The 5 most thoughtless things you can say to a frustrated job seeker.

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We know you adore them. You're really only trying to help. But please, loved ones and friends of frustrated (possibly unemployed) job seekers, don't ever say these five things to someone who is struggling to find fulfilling work:

  1. You JUST need to ________________________ . 
    You can fill in that blank with about 950 thoughtless things. Common ones include "walk into their lobby and show them how great you are," or "get to the hiring manager and show him how great you are," or "send out a bunch more resumes," or "stop using Craigslist for job search," or ...

    The point here is this: If there were some magical "just do _______ " thing that will lead your pal, brother or wife to an immediate, fantastic job, have a little faith in them that they'd have figured that one out all on their own by now. The word JUST needs to be avoided, at all costs.
  2. The economy sucks. You're doomed.
    Why not just punch your person in the stomach while you're at it? Or slap 'em across the head with a 2 x 4. When someone close to you is struggling to find meaningful work, further distressing her (with a bullshit excuse, no less) is not only thoughtless, it's mean. Before these words ever exit your mouth (or enter your psyche, if you're actually the one struggling to find a job), realize that a challenging economy is not to blame ... and it's definitely not grounds for throwing the white flag.

    A better option? Ask the job seeker if she wants help strategizing.
  3. If you don't hurry up, we're going to run out of money / have to sell the boat / need to borrow from my Aunt Sue / etc.
    Here's a newsflash: I'm pretty sure your job seeker wakes up every single day with full awareness of any monetary pressures her unemployment or underemployment is creating. Your little news bulletins aren't going to be helpful and