ask the readers: how to encourage someone unemployed to begin a job search

I’m going to throw this one out to readers to answer. A reader writes:

Your recent article about “8 ways to help a job-seeking friend or relative” sparked some thought, and I wanted to ask you this: Any advice on how to encourage someone who is unemployed to begin their job search?

My roommate quit her job in December with nothing else lined up. I agreed with the decision at the time (the job was a horrible fit and the stress of it was making her physically ill) but it has been almost a month now and she has showed zero inclination towards looking for another job. She’s basically fallen into depression and (as far as I can tell) does pretty much nothing all day. On top of this, she has no idea what field she wants to go into now, other than not the same as her last field.

She’s got enough to live on for a couple of months, but it might take far longer than that for her to find a job. I’d like to encourage her in a caring, respectful way, but frankly I’m getting a little worried about whether she’ll be able to make her half of the rent, and I think my frustration with her is showing through. Is there any way I can help her come out of her funk and start actively job searching, or should I just butt out?

Readers, what do you think?

{ 117 comments… read them below }

  1. anonymous*

    After hearing about it for years, I finally picked up a copy of ‘What color is your parachute’ which is updated every year to reflect the current job market and includes several worksheets that help you figure out what’s important to you in a job/career field. Maybe you could get her a copy or at least point her in that direction?

    1. Flynn*

      My mother gets me to get a copy of that for her every time she’s job hunting (I work in a library, she actively upgrades a lot – she’s always in work, but there isn’t much around at the level she likes to work at, so she settles then looks for something better and moves up).

  2. LadyHope*

    I don’t think you can make her job search. However, you can sit down now and be frank about what the plan is for if/when her money runs out. State that you cannot afford rent alone and you need some reassurance that she can fulfill her financial obligations going forward. Maybe by hearing that you arent going to give her a pass because she is unemployed will motivate her to do something.

    1. Amanda*

      Yes, this is how I’d approach it. Sit her down for a frank conversation about when it is she’s going to run into trouble paying rent, and if she has any plans for beyond that. Be very upfront about what you’ll need to do – when your lease runs out, what your options are, and what you yourself can do to hold up your end of the bargain. If you have to break your lease because all of a sudden she runs out of money and she hasn’t warned you, that will screw you over too.

      Once you have that timeline I think that will help dictate how involved you can or should be. If she can make it 12 months, things are easier. If she’s going to empty her accounts within three months that tells you that in six weeks you’re going to have to give your landlord a heads up and try to find subletters and somewhere else for yourself to live.

    2. Elizabeth*

      I agree with this, especially because the OP refers to the roommate just as “my roommate” and not “my friend.” It sounds from the tone of the letter like this might be a situation where the two found each other on Craigslist, or through mutual acquaintances, rather than having a friendship before becoming roommates.

      OP, I’d also start thinking about your options in a worst-case scenario, though I hope that nothing remotely like that will come to pass. Are you both on the lease? When is your lease up, or are you month-to-month?

      1. Scott M*

        Yeah, I picked up on the “roommate” vs “friend” thing too. the OP is trying to be nice, but you can’t save everyone. The OP isn’t responsible for their roommate’s career

      2. Jamie*

        I thought the same – roommate and not friend means the relationship, while clearly friendly, is based on sharing a place.

        Whether she gets another job is her business, but whether she can meet her bills is yours. I’d have the frank discussion about that and either that will give her the impetus to start looking or it won’t.

        Either way you’ve made it clear you won’t carry her.

        I am a little puzzled as to why you write that you “agreed with her decision” to quit. I personally would have stayed away from any input in that – I hope she doesn’t take your support of her quitting to be an unspoken offer to float her while she’s out of work. If she did you need to make it clear that it’s not – for the sake of you both.

        1. Maire*

          That seems really unsympathetic. The OP had every right to give input on the situation regarding quitting and quite frankly it would be hard not to if you are in anyway empathetic and know that someone is having a really hard time at work.
          You can’t treat all relationships like business relationships, if you have any natural human sympathy.

          1. Jamie*

            I have plenty of natural human sympathy – but if someone asks me whether or not they should quit their job unless it’s someone I would be willing to financially support (an adult child or my husband) I would not offer an opinion.

            Bad jobs are stressful, but so is being unemployed and unable to pay your bills. If I can’t shield someone from the financial ramifications then I wouldn’t offer an opinion of whether they are better off in a bad job or unemployed.

            1. Maire*

              Ok, well I can understand that point of view. However, I also think that if someone you know is very stressed out about a job and needs to discuss it (and if you live with them you will probably be the most likely candidate when they come home every evening), it would be very unsympathetic to refuse to offer your true opinion because you are worried they will take this as some sort of promise of financial help.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I would normally agree with that, but not when it’s someone you share a home with. If the person you share a home with is encouraging you to quit your job, I can see how many people would assume that the quit-your-job-encourager would understand that that might mean that rent/mortgage money will be harder to come by for a while, and that they’ll be sympathetic to that. I’m not saying they SHOULD assume that, but I think a lot of people might.

              2. Elizabeth West*

                Being there to listen while they unload is sometimes as good as, or even better than, offering advice. So not offering an opinion when you know the other person isn’t going to listen isn’t necessarily unsympathetic.

                However, if the OP’s roommate is not even trying to look for a job, the time for an opinion (and offering what help she can) has come.

                1. fposte*

                  And honestly, I almost never straight-out advise somebody to quit, leave their partner, move, or any other big change. Those aren’t small decisions, and without being the person who makes it, there’s no way for me to know whether it’s the right thing to do (plus most of us have plenty of people telling us what to do anyway, and I figure it can be nice to get a break from that). I’ll support people’s ability to find the answer that’s right for them and be a sounding board for their thoughts, but I’m definitely a bad friend for somebody who thinks that caring means weighing in.

        2. LMW*

          I don’t know…I still refer to my best friend from college as my old roommate. And she and I were (and are) quite close and discussed a lot of career and life decisions. In fact, she’s so rational and clear headed, I usually use her as a sounding board when I have tough decisions to make, because she asks good questions. So I can see how the OP would say that.

          1. Ellie H.*

            Interesting point! I think that sometimes people use “roommate” to highlight the closeness of the relationship (“We even lived together!”) and some people use it to highlight the distance of the relationship (“It’s more of a financial arrangement”). For example, I call my best friend from college my “college roommate” even though we only lived together pretty briefly, it was in a shared apartment with other people and we both lived with other people for longer. But I call my current roommates, whom I’m not very close with (we don’t hang out or ever see each other outside the apartment), roommates.

        3. Flynn*

          They don’t say they advised her to quit, just that they agreed with the decision – it was valid context that the roommate had a good reason to be out of work, and wasn’t a hopeless layabout.

          “Quit for a good reason and in a temporary slump” is very different from “refuses to find work and walked out of their last job”.

      3. Natalie*

        Additionally, the OP really can’t control what their roommate and/or friend does, so keeping the conversation focused on what will happen if and when the roommate can’t pay her fair share will actually be more productive for the OP.

