did pulled it off.)

      2. KellyK*

        I think you have a point, but I also think it can be really presumptuous to assume that you have a better understanding of the risks and trade-offs than the person who’s job-hunting, who knows their experience, their abilities, and their financial situation. Yes, having any job is better than no job, and a crappy job can be a stepping stone. At the same time, you can only put out so many applications, so if there are actual openings in someone’s desired field, and they’re getting enough interest to feel like they have a decent chance of getting a job in that area, broadening their search might not be a good use of their time.

        Also, applying for a less desirable job and getting it may mean 1) you have to take it, because you lose unemployment benefits if you’re offered any job you don’t accept and 2) you have to do it for the next three years if you don’t want to look like a job-hopper when you go back to your original field. Obviously, sometimes you have no choice, but I can see someone who isn’t likely to go hungry or be out on the street wanting to put that off as long as they feel like they have a decent chance in their area of choice.

        1. Jamie*

          I think it really depends on your relationship to the job seeker.

          If it’s a friend, I totally agree with you – and even if it’s a spouse or SO I agree in theory – but if someone who is picking up the slack financially would like you to be less picky it’s at least worth a conversation.

          If I’m self-supporting or my husband is happy to support me until I find something I love – even if it’s a purple squirrel of a job – that’s no one’s business but ours. But if he’s buckling under the financial stress he’s got a right to opine that maybe I cast that net a little wider and try to help.

          But if there isn’t a financial relationship it’s out of bounds – imo.

        2. Anonymous*

          I really take issue with your statement about losing unemployment benefits. Unemployment benefits are intended to be a safety net. I don’t think it’s right to pass up job that is less desirable simply because they aren’t exactly what you want. Again, I don’t mean you should have to go from being an office manager to working the night shift at Kwikie Mart, but I don’t think it’s right to pass on applying for a reasonable job because of the hypothetical long-term career implications for you. If you aren’t going to go hungry or be out on the street, then give up your unemployment. Why does someone else have to pay while you wait for Jesus?

          1. KellyK*

            Yeah, I can see that argument. I don’t necessarily agree with it, because I don’t think anyone’s obligated to turn down benefits they’re legally entitled to just because they can avoid starvation or homelessness without them. (I also think it’s interesting how it’s considered wrong to take unemployment or food stamps, but other benefits aren’t given the same hairy eyeball. For example, no one has ever suggested that I’m a thief or a mooch for not paying back the portion of my student loan that’s government subsidized the minute I got a real job, but it’s the same principle–why should others pay my interest when I’m not starving?)

            Also, it’s not as simple as “others” paying. If you’re getting unemployment benefits, you were working and paying taxes, and will be paying taxes again once you have another job. You’re also still paying sales tax and property tax even if you’re not paying income tax. Plus which, companies consider their unemployment tax when determining people’s salaries. If you’re paid 50k, and they pay 5k to employ you, then you’re essentially worth 55k to them. (If it wasn’t worth 55k to them to employ you, you’d have been paid less.) It’s not as though you haven’t contributed.

            As long as you’re acting honestly and legally, I don’t think there’s any inherent obligation to minimize your use of tax dollars. Taking unemployment for a little while longer as a strategy to get a decent job isn’t any different morally than taking every last tax deduction you’re entitled to or making sure your learning-disabled child gets all the accommodations they need from the school district even if you had the option of meeting the kid’s needs with a private tutor instead.

            1. Anonymous*

              Unemployment insurance is funded by employers for the first 26 weeks. States whose funds are tapped out borrow from the federal government. Your sales tax & property tax really aren’t earmarked for UI funds, and if you’re not making much, you probably aren’t consuming much (i.e. paying much sales tax), either. Not everyone owns personal property.

              Again, it’s the safety net idea. I don’t support government subsidized student loans, either, by the way. Pell grants for the truly needy, yes, subsidized loans for the middle class, no. Some argue that it didn’t cause the current higher ed bubble, but I don’t agree with that. Some things work better as government funded – like scientific research – but I don’t like things that are intended to help those who really need it turning using that subsidy into a lifestyle. And, FWIW, I don’t use any government benefits for my children’s learning problems. I guess I’m saying I try to practice what I believe as much as the government lets me : ).

