How to Help Someone Who has Lost Their Job
by David Caruba
During the pandemic, a former colleague posted the following message on LinkedIn:
If you’ve been made redundant (or are at risk) and we’ve worked together at any time please get in touch and let me know how I can help you. Can I write a LinkedIn recommendation or endorsement for you? Can I put in a good word to someone? Let me know if there is anything I can do.
True to his word, he followed through and introduced me to one of his contacts. I have subsequently seen this type of outreach posted by several others on LinkedIn. Whenever I’m in the market for a new job, I am always grateful for any help offered by colleagues, former colleagues or really anyone. Unemployment in the best of times is difficult.
This experience got me thinking what friends, colleagues and former work associates can do to help when someone has lost their job.
While there’s lots of well-meaning practical advice out there, one really has to be unemployed—and for more than just a couple of months--to completely wrap your head around the experience.
In my career my, role has been impacted by many factors, including the current pandemic, downsizing, resizing, office politics, transformations, mergers, bad bosses, acquisitions and fit (or lack thereof).
With this in mind, I’d like to share some practical thoughts on how you can make a difference to someone who’s unemployed:
· Ask relevant people in your company whether they’d be open to speaking with your unemployed contact. It seems obvious, but if a job seeker is a procurement specialist by trade, your connecting them with someone in the procurement department makes sense. It might also make their day.
· Everyone knows three people! Share them! Simply providing a name and contact is also valuable. Three names can make a world of door-opening difference and you don’t have to be identified; there’s nothing wrong with just pointing out three relevant people.
At the same time, I have to acknowledge that not everyone wants to share their connections. Some consider their professional network as “human capital” that are highly valuable to them. There is always a small risk when sharing a network contact (will they be respectful, how will they respond if the contact declines to help them, for example)—it’s why it’s important not to push if someone doesn’t want to share contacts.
Keep an eye out. If you hear of an open role, especially one that hasn’t been posted yet, let the unemployed person know immediately. The early bird gets the interview. Speed matters.
· If contacted by a job seeker, respond quickly. A month or two later is too late. I get that you’re busy, but we’re all busy. Your prompt actions can change another person’s life or save their career.
· Deliver what you promise. This is a personal biggie. If you agree to email a contact, do it right away. If you promise to follow-up internally, act immediately. Next to ghosting, this is the biggest gripe amongst jobseekers that I hear.
· Be an ear and a meal. Job searching is a 24/7/365 day, physically and mentally draining pursuit. No one enjoys reaching out to strangers to network with them for help. No one enjoys being blown off by recruiters, or being passed over after a two question phone screening. Rejection builds up, and so does depression. Treating someone decently by taking them out for a meal, or a drink, or just letting them download, can make a world of difference. It has with me.
· Pay it forward. I’ve helped many jobseekers in my career, even hired a couple.
I’m always surprised (and by surprised, I mean really surprised) when they don’t reciprocate after I lose a job.
Let me end with some suggestions of what not to do:
Never ghost anyone. It's a terrible, demoralizing behavior that has become commonplace, especially amongst recruiters.
· Assume someone has enough money to tide them over. In my experience, most people assume that job seekers have enough savings to carry them to their next opportunity. Here’s the truth: People lose their homes and lives every day due to unemployment.
· Blame them for losing their job, or losing their job again. Instead, it’s more helpful to encourage their job search, or better yet, assist them with it!
· Tell someone, “At least you have Unemployment.” Unemployment doesn’t cover cost of living. And it’s fully taxable, leaving some recipients in a deeper hole come tax time.
· Say comments like, “I hope you are enjoying some down time” or “At least you have time to reconnect with family.” While well-meaning, they’re not particularly helpful.
· Direct people to look at your LinkedIn connections. All 600+ of them. Trust me, it’s a useless gesture when you probably only know 5 of them well.
David Caruba is a senior communications leader with a proven track record of working with companies to managing internal, external, social and digital communications programs.