        1. LadyHope*

          Exactly. You can’t make life choices for her, so don’t get stuck in the trap of trying to fix her/solve her problems/be her nagging mom or job coach. You will most likely spin your wheels. Instead focus on how her life choices affect you and what you expect from her. Honestly, whether she has a job isn’t your business; whether she pays rent is (even though logic states that one goes with the other.)

  3. Anonymous*

    As a person who battles chronic depression, I might have an idea. I don’t know if she actually has depression or if she is just in a depressive state, but either way, this may help.
    When I was in one of my darkest times, I was actually in college and I was failing because I just did not want to go to class or do anything with friends or anything. Honestly, it’s near impossible to make yourself get up and do anything during times like this. My best friend, she would come to my dorm room every morning and basically be there to get me moving. She would aggrevate me until I got up and then she stayed with me while I got ready for the day, just talking to me and moving me along (it sounds silly unless you’ve been there). Then she would literally walk me to my class and then would go to her class. Once I got to the first class, I was pretty good about going, but anytime I would have down time, I would go to my room and would have trouble getting motivated again so she kept pretty close dibs on me. She would also all but MAKE me get out and do non-academic things with her on a daily basis.
    Helping a person who is depressed/in a depressive state is extremely time consuming, frustrating, and just hard. It takes someone who is truly dedicated to get the person out of the “pit”. Your roommate made need someone to really (and literally) stand by her to motivate her and get her out of the house. Maybe even go job searching with her. Not that I recommend actually going in to places asking about an opening, but maybe just driving her around from place to place or sitting by her while she searches online for job openings to see what she can find that she may be interested in. I would advise that if you are not extremely close friends with your roommate or if you just do not have the time, you may try talking to your roommates closest friends and family to make sure they are aware of the situation and how they may be able to help. Even if she is just in the beginning stages of being depressed, things like this can escalate faster than most people realize and even the small signs should not be taken lightly.

    1. BeenThere*

      Yes sometimes we (those prone to depression) need a little help to get started and have no idea that we should be asking for help. When we come out of the pit/rut/darkness we are incredibly grateful for those that have helped us out. A very good way to start as the previous poster has mentioned is just getting her out of the house doing non job related things to start.

      I know any exercise activity does wonders for myself when in this state. You could just start by getting her to come on a walk or jog with you. The exercise will make her feel good just by virtue of body chemistry.

      I fell in a terrible depressive state after being layed-off from a stressful toxic job. I would get to the couch each day and never move, it would a miracle if I had a shower let alone fed myself something decent. Over a six month period my lovely husband persisted and managed to get me started with small goals each day. For example do one load of laundry or apply for one job. He learned to recognise when I was having a good day, when I was having a bad day and when I was being lazy vs when I could physical barely move. With his support and gentle encouragement I started going to Yoga. It was a turning point because it became a definite schedule point in my day and made me leave the apartment. It worked well for me as my instructors were very compassionate and encouraged us to feel however we felt, allowed us to accept whatever level we are at that day and actively gave us techniques to rid ourselves of the can’t feeling and the fear of failure.

      Now I several recruiters talking about three positions I find desirable and I already have a phone interview for one on Tuesday :)

      1. Anonymous*

        That is wonderful to hear how your husband helped you through that. You’re right, the people that help us through, once we are out, we can see how truly fortunate we are to have had someone to invest in us and stand by us through it all!

        And I do agree, any kind of physical activity – even if she starts out small and works her way up – helps tremendously! I actually even think that it’s been proven to help..

        And congrats on the upcoming phone interview! Hope that goes well!

        1. Anonymous*

          When I was job hunting, I found yoga was a great help. I started taking classes since I had all that free time. It really helps keep your mind from wandering down the “what ifs?” of interviews you didn’t get. Also the breathing exercises REALLY helped when it came to keeping calm before a job interview! :)

          1. EM*

            I agree! Yoga breathing is pretty amazing. It was part of what got me through 31 hours of unmediated labor. :)

    2. Victoria HR*

      What a great best friend you had!

      I agree with others that a frank discussion needs to be had. Her actions (or lack thereof) affect not only her, but someone else, so she needs to be made aware.

      1. Anonymous*

        I absolutely did have a great best friend.. It’s rare to have friends that dedicated and faithful these days..

        1. LMW*

          I’ve been where you were and was lucky enough to have a friend like that too. They’re more precious than gold, aren’t they?

    3. Nyxalinth*

      I have depression too, and I second this.

      Also, I want to ask: is it an issue where it’s “OMG we won’t be able to pay the rent at all!” or is it more “Things will be tight but we can do this.” because if it’s the second, you can work something out with your room mate to pay back rent once she’s working, and she has to be actively looking (sending off resumes, interviewing, etc.) in the meantime of course. If it’s the first, it’s a lot harder on you both, and having been on both sides of this situation, I empathize.

      1. fposte*

        I think it would be very generous if the OP was willing and able to loan her roommate the rent money (though it might be psychologically better just to give it to her and be delighted if it comes back), but I don’t think that hinges just on whether the OP could swing it or not. That’s a pretty big thing for somebody to do even if they do have the money, and it’s not required to do to be a good person in this situation.

          1. fposte*

            And I think some people would do just that, so I don’t think it’s an unreasonable thought. I just didn’t want the OP feeling like it was an expectation or obligation.

        1. AgilePhalanges*

          IF the OP decides she can support the roommate financially, I definitely agree with those who say it needs to be financially feasible as a gift, not a loan, and payback would just be a nice bonus. Also, get the agreement in writing, put an end date on it, and I think it would also be fair for the roommate to chip in with extra household chores or other non-monetary help while the OP is supporting the household with more than his/her share of financial responsibility. A reduction in the roommate’s share of the rent would probably also be better than the OP just paying the entire amount, even if the OP can afford to, both to protect the roommate’s dignity, and as incentive for roommate to get a job sooner rather than later.

      2. Anonymous*

        There is no way that I would ever get into a situation with someone who wasn’t a friend or relative where they owed me any large amounts of money, especially if it meant that I would be on the hook for something like a lease. The OP should only do this if they get an agreement in writing, signed by the roommate. This would be a completely bad idea otherwise.

        1. Natalie*

          Personally I would be wary even with a written agreement. The only option if the borrower doesn’t pay is small claims court, and even if you win it can be hard or impossible to collect.

          If the roommate is also a friend, the friendship is likely not going to survive small claims court either.

          1. Jamie*

            I’ve been happy to lend money before – but only when I was 100% okay with never getting it back or talking about it again.

            If they paid it back – neat – found money! But as soon as it was given I treated it the way Alison tells us to treat a great interview when they aren’t getting back to you…move on mentally and if something comes of it later, great, if not then you’ve moved on.

            It’s too emotionally complicated for me any other way.