              I really don’t think you should turn down your unemployment benefits, because I see the argument that sometimes you pay, sometimes you receive, but to me it kind of sounds like Cousin Eddie holding out for a management position, the way you’ve laid it out.

              1. KellyK*

                Thanks for the clarification on the various taxes. I’m lucky in that I’ve never been in the position to need unemployment benefits.

                I think the fact that the employer pays for the first 26 weeks actually adds to the argument for not feeling obligated to apply for anything and everything. UI is a cost of doing business, and it’s a valid cost of their having eliminated your position or let you go in the first place.

                Also, while sales or property tax may not be earmarked for UI, they affect the overall state budget. It may vary from state to state how or whether money gets moved around, though, but you’re certainly contributing somewhere. It’s also worth noting that if you’re renting, you’re indirectly paying property tax.

                I wasn’t talking in terms of “Cousin Eddie holding out for a management position” but in terms of applying for jobs outside your field (in related fields you aren’t interested in and have less or no experience in), since that was the basis of the previous conversation.

                To give a clearer example, If my tech writing job disappears, I’d apply for other similar jobs for several months before I apply with the local newspaper at 50% of my current salary. It’s not minimum wage, and it’s work I’m qualified for, but the pay cut is huge, and switching fields means I’d be explaining to future employers why I left the field and came back to it. I’d also be at a further disadvantage trying to come back because my skills would no longer be current after 2-3 years in a different field.

                I don’t think it’d be appropriate to ask me to gamble tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to save the state a few hundred. Now, if several months go by with nothing, then the odds of my staying in my field are dropping, and it makes much more sense to expand my search.

                1. Jamie*

                  UI is a cost of doing business, and it’s a valid cost of their having eliminated your position or let you go in the first place.

                  I’m fully supportive of UI as a safety net for those who are laid off or lose their job through no fault of their own.

                  But in my state if you’re fired they only deny UI in cases of Gross Misconduct.

                  This means, and I’ve seen it first hand, that I can come in late every day, leave early, take 2 hour lunches, “forget” how to perform huge chunks of my job and be wildly and deliberately incompetent and unless I punch someone in the face or steal something on video or where there’s an audit trail I’m probably getting UI.

                  To me that shouldn’t be a cost of doing business and I’ve seen it – more often than is reasonable – where people want to leave but they don’t quit because they want the UI. So they become an HR nightmare until they are fired. As a co-worker who has picked up the slack for these people checking out without quitting it sucks. And the fact that they collect money as a reward for this from a business that tried to work with them and help them improve sucks.

                  But again – company closes, lay offs, even people trying to perform and it’s not a good fit, restructures…I’m in favor of UI in all those cases.

                  There has to be a way to keep people from abusing the system though.

                2. KellyK*

                  Replying to Jamie because I’ve hit the nesting limit. You’re right about that. If someone were collecting UI because they’d been a slacker at their last job (not a bad fit or in over their head with no support, but the kind of deliberate awfulness you describe), then that’s morally indefensible.

                  How you address it without screwing over people who really do deserve UI is a whole separate question. I have one friend whose company tried to contest unemployment because she “missed too much time” for health issues, neglecting to mention that she made up every minute and worked over 40 besides, and that one of those health issues was a worker’s comp injury and another was, as best she could tell, a reaction to chemicals they were using.

                  Granted, I don’t know her boss, so I only know her side of the story and for all I know she really was slacking, but that just ties into my concern. How would the person deciding the UI case distinguish between her and your slacker ex-coworkers (who probably aren’t telling the unemployment office that they got fired for doing nothing).

      3. De Minimis*

        I exhausted my 99 weeks at one point and was willing to do all sorts of work, to no avail. I had been a CPA [although a newly minted one] who was willing to work as a bookkeeper, accounting clerk, or whatever, but was often told “we’re just too worried you’re going to leave as soon as the economy gets better.” I think my type of experience is pretty common among the long-term unemployed, although the job market where I lived was truly abysmal [you would literally see hundreds of people show up for things like call center job fairs.] I ended up having to leave and undergo a long-term separation from my spouse in order to work again. Suffice to say I did not really know any long-term unemployed who were willing to compromise.