            1. fposte*

              That’s exactly what I was thinking. Call it a loan, file it in your head as a gift, and move on. If you can’t afford–emotionally or financially–to give the money, don’t do it.

          2. HR Anon*

            First the OP needs to talk to her roommate and get clear on the money situation. Then, if it looks like she’ll run out of money soon, then the OP needs to decide which she prefers- paying the full rent herself (if able) for a set time, or scrambling to kick her unemployed roommate out & find a new one, or break the lease and move to a new place. It might be worth it to the OP to float the roommate’s portion of the rent for a few months, in exchange for the good feelings that come with helping someone & not having to hustle to change her own living situation even if the roommate never pays the OP back. That’s not necessarily a stupid decision if the OP can do it. I’d just advise the OP to be very clear on how long she’s willing to do this (for example, for a few months until the lease is up). Then, the OP can decide based on how close she is to her roommate whether she wants to invest time and energy into helping her deal with depression (my fiance has bouts of depression, and when he’s down it takes a lot of motivating to get him moving). Some less time consuming things that might help are giving a head’s up to people closer to the roommate (family, friends), and encouraging the roommate to do free things with the OP like walking together as many people suggest.

            1. snuck*

              We also don’t know the true nature of the relationship between the OP and the room mate – are they just random house sharing types, close friends, sharing many friends in common etc?

              While it’s admirable and wonderful other people with depression have had a lot of support from a few rare individuals this is not something that the OP should feel obligated to do – even if she’s close friends with the room mate – it’s an awfully huge responsibility, and will fundamentally change the nature of their relationship. It could also create a level of unhealthy dependence. The OP is the best to judge that, and shouldn’t feel guilty if they don’t want to do that – it’s not for everyone, let alone many.

              Likewise offering to help out (gift or loan) with the rent could be seen as a signal to the room mate that she doesn’t need to get her act together for longer, that she can have someone else carry her etc. We don’t know 0 again – OP needs to think it through carefully.

              It might be in the OP’s interest to cover the room mate’s rent for a nominated period of time on the understanding that they are taking time to find a new room mate that suits them (rather than a rush replacement), but to offer to pay the roomie’s rent indefinitely is a disaster waiting to happen if they aren’t even looking for a job. Eventually the very large accrued ‘bill’ will be higher than either party wishes to think about, and it could well damage any relationship, and be very hard to recoup.

              I agree with the frank discussion about how long the room mate can afford to live there – it might be sufficient to put them clearly on notice that this isn’t a free ride, that they need to do something, and take some action. I’d also recommend both parties look at a good website on depression (Australia has the ‘Beyond Blue’ website which is really good) and see if they can find things of use to each of them there.

              And if the OP is really not a close friend with the roomie then maybe it’s time to call in a close friend of the roomie and let them help pick up some pieces. A short call to someone else saying “I’m worried about Roomie, they aren’t really holding it together very well” goes a good way towards ‘doing something’ while not taking total personal responsibility for fixing it all.

    4. Anonymous*

      I have to agree here, and even take it one step further. The roommate is unlikely to be able to do any serious job searching while depressed (if she is actually depressed), and the situation is likely to compound much further quickly. Personally speaking, there have been times in my life where I was physically unable to do anything because of depression. I was lucky enough to be employed at the time, so the gravity of the situation was simply personal, and when someone finally pushed hard enough, I got to the psychiatrist. For the OP’s roommate, it seems that the situation will quickly become both personal and financial, which will make this much tougher to resolve.

      That said, it isn’t necessarily your responsibility to find this person help (and she’d be unlikely to be able to afford it without insurance, as mental health isn’t a clinic thing). I would, however, encourage you to be open about it, act in a caring manner, and find ways to help when you can. A little can end up going a long way, especially in motivating your roommate to find help, deal with the issue, and retake control of her life.

    5. TL*

      I second this comment. It doesn’t sound like the roommate is so depressed that she would need someone to go with her while job hunting, but she might need help getting started. It might involve helping her get started with her day, or helping her set (and track) small daily job searching goals. Also, taking walks with her, or something else that will get her out of the house, would be a practical, supportive thing to do. Looking up temp agencies for her or something could also be helpful, if she wants to go that route.

      You (the OP) do need to address the rent issue; you won’t be doing her any favors by avoiding that discussion. But I’m glad you’re concerned about dealing with your roommate in a caring way.

      Does she have any friends or family who could step in and do things like take her out to do free/inexpensive stuff, go on walks, help with any of the job hunting aspects, or just drop in during the day? I’m really hesitant to suggest meddling in her social life, but if her depression seems to worsen, you could try contacting her closest friends or family members and suggest that they check in with her periodically and make an extra effort in her direction.

      Also, a word about therapy: it is not magic, nor are any pills going to be magically effective, especially immediately. Mind you, I don’t know that anyone here is suggesting that it is, but sometimes people will throw out “get therapy!” as if that’s going to solve all the problems immediately. It’s not. Honestly, unless it’s an issue that’s very chronic, sometimes having knowledgeable, helpful, supportive friends and family, exercise, and a routine can be WAY more effective than carting someone off to a psychologist and expecting them to get better instantly. (I’m not knocking therapy. I just hate to see it suggested as substitute for real, human support.)

      1. Lynda*

        Therapy IS real, human support. And it’s likely the therapist will be able to hit the problem more rapidly and more effectively than someone who’s shooting in the dark. In addition, there is low-cost therapy out there. The most efficient way to help is probably to provide a list of therapists from the internet (since people who are depressed usually have a hard time starting tasks like this and even more trouble evaluating the options). That would be the most helpful way to be supportive without creating a dependent relationship.

    6. Anonymous_J*

      Wow. I wish I’d had a friend like her in college! I really think my depression is the reason I did not finish. (I DID run out of money, but if I had not fallen into a depression in my sophomore year, that might not have happened–long story.)

      It’s not anyone’s job to hand hold, but in a situaion like this, it’s very helpful. It’s getting moving that’s hard.

  4. Anonymous*

    I would start getting ready to part ways, to be honest. That might sound mean, but are you going to cover her portion of the bills when her money runs out? Money destroys relationships and you can’t help a person who doesn’t want to be helped.

  5. Katie the Fed*

    Your friend needs to seek mental health treatment first and foremost. If she’s depressed (and it sounds like she is) then she’s not going to get very far identifying what she wants to do or finding a job. Although it might be worth reminding her that she doesn’t need to plan her entire life right now – she just needs a job, not the perfect one.

    Also keep in mind that winter might be exacerbating her mood. I suffer from pretty serious seasonal affective disorder, which is no joke – for years I would fall into very deep depression every January. You can suggest that she up her Vitamin D intake, which can help, but she really does need to be evaluated by a doctor.

  6. Anonymous*

    I’m a huge fan of Un-F Your Habitat (They use the f-word instead of bowlderizing it like I did here) because they offer small steps that are like, “Woah, I did one thing. Awesome.” when you’re feeling like you’re a total failure and will never conquer Mt. Life.

    Here’s the Job Search Challenge. A list of three items. Do one, two, or three of these tasks once a day.

      1. Jamie*

        There’s an app as well I keep meaning to get.

        When I work too much and fall behind on things at home one of the things I find totally inspiring are before and after photos of rooms. Weird, I know. But I have this mental block where after I clean something I can’t remember what it looked like before – it seems as if it’s always been pristine so my sense of accomplishment is very short lived. The before/afters on that site spur me to action.

        I also tend to be a little OCD in that stuff is never really clean enough so I’m never done…so even when I don’t have time to clean I always have time to unf*ck something.

        Kinda like the flylady but 1000x less syrupy.

        1. fposte*

          And I’ll do another plug for the Home Routines app here, because it allows you to assign regular stuff to days of the week , to an upcoming interval, or to a periodic zone clean *and* to look at the gold stars of what you accomplished that day. I love UFYH, but the app’s too flat for me–tasks are just in one huge list–and it doesn’t give me any interim gratification. Sublists are both a tool and a reward :-). (If I upgrade to a new iPod, I may adapt another copy of the app for work use, because it’s insanely effective for my workflow.)

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I don’t do apps, probably because I don’t have a smartphone. Ha!

          My biggest problem is I just am unmotivated to go through stuff at home. I’ll shove it in a closet and forget about it, until I need something in there and can’t find it. I love to watch Hoarders, though, and that usually gets me going. I have thrown out so much crap because of that show.

    1. JP*

      UFYH is one of my faves! Another site that works great with it is Challenge Accepted which allows you to make a “character” in the style of medieval fantasy (like D&D) and gain points for completing tasks you’ve set for yourself. I may just be a big nerd, but I find it super motivating.

      1. Jamie*

        I learn about the most amazing things here – thanks for posting that JP – that site is too fun! I joined this morning.

  7. Ryan*

    Make sure to remember that–no matter how frustrating this is for you, it’s likely even more frustrating for her. There’s a fine line between being supportive and pushing her so hard that she falls deep(er) into her depression (clinical or not). It IS very depressing to be without work, especially for longer periods of time, and if after only a few months she’s leaning that way I would heavily focus on being positive rather than pushy. AAM had some great tips in the article referenced at the top–that’s a good start.

    At the same time, you also have to take care of yourself, and realizing that you may soon be without a rent-paying roommate, you should decide quickly if this is something you can handle or not and have this conversation with her. AAM always recommends 1) having the hard conversations before the situation makes things harder, and 2) searching for a new job while you still have one (whenever possible). Seems this wisdom can also be applied here.

    1. Rosemarine*

      +1 to all of this on both sides of the equation (OP and roommate), from someone who has had depression hurt my job-hunting motivation big time.

  8. KayDay*

    Make her feel good about herself. Don’t “encourage” her by nagging her that she needs to be applying, she certainly knows that already. Try to build up her confidence, tell her what you think her skills and her best assets are. Offer to read her cover letter, and while it’s okay to provide constructive criticism, focus on the positive as well.

  9. JG*

    I agree that she should go to therapy if at all possible, but that may not be a practical option for her right now if she lost her health insurance along with her job.

    I was in a similar situation to hers about 5 years ago, and when my savings were nearly dried up I signed up for a temp job. This provided me with (some) money, a daily routine, and forced me to interact with other people–all things that are necessary for climbing out of a deep depression. The thought of applying and interviewing for a full-time position with lots of responsibility might be too much for her right now so perhaps you can help her find some reputable temping agencies in your area.

    It’s really scary to not have any idea what you want to do with your life, and that mental barrier is sometimes enough to paralyze a person. Maybe you can help her see that this is not a problem she has to solve right now–she just needs to take the first step and get back out into the world.

  10. Anonymous*

    Depressed or just sitting around the house doing nothing? My husband sat around the house and did nothing for a month after selling a business. Like the OP’s friend, the business was very stressful & he felt he just needed to take a mental health break for that month before starting his next thing. Unlike the OP’s roommate, he did have a plan that he was moving to, but you wouldn’t have known it during that month by what he was (or wasn’t) doing.

    I think the monetary motivation should be all that’s necessary & the OP should just be the enforcer of the “Roommate Agreement.” Getting involved in more friend-type, encouraging activities might be easier if/when the roomy moves out. It’s hard to give moral support in one breath and ask for $500 in the next.

  11. Anon*

    Anyone want to revisit that earlier post about quitting a job without having another lined up? She is probably depressed because she is realizing how bad the market is. I know things were bad on her job, but…If at all possible, try to make life easier on yourself by having another gig lined up before quitting.

  12. Christy*

    I was in the exact situation as your roommate about two years ago. I had to move back in with my parents after I quit my job. It took me three months before I actually started applying for other jobs because I was too depressed to write a cover letter and worried I would end up in another terrible job. I quit the job in April and didn’t work again until December of the same year. During that time, my parents and everyone around me were making me feel worse by telling me to get a job. I knew what I had to do and didn’t need any pep talks. I eventually got out of my funk and found a great job where I’ve been for a year. Being unemployed for so long and having a terrible job made me appreciate so much more what I have now. Your roommate is going through a rough phase right now and only she can figure out. She’ll be fine eventually but you just need to “butt out” as you say. Knowing she’s putting you in a tough spot will only make her more depressed, at least that’s how I felt about my parents. I hated that they had to support me for so long.

    1. Jamie*

      I understand that it was a tough time for you – but if people are supporting you they have a right to expect you to try to find something as soon as possible…at least working toward that end.

      It’s great that you had parents who were willing to financially support you during your funk, as you call it, but that’s not an entitlement. If it were an adult child I’d be very frightened and concerned and if it were a roommate I’d resent the implication that I should butt out while she figured it out.

      1. Maire*

        Jamie, I’m getting the impression from your posts that you have very little experience of mental health problems or depression. It’s a disability that can’t just be shaken off and I would say most parents would support their children through such a time like they would support them through any other illness.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think that depends on whether it was true depression or not — I can’t tell from Christy’s letter if that’s what she meant. (I actually read it originally as NOT meaning clinical depression, but rather just being very dejected over a crappy situation — which is a reaction lots of people have in similar circumstances, so I don’t think that’s a crazy way to read it.)

          If someone isn’t dealing with actual clinical depression, I agree with Jamie that anyone supporting them has the right to expect them to be making a good faith effort toward finding work.

          1. Maire*

            However, some people can’t deal with such situations as well as others, possible due to having recurrent mental health problems in the past: not necessarily clinical depression. I therefore don’t think it’s as clear cut as either having clinical depression or just being able to deal with problems like everyone else. I’ve had major anxiety problems for a long time and I wouldn’t characterise that as clinical depression. However, it has made it extremely difficult for me to cope with certain situations and lead to rather scary symptoms like depersonalisation.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Sure. But lots of people also have the type of reaction I described and can indeed pull themselves out of it when they set their mind to it — in fact, I’d argue that that’s the key difference: whether someone can just “pull themselves out of it.” If they can’t, it’s a very different situation.