        1. Lulu*

          Right – from the job hunter’s perspective, it’s often the employers who are unwilling to compromise. They want that purple squirrel, dammit! I feel like my experience is broad enough that I could target various areas of employment, and I’ve cast a fairly wide net, but find the people hiring are looking for very specific, specialized experience. Or paying such a low wage that I’d be better off working at Starbucks. And given my coffee-making skills, not sure they’d take me there, either…

    2. anonajobsearcher*

      Yes, this is my biggest frustration too. I have a good job but am searching in order to move up in my career, and my best friends are loving but totally clueless, not only about my industry but also about modern job searching conventions. They were appalled that I would not wear a full suit and pumps and put my hair in an up-do (!) for an interview, even when I explained that in my particular industry and this particular role, dressing/wearing my hair like that would backfire by signaling I do not understand the company/industry’s culture. In this case the business casual suiting, office-appropriate flats and normal hair I went with were already more formal that the interviewers’ jeans and tshirts, so I think I came off appropriately serious about the job but not too stuffy. Basically I try not to talk to my friends about my search much anymore.

  8. Joe Schmoe*

    Any tips on helping someone find their first job after high school? Extremely opposed to joining the military, not necessarily interested in college – just looking for his first job?

    1. Anonymous*

      Adult dress.

      My little sister was looking and she would go out in very high school kind of dress. I went shopping with her and we talked about clothes and what they mean and what they say about you and how yes it stinks but people judge you by it. (Just like people judge me by my run-on sentences.) I bought her one grown up outfit she really liked and felt comfortable in. It really helped when she went into drop off resumes and apply for jobs. If they don’t have a good handle on things like that it can make a huge difference.

    2. Natalie*

      Every time I’ve been unemployed I’ve signed up for a temp agency right away. (I’ve never been eligible for unemployment insurance, so this was not a factor.)

      I did office temping, so I primarily filled in for the receptionist, but I also worked at the big university’s book store at the beginning of the term. The temp agency paid a good hourly wage, I gained experience and exposure to different firms around the metro, I got out of the houseon a regular basis, and it was super easy to schedule interviews because my postings were usually only a day or two.

      There are also industrial temp agencies and, in some cities, restaurant agencies that provide cater waiters. Theoretically this young man could sign up for all of them.

  9. Mints*

    Bookmarking this in case I need a passive aggressive way to tell somebody to back off. Just kidding lol!

  10. Bryce*

    This may sound like it’s along the lines of “Top 10 Things Your Job-Seeking Friends Won’t Tell You” (you have my permission to use this title for one of your future articles), but one of those things is:

    “I need your support…not necessarily your advice…and definitely not your criticism.”

    One of the best things you can do for your job-seeking compadres is to simply offer a sympathetic ear. As someone who has been there, done that, and has several T-shirts to prove it, that’s extremely valuable.

    Another of the best things you can do, and others have mentioned this, is to get your compadres out of the job-search cave from time to time, and give them a chance to think about something else besides their job search.

    1. Good_Intentions*


      Thank you for the wonderful post!

      Your perspective on just being a sympathetic ear is just what so many job-seekers need. I cannot tell you how many conversations I have had with well-meaning people who don’t hear what I’m saying, talk over me and make grand assumptions about the type of work I’ve done and am currently seeking. It’s frustrating and confidence-crushing to put it mildly.

      In your last paragraph, you mention just getting out the “job-search cave” and providing a distraction for a while. This tactic has worked wonders for me and prevented me from obsessively checking my email, Simply Hired and fighting back stinging in my eyes. The wonders of a nice walk and bit of chit chat about the weather, movies, old friends, etc. at a coffee shop or a late lunch at an inexpensive restaurant can do so much to lift the spirit and make job hunting a much more tolerable situation.

      Much appreciation for the lovely post.

  11. Elizabeth West*

    THANK YOU. I’m posting that on Facebook. I’m so tired of answering the questions that I’m just not even telling people when I have interviews anymore.

    #7- do something non-job search-related:
    One of my friends made a date with me to see The Hobbit. We both really wanted to see it, and it was a chance for us to hang out for a bit (she lives in another town and has a family and is a teacher and is really really really busy, so I never see her). When I got there, she was already in the theater and said, “I got your ticket. Here it is. Merry Christmas!” :)

  12. mimimi*

    I would add: don’t say “How *ARE* you??” with a supersad face as if your job-hunting friend is the most unfortunate person in history. I always hated that. Just say, “How are you?” in a normal tone of voice.