              1. Laura L*

                Right, if someone has clinical depression (or another clinical mental illness) they won’t be able to “just pull themselves out of it.”

                If it’s not clinical, which is tricky to judge, the person will probably have the resources to pull themselves. Although not necessarily.

                I also want to point out, just as an FYI, that according to the DSM, a person can be considered clinically depressed if they’ve experienced depressive symptoms over the past two weeks. Which makes the issue even trickier, because people could experience symptoms for longer than two weeks, but still have the resources to move forward without mental health treatment.

                1. Anonymous*

                  There’s a fine line between ‘regular’ and clinical depression. Clinical depression doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It develops out of a relationship between some inherent vulnerabilities (yes) and life experiences.

                  Here are some factors that help it along: a lack of social support, stigma, limited material resources (which might mean access to therapy, relevant training, etc etc). People who are unemployed are vulnerable to all these. They are often lonely, and ashamed, which leads to more withdrawal.

                  Isolation in particular is very bad for someone in this situation, and very common. People withdraw, whether from a (justified) fear of judgement and stigma, or because they can’t afford to go out – friendships need to be maintained, and the truth is it takes money to go out for dinner or drinks, go to a concert, leave town for a weekend. A few people in a group might be willing to change their habits to accommodate their friend, but not everyone’s up for a pot-luck at Jo’s or a free talk every weekend.

                  Add to that the inevitable changes in every important area of life – loss of identity (and often beloved activities), the strain of uncertainty, feeling a lack of control, and worry about survival, and you have the perfect conditions for ‘real’ depression to emerge.

                  None of this helps a person present a winning face at an interview, by the way.

                  It is much easier to ‘set your mind to pulling yourself out of it’ when you have the nonjudgmental support of friends.

                  My advice isn’t so much geared to the OP’s specific situation – the rent issue needs to be dealt with separately, as noted – but for other people who came to this post because they want to encourage unemployed friends, I would say:

                  – Just staying in touch helps them feel connected to society. If you haven’t heard from your friend in a while, give her a shout. Invite her out for coffee. Or just drop her an email. It will help her to know she is not forgotten. (Because that happens.)

                  – Don’t ask about the job search directly. Even “what are you up to?” can feel loaded. Ask specific questions about family, or non-job-related things you know he’s been spending time on. Talk about current events. He’ll probably bring it up himself, at some point. When he does, listen, and offer positive feedback. Let him vent, sometimes.

                  – Don’t give advice unless it’s asked for, or you are able to help in a concrete way, e.g. you hear of a job or volunteer opportunity. (Try to be sensitive about where he’s at. If he’s only been out of work for two months, he might not be ready to think about applying for a permanent, unrelated job in a town an hour away that pays half what he previously earned.)

                  – Remind her of her accomplishments and her value as an individual, if it sounds like she’s forgotten.

                2. Anonymous*

                  Ha, I see too late that my comment below has been anticipated in the article linked to in the post.

            2. snuck*

              I think it’s fair to assume the vast majority of people presenting in this situation are ‘short term’ or ‘temporarily’ mentally unwell. There is a vast difference between a temporary mental illness – a short term impact one that a person should have the resources with nominal support from close friends or family to pull themselves out of, and clinical, diagnosable, long term mental health issues.

              While the ‘temporary’ one can lead to the long term, it’s fairly common for many many people to have times in their lives where they are temporarily incapacitated for some reason – it’s when the issues start to affect their ability to manage their lives in a way that is independent and socially normal, and they are unable with general intervention to lift themselves out of it that it starts to become a larger scale mental health issue.

              Depression and anxiety are actually very different fish/animals – while they can often be associated with each other they are actually different in the DSMIV and even anxiety has different causes and outcomes. When diagnosed clinically with one the treatments may appear similar across many mental health issues, but the actual outcomes are different. Obviously medications differ, for obvious reasons.

              Being mentally ill (as compared to mentally short term compromised) often changes your view point also, especially if there has been extended periods of it, psychosis etc – so that you are more aware, more likely to be defensive about it (in yourself or others) and more likely to assume that other people don’t understand (because they haven’t had the experience to build accurate empathy on). This change in perspective however can skew your ability to judge accurately the situation for others (just as any experience can skew your judgement on any subject), and I feel that Jaimie is actually somewhat reasonable – that there should be an expectation of some form of feedback if there’s effort being made, or the effort should be allowed to dry up without guilt/cost. This is ‘normal’ in a normal world situation. If the room mate is deeply depressed (and not just ‘in a funk’) then the lack of positive growth/steps forward will make that obvious at which point the OP has to decide if she’s in it for the long haul – which could be anything up to years – because what’s even worse is a person who says they’ll help and then backs away when the going gets tough.

        2. Jamie*

          Yes – a parent would. If one of my children were ever in that situation I would financially support them for as long as necessary – as well as get them the help they needed.

          But not all parents can or will financially support adult children. And certainly no roommate is expected to do so to any extent – so the advise to butt out and let her figure it out on her own may be very compassionate – but it doesn’t pay the rent.

          I think the issue of how to be emotionally supportive is important – but it can’t be an either/or when it comes to taking care of oneself financially. They are both issues which need to be dealt with and if someone wants to take on the financial support of another adult that’s very nice of them – but it’s not always an option and it’s not something a roommate should be expected to do.

          1. fposte*

            That’s why I liked Heather’s divvying up of the problems below. While it absolutely sucks to be ill or emotionally devastated, and it’s understandable that somebody might need some time before they want to put effort back into the job hunt, the OP is not responsible for fixing the “My roommate is struggling” problem or obligated to prioritize that over paying her rent.

            1. Laura L*

              I agree with you, fposte, and Jamie. As someone who has been clinically depressed while living with roommates, as much as I wanted them to help me, it really wasn’t their responsibility. At all. (These are people I didn’t know prior to living with them.)

              I know I got resentful when they tried to force their emotional problems on me because it wasn’t my responsibility to make them feel better. I’m sure they felt the same way around mine.

              I’m very fortunate to have very supportive parents to have been able to continue working/going to school in these situations. But even if I hadn’t, it’s not necessarily a random roommate’s responsibility to help me emotionally.

        3. A.A.*

          You know, while I’m not Jamie, I don’t think it’s fair to make assumptions about what she has or hasn’t dealt with.

          I agree with what she has said here, and while I personally have never had clinical depression (but plenty of the crappy situation hopelessness), I have dealt with extensive clinical depression in my family. In fact, an uncle who had no job and no money and major depression (clinically speaking) got evicted decided not having somewhere to live meant it wasn’t worth living. I certainly didn’t get the impression from the OP’s letter that anything near that level of seriousness. If it is, that’s really something for a partner, family, or professional, not a roommate.

          1. Maire*

            No, I agree that it’s not something for a roommate to deal with. I was actually reacting to how Jamie responded to Christy’s post when she said that she was lucky her parents had supported her for a long time and that it’s not an entitlement. What I was saying that if someone does have a mental health problem, which is sounds like Christy may have, you need someone to rely on and to look after you, just as you would with any other illness. It’s not an entitlement necessarily but it’s generally what parents and family do without thinking it’s an imposition.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I think, though, that there are a lot of assumptions here that the roommate is dealing with a mental health problem, which could easily not be the case. (Same with Christy’s post — it’s not clear from the wording.) I think people who have experienced mental health problems themselves are being quick to see it in the letter, but there’s an equally good chance that that’s not the case here.

              1. Maire*

                Yeah, that’s certainly possible. People do tend to project their own experiences unto others, whether it be a valid reflection or not.

        4. Anonymous*

          But I don’t think anything in the letter indicated that the OP is the parent of the roommate. It may be a disability (though if this case is or is not is unclear), and most parents (though not all) would support their child. The OP isn’t the parent.

  13. Another Anonymous*

    I’ve been battling chronic job search depression for so long I don’t even want to talk about it. I’ve gained and lost a lot of friends who do or don’t react supportively to my situation. I had a very close friend who favored the “tough love” strategies that AAM mentioned in her article, and she was extremely unhelpful, and we’re not friends anymore. Start by asking your roommate how you can be of the most support to her and what you can do for her, emotionally, during this time. Also ask her to tell you what she *doesn’t* want you to do or say. Everyone is different with respect to what they find encouraging or discouraging. Acknowledge to her that the market is tough and cruel right now if she complains, and express to her that you’re not judging her because she quit her job or because she’s having a hard time finding the motivation to look for work.

    If she does find a job, any job, be happy and encouraging for her. Even if it’s a job at 7-11 or a job dog walking, be encouraging and affirming, don’t roll your eyes and shudder and say, “Oh my God, WHY are you working at 7-11!?!” This will alienate her to pieces and also make her hate you. It’s possible she actually is looking for work while she appears to be sitting at home, but she’s too embarrassed/ashamed to discuss it with you if she’s having a hard time finding leads, because she knows she looks like a bum to everyone else. This was the case for me, at least.

    She probably does need mental health treatment, but if she’s unemployed, she may not have access to professional help. There still may be free support groups in your area, however. They’re not the same as Prozac, but they’re better than nothing at all.

    Also, keep your options open if you do in fact need to adjust your housing situation because your roommate can no longer make the rent. The next time you two need to pay the rent, ask her, calmly and nonjudgmentally, if she sees her current living arrangement working out over the long term, and then try to plan accordingly with her. But don’t center the rent conversation around the fact that she’s not working. Focus solely on whether this is an arrangement that she can afford.

    1. Anonymous*

      I hate to sound like a jerk, but the OP has no requirement to handle her roommate with kid gloves. She shouldn’t be an out-right bully about it, but she has the right to be secure in having a place to live, regardless of whatever is going on in the roommate’s life. This means having a frank conversation about money and rent, and the possibility of the roommate moving out because they can’t afford it. The OP shouldn’t get screwed over because the roommate is having problems.

      1. Another Anonymous*

        I honestly don’t see addressing calmly and nonjudgmentally a difficult and serious topic like paying for living expenses as handling someone with kid gloves, I see it as having as having basic social skills and using constructive diplomacy. Being straightforward on the issue is necessary, and so is responsiveness.

        I agree with AAM in her blue-highlighted comment at 1:23pm that the rent issue is separate from the rommate’s employment issue. Thinking otherwise may lead to faulty logic. When I was living on my own while unemployed, I had plenty of savings and a supportive family, which meant making rent a non-issue. The OP needs to talk frankly and firmly–and also reasonably and without alarm–about how they will split the costs of living without running into rent/utility issues. But, in my opinion, the roommate’s job search should be left out of the picture in this conversation. It’s a separate issue from rent and is very complex.

  14. Heather*

    I’d love to see Alison tag team with Captain Awkward on this question.

    Anyway there are a few problems here:

    1. Your roommate’s depression.
    2. Your needing a roommate that pays the bills.
    3. Your roommate being unemployed.

    They will need to tackle the first before they can tackle the third, but you really need to make sure the second is taken care of. I would personally have a talk with her about the second and set a timeline where certain goals are met or you will need to start looking for a new roommate. Stress that you don’t want to do that, but you are unable to cover all of it by yourself if she has to move out. Ask her what her plans are. Do you know her friends at all? Encourage them to check in on her–you live with her and I am sure the depression is already taking a toll on you, so try to see if someone else can help her out.

    As for the first. She clearly needs some therapy, and there are low-cost sliding scale places that exist… usually attached to universities. If you have a university near by with a psychiatry or social work program, see if any have a low-cost therapy center.

    For the third: you can’t do anything about this except point out some great places for information, like this one.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think it’s exactly right to separate out the issues like this. It’s great to be supportive of her, especially if you’re close (if you’re not close, there are generally limits to how involved/helpful you can be), but the OP also needs to deal with the rent issue. Assuming that she’s not willing to simply pay the roommate’s rent for her, that piece of this has to be dealt with — it’s not as simple as just being an understanding and supportive friend for someone going through a hard time.

      That doesn’t mean that she can or should order the roommate to start her job search, of course. But it does mean that she needs to sit down with her and have an honest conversation about what this all means for rent, going forward. If the roommate is unlikely to be able to pay rent and the OP doesn’t plan to cover it for her, they need to talk about how to proceed.

  15. Yup*

    I once quit a job that was making me physically ill, without having another job lined up. It took me about 4 weeks to recover from the stress of the bad job and to begin thinking clearly again. (It then took me about 6 weeks to find a new job.) So unless your roommate is demonstrating really alarming signs — self-harm, excessive drinking, thoughts of suicide, etc — I’d leave it at being a kind and supportive friend. She might just need some time to get her clarity and confidence back. Although I do think a non-dramatic conversation about rent is certainly reasonable. Something constructive like: “Do you have any thoughts about what the next few months might bring while you’re in the process of changing jobs? I’m thinking about rent and such. If you have concerns, let’s talk it through together.”

  16. Anonymous*

    I’m suffering from this too. I can say constantly getting rubbed in your nose that you should get a job NOW (which she certainly knows already) or pushing too hard will only make it worse.
    You could try encouraging her to talk to you or some other person and offer helping her or take her somewhere outside with you so she gets distracted from thinking all day how bad she feels without a job. Though thats a slow process and will be difficult for you to find the right words for her.

  17. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Here are my thoughts on the letter: Encouraging the roommate to start a job search is an entirely separate issue from handling the roommate/rent component of this, and we should address them as the two separate things that they are.

    Others here have had great advice about how to be supportive on the job front side of things — although how much of it the OP can put into practice will depend on how close they are. In my (never-to-be-repeated) roommate days, I had roommates who were close friends, and I had roommates who I barely knew and who were just another person sharing the space. The type of relationship here is going to matter.