    It seemed to me to communicate an unspoken “You poor thing – better you than me” message.

    And don’t vanish! Of course those who would vanish would probably not be interested in reading an article about what not to do to a job hunting friend, but some people just go MIA. A real friend doesn’t disappear when you are going through a tough time, even if he/she is not sure what to say or do and maybe feels uncomfortable.

  13. Job seeker*

    This worries me a lot. I have my mother with me at the moment and have had to put my job-searching on hold some since summer. I have had a few interviews this past fall (October) but the hours were not what I could do. I worry about time going by and how this is looking. My mother is a widow and has medical issues and really needs me right now. I flew back home this summer and brought her here to stay with my family. She has no-one else to help her but me. I want to make sure she is OK and everyone else in my extended family will not help her at all. I love her and want to make sure she is OK.

    I am trying to find something part-time now, but I hope when I explain this to prospective employers they understand. I have a friend that has been trying to give me good advice. She recommended me on LinkIn, but honestly I am at a lost how to even do LinkIn. I am trying to just get a handle on mother’s stuff so I can concentrate on this. I realize the longer I am not working how bad this looks.

    1. KellyK*

      I think you can mitigate this some by explaining to potential employers that X months of the time you spent unemployed was caring for your mom full-time. It shouldn’t be as bad as if you’d spent that whole time looking and finding nothing.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Either way is probably fine. If you do mention it in the letter, I’d keep it very brief, like “I’ve spent the last few months helping care for a relative, but am now eager for full-time work in ___ (field).”

            1. Job seeker*

              Alison, thank you. I saw a job posting just now on a website that I want to apply for. I am going to include something brief with my letter. I appreciate the suggestion on how to word this.

  14. Anonymous*

    Love love love this advice, wish my friends & family had read it when I was job hunting! The other day I told my recently-made-redundant friend that she can tell me about her job search if she wants but I’m never gonna ask about it.

    One point I would like to add, on behalf on the legions of underemployed graduates out there, is don’t belittle the work someone’s had to take just to pay their rent. They already feel bad about it!

  15. Rob*

    Since my business went up in flames nearly 18 months ago, I’ve been un (mostly)/underemployed ever since. I’ve had 1, 2 and 6 happen more times than I could count.

    I feel almost toxic to potential employers as a result of losing my business and with family and friends doing these things, it’s made it worse.

  16. Meg*

    This advice rocks! I wish I had this article to point to when I was unemployed… especially family not adhering to #1 drove me batty. One of my favorite quotes from How I Met Your Mother comes from a period when I was unemployed at the same time as one of the characters:

    Marshall: So, how’s the job hunt going?
    Robin Scherbatsky: Didn’t you hear? I got a job at CNN this morning. And I moved to a penthouse made of gold overlooking Central Park. Get your head out of your ass, Marshall.

  17. Chaucer*

    This is mine, and something that my mom does way too often:

    -Stop reading those stupid Yahoo!/MSN articles about what jobs are in demand or what jobs don’t require a degree and yet you can make (insert ridiculous salary.)

    I know my mom has good intentions when she points me to those articles, but I find them (along with most Yahoo! News articles) to be complete and total dreck.

    1. Lulu*

      LOL totally! And perfect timing: I *accidentally* ended up on the Yahoo home page yesterday and, against my better judgement, did click through to one of their employment articles. To my surprise, it was all good, current information and well written to boot! Shocked and amazed, I was just about to forward it to my friend, when I noticed who had written it… you’ve totally messed with my Yahoo hate, Alison! :)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Ha! Thank you. Yahoo picks up my stuff from U.S. News sometimes … and when they do, let me tell you, the commenters over there are MUCH different than the ones here. I don’t even read the comments over there.

        1. Lulu*

          Oh man, I pretty much had a meltdown over the commenters at one point a few years ago, to the point where I was leaving repeated messages in their Help/Feedback section about disabling or moderating them (where I discovered you can even get into arguments with jerky people in a help/feedback forum). I finally just decided that site was bad for my mental health, and completely quit using anything other than Yahoo Mail in silent protest. If you want to despair for the future of humanity, that’s the place to go…

  18. TL*

    This entire article is spot on. I especially like points 2, 4 and 7.