    However, totally separate from that, the OP also needs to address the other half of this: She needs to be straightforward with the roommate about their rent situation. I would say something like, “Realistically, do you think we’re going to run into a rent situation in a few months that we should start planning for now?” For all we know, maybe the roommate will say that it’s all fine because her parents have offered to cover her rent as long as she needs it. Or she might say that yeah, in a few months she’ll be out of money. At that point, they can talk about how they want to handle that — whether it’s moving out or something else.


    1. Natalie*

      Definitely. In a way, this issue reminds me of some of the management problems that have been addressed on this blog – taking public transportation to work, requiring doctor’s notes for sick employees – where the manager or co-workers get focused on the imagined cause rather than just dealing with the behavior.

      The OP may very well care about Roomie’s well being, mental health, and future employment prospects, but realistically those issues don’t directly affect the OP and the OP doesn’t really have a claim on when/how/if they’re resolved.

    2. Jamie*

      I agree that they are two separate issues – and on a personal note I think that’s why I may have come off harsher than I intended since I was only addressing the financial side of this.

      It’s like if I died tomorrow my husband would be very sad (well, he’d better be) and there would be a lot of emotional fall out in my house. I would hope there would be people there to be supportive of him and the kids as they coped with the loss of me…but there is still the very necessary and cold reality that the mortgage didn’t get lowered because he’s down one income so he can’t wait in filing the insurance claims – etc.

      One of my more morbid analogies – but I learned when my parents died that the world doesn’t care that you’re sad and grieving and don’t want to get out of bed…the world wants it’s money and that’s what I was addressing. However, the emotional element is just as important. I just think it’s easier to be supportive when you aren’t worried about financial disaster.

    3. Laura L*

      Absolutely agreed. The only situation in which I can imagine helping out a roommate monetarily is if she is a very, very close friend. And even then I wouldn’t take on her portion of the rent because that would be a horrible financial move for me.

      We don’t have to endanger our livelihoods because someone else is struggling.

      1. Jamie*

        We don’t have to endanger our livelihoods because someone else is struggling.

        This reminds me of the advice people get when taking a lifesaving course (use a flotation device or the drowning person will pull you under) and on airplanes (put your own oxygen mask on first, then assist your children).

        The point being, we’re only of use to other people if we’re not in jeopardy ourselves.

  18. Anonymous*

    Honestly, I don’t see anything from this letter that leads me to believe the roommate needs therapy. We know she wants to decide on a direction and that she needs a job to start within a few months. Sounds like a rough patch, I’d be supportive, but also plan on how to handle your living arrangements, be it by replacing your roommate, finding a new place, paying for the full rent until lease is up, etc. Definately read through your lease!

  19. Lisa*

    I’ve been in OP’s situation on two different occasions with the same individual, although some particulars were different. Ultimately, you will get walked on (I did) unless you set firm expectations. If I had it to do over again, I’d start by scheduling a household meeting and bringing it up independent of whether or not she’s job-searching:

    “Hey, Roomie, I really appreciate your being willing to give me so much insight into your personal situation. Because you’ve been so forthcoming, I know that you’re in a little bit of a financial bind right now, and that you might not be able to make rent within the next few months if you don’t start supplementing your savings with income. I don’t want to wait until a crisis point to discuss this, so let’s clear the air now. I can’t cover the full rent alone. Do we need to start making a plan for you to find another place to live?”

    Then sit, listen, sympathize, and do a lot of active listening: “I hear you saying that you’re still recovering from the stress of your last job. My understanding from what you’re saying is that you do expect to have income before your savings run out. Is that right?”

    Don’t give in to any emotional blackmail about her depression–sympathize and offer to help in non-financial ways if you’re comfortable, but you do not help a depressed person by enabling them to live for free and get no help. If her response is that she’s depressed and can’t imagine job-searching until she feels better, your response to that is not, “Well, I guess I can make rent for a couple months if you start therapy.” Your response is: “I’m really sorry to hear that. Please know that I care about you and I want you to get better. I do need a roommate who can pay half of the rent, though, so if that’s not a reasonable thing to expect from you until you’re feeling better, let’s set a move-out date.”

    1. Lisa*

      Because she’s the blog author, so her comments are highlighted — it’s a feature :) in case people want to scroll quickly through the comments just to see if there’s more from the author.

      1. Jamie*

        Yes – but only when she posts a stand-alone comment. They don’t do it when she’s replying to someone else. I think this is correct.

        1. Maire*

          Yeah, I think that must be it cos there’s only one post in blue in the whole thread but other posts from Alison.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Actually, if I reply to someone, the line down the left of the comment is blue — but that’s not as noticeable as the blue background that my standalone comments have.

  20. fposte*

    OP, I also think that you might want to get clear about a grey middle area: if she is actively job hunting but not having any success, what do you want to do? Does it make any difference to how long you’re willing to support her, and what length of time would that be? Do you know what “actively job hunting” would mean for you in that situation?

    I think where in there you fall is totally a personal call, but again, it’s important to be clear with your roommate and yourself what that call is.

  21. Lulu*

    Agreed that the job search and the financial responsibility need to be 2 different things. As others have said, most of us who are out of work are pretty aware that we need to find some, and also dealing with a lot of frustrating obstacles. Having had to leave previous jobs due to stress-induced illness (great weight-loss strategy, poor sanity-maintenance one), I can vouch for the probably need for downtime to recover from being immersed in a highly dysfunctional environment for so long. A month is not that long, particularly with the holidays. Sometimes you need some distance from the bad situation before you’re able to make a positive and productive effort for the future.

    That said, the financial issue is no less real or significant, and while being able to be flexible would certainly be awesome, usually that’s not realistic. I’ve certainly had people take advantage of my “flexibility” in the past. I think the suggestions re: just having a conversation about whether & when rent might be an issue are spot on – for both your sakes, you need to know the potential timeline and have a game plan for whatever outcomes might be on deck. You can’t be supportive in other ways (even if that’s just leaving her to her own thing) if you’re stressed and resentful re: her impact on your living situation.

  22. tangoecho5*

    Well I have a friend who quit a job in Sept 2012 without having something else lined up. He got a few interviews right away for a couple of jobs that seemed real promising. Ultimately the jobs were offerred to others. I know he took losing one job very hard since it was something of a dream job for him. So I occasionally ask him whats new on the job front and he says he’s not applying for anything or goes weeks between applying for a job. I realize he can support himself for a while and is staying busy remodeling his house so he’s not desperate to work quite yet. Even so, once he made a joke about using the job rejection letters he’s gotten as wallpaper on his newly remodeled guest bedroom. That leads me to think he’s applied for a lot more jobs than he admits too but embarassment due to the lack of interviews and interest has taken a big toll on his self esteem. Rather look like he’s not gotten a job out of HIS choice not to apply than because employers aren’t interested in him.

    That could be the situation here too or in other instances where it appears someone is not actively looking for a job. They might be but not telling anyone the complete truth in order to lessen feeling bad or getting some sort of pity or advice in return.

  23. Jen*

    I definitely think a person needs to get motivated on their own and mental health/depression issues might need to be addressed… I can’t really advise on that.

    I just wanted to mention a fantastic book I recently read for folks who are in fact ready and motivated, called The Start-up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career written by Hoffman and Casnocha. One of the authors is the founder of LinkedIn. It applies the idea of principles of networking necessary to run a business to one’s career development and job search. It is very “21st Century” and very readable.

    I have no personal stake in whether or not you buy it. I just highly recommend it!

  24. Mary*

    In the past two years I’ve had several friends struggle with their own job search or struggle to get motivated about their job search, and I’ve always sent them the link to AAM. I’m not sure if AAM motivates them to find a job or improve on their habits, but reading AAM daily certainly encourages me to work at a high level and not let petty issues at work distract me from the bottom line.

  25. snuck*

    There’s a saying… “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”.

    You can’t force your room mate to get a job, or to stop being depressed. You can provide resources (like this blog, phone numbers for some counselling services, offer to help print off resumes or drop them in the mail or review cover letters etc) but trying to stand over them to make them do it won’t win you any brownie points and might just set in a good case of the stubborns.

    Your issue is around your financial security – things like this can rapidly affect your tenancy references, financial security etc. So have a friendly chat, separate to any job or depression chats, and just say “I know you’ve got a lot on, but I am worried about rent and bills over the next few months – are you ok to cover them? What do we do when you run out of money? I’m not able to afford this place on my wage alone!” and signal to her that a) she’s expected still to pay, b) that you are aware that there’s a timeline she’s operating to but don’t know what it is, and c) that you are clear that if she can’t pay you won’t be. (If this is the position you take)

    She then has the information to proceed accordingly – she can stay or go as she wishes (and as you wish – it’s up to both of you – you can also say “When you moved in it was when you were working, if in a few months you aren’t working then it might mean we have to split the house up – I’m just not getting the same feeling in the house as I used to – I don’t get any alone time here before or after work like I used to and it’s making me feel uncomfortable” (or whatever – if the house dynamic is changed dramatically by her being there all the time and you can’t stand it, then say it at an appropriate time before you want to blow your stack) and leave the advance notice on the table.

    You aren’t asking her to move out now, you are asking her to decide to act. To drink the water. If she won’t then you can’t make her. She might be in the ‘not making decisions’ loop. To not make decisions at all is to choose to defer the decision until all the options close down to just one, at which point that becomes the decision that is made. Common in procrastinators! To not make a decision is to decide not to act – and is her choice… if you make it clear that there will one day be choices and decisions to be made then she can’t claim foul later when they become inevitable.

  26. Been there*

    I was in your roommate’s situation and can understand how hard it is to get motivated when you don’t quite know what you want to do.

    This is what’s helping me:
    1 Volunteering. I’ve made friends and other contacts who helped me at least get part-time jobs to support myself whilst trying to figure out a long-term plan. It also provides me with a sense of purpose and accomplishment, and I’ve learned new skills.
    2 Exercise. If I’m not yet meeting career goals, I can at least meet fitness goals. Again, there’s a sense of accomplishment.
    3 Reading this blog.

    As other readers have said, paying the bills is a separate issue.

  27. jesicka309*

    While I haven’t quit my current job, I know what it’s like to be so terrified of job hunting that I put off actually applying for jobs.

    All I can advise is that the OP is very careful about how they approach their roommate. In these situations (especially if the roommate is depressed) any kind of pressure will elicit a teenager response. When my mother asks how my job hunt is going, I feel the urge to scream, hang up the phone, and refuse to apply for jobs because I petulantly don’t want to admit she’s right.

    So if you do bring up the situation OP, even if it’s just discussing how she will pay rent in the future, be very careful to avoid conversations that veer towards nagging or questioning her methods. Because she will shut down and ignore everything you have to say, eve if you’re spot on. I call it the teenager response, and while I’ve only just grown out of it, my brother and sister do exactly the same thing now.

    1. Lily*

      I don’t like the idea of making OP so responsible for her roommate’s reactions. If the roommate is hoping for financial, practicial and emotional support, then the roommate should be responsible for her own reactions. The roommate knows OP is not her mother and if the roommate responds like a teenager, then the OP is allowed to decide if she wants to be a parent – and accepts the level of involvement that implies!

  28. ew054*

    The tough part of this situation is that the longer a person is unemployed, the less employable s/he becomes. Having been involved in hiring decisions I have been told that we are to first try and hire people away from jobs, because unemployed people are typically undermotivated. Whether or not you agree with this statement, that’s what I was told to screen for.

    If she really wants to cure her depression she should go outside and get 15 minutes of sunlight a day. Then she can log onto Youtube and watch videos of medical marvels and realize her life isn’t so bad.

    But in all seriousness this is the problem we face as a nation. People earn a living off unemployment because it pays better than minimum wage jobs. Then depression kicks in and people get on disability. I am not joking, sadly.

    I know there exists a point of divergence where some people are motivated to take proactive measures and others just sit and feel sorry for themselves. Case in point, there is much uncertainty at my job now. So rather than wait for bad to go to worse, I started a consulting business so that if/when the rug is pulled out from under me, I will be beating the streets with something to show for, while looking for work.

    Why some people lack motivation to help themselves is beyond me.

  29. Reva*

    I know I am late to the party on this one, but from summer of 2010 to summer of 2011, I had a roommate who was fired or laid off like three times in that year. There were three of us in the apartment, but I was the one who had to write the rent check, while the other two gave me their share.

    1. Reva*

      oops an I hit enter too soon – I didn’t encourage her with her job search but she never missed a rent payment – so I would hope that one would realize they still have their financial obligations. I am sure her parents helped her out in addition to unemployment (which you can’t get if you just quit) but I appreciate she didn’t burden us with financial stress by being able to continue to pay her bills. You just need to make clear that job or not she is responsible for her bills and if she can’t pay them you will need to find a new roomie.

      1. ewo054*

        Never room with anyone for this reason. Not even with best friends – this will ruin the friendship. I roomed with someone for 6 months in college. We hit it off well in the beginning but after a few months we were so on each others’ nerves; it’s been 4 years we never spoke again. We likely would still be good friends if not for that experience.

  30. ew0054*

    Her unemployment situation will only get better when she finds it within her self to own her actions and motivate herself. Even if the job loss was not her fault, every day that she lets pass without looking for work is.

    Two things would improve this nationally, right away. 1.) Cut unemployment benefits to below minimum wage. This would motivate people to actually do something with their lives. 2.) Eliminate the self-employment tax. This would allow people who cannot find full-time employment to accept contract/consulting opportunities at a level playing field. Something is better than nothing.

    Some people are simply less motivated than others. Seems as long as she has any fallback options like savings or perceived financial support from a roommate, she will not take measures on her own. Don’t let yourself be used.

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