    A lot of it depends on your relationship to the job seeker, too. Personally, I don’t mind if a good friend asks me how the job hunt is going, every once in a while. They’re friends, not likely to be pushy or critical, and we’ve probably discussed my situation/industry/ideal job before. It’s everyone else (acquaintances, distant relatives, etc.) that seem to be the most willing to share unsolicited questions and advice!

  19. FreeThinkerTX*

    I’d add a #9: “Stop telling your S.O./family member that ‘Looking for a job is your full-time job.'”

    I have a broken leg now, and thus am “unemployed and not looking”, but back when I was “unemployed and looking” a year ago, he beat me over the head with this every single day. He has never worked in the corporate world and has no idea what it’s like, what a hiring manager wants to read / hear, what a business will find valuable. He just regurgitates cliches like, “Find your passion and start a business around it!”

    So not very helpful.

    1. Anon*


      Of course I can’t update my resume, not send it out, and hope that my dream job will find me. But combing the websites and sending out resumes doesn’t take the same amount of time as walking door to door and asking for job applications like my parents did in their youth. And since I’m not in sales, constant phone calls to follow up make me a high-maintenance pest. If someone says that they’ll be in touch next week, calling them today is not helpful.

      And the advice to start your own business… arrghh! Some people don’t have the ability/temperament to do all the sales and admin work associated with being an entrepreneur. Some businesses require a large capital investment, and many reasonable people don’t want to risk that. People may know that they don’t know enough to be in business for themselves, and that’s why they like working for companies where they can work with smart people.

  20. RecentGrad*

    Thank you so much for posting this. I don’t think that people understand how insensitive they can be sometimes. I really hate when people ask me if I have applied somewhere and then give me advice on what to do when they don’t know anyone who works with the company(if you don’t work there how do you know what I should do). Quit asking me what happened with one company. If I didn’t tell you then I don’t have anything to tell. Don’t encourage me to stand up for a prayer request at church. I am sure that everyone knows that I am unemployed. Don’t say wow you went to school there and you still don’t have a job. Don’t say wow you have that experience and you still don’t have a job. Don’t say the reason that you are unemployed is because you are unwilling to accept jobs that you don’t want. If you work in a place that doesn’t require a degree and where most of the employees don’t have a degree then don’t call out the person that does have a degree. If they want you to know they will tell you. It is annoying to have everyone more interested in the fact that you have a degree and work there than your actual personality. I could go on and on….

  21. vee*

    How about: Hang on to their resume

    Just looking at my sent mail and there are 3 people who I have sent my resume to 3 times each since October.

    I mean, come on. It does not give me a lot of confidence that they are making an effort to advocate for me if they can;t remember or search for an email that;s about a month old.

  22. Maria*

    Please dear gods stop asking me for updates! If I had any I would tell you! Contrary to popular opinion, this is NOT a good way to start up a conversation, because next time I see you and you ask how X, Y, and Z interview went and I say I didn’t get it, all conversation is over.

    Also, as a recent grad, saying that X. Y, and Z company is hiring is not actually helpful. Because they’re not hiring entry level jobs, no of the companies you have recommended are hiring entry level jobs, they’re only hiring execs. You’re just making my life more miserable by pointing out more jobs I’m not qualified for.

  23. Maria*

    Free Movie Screenings! Follow your local 43Kix on Facebook. They frequently give out movie screening tickets to see movies before they come out. You’re sitting in front of your computer applying to jobs already, why not get something fun out of it! They’re free, and it’s also getting you out of the house! They’ve been a lifesaver for me.

  24. Sabrina*

    Number one is a major issue for me. I graduated last year and still haven’t been able to find a full time position. Every time I turn around I have a friend or family member ask me if I’ve found a job yet. Once is fine, but to repeatedly ask is very annoying. I just recently had to confront someone about this telling them that when I find a job everyone will know.

  25. Job seeker*

    I read yesterday at the grocery store checkout that you should answer the question tell me about yourself in 60 seconds. This article said that is about how long a employer wants to listen not the 20 minutes some take.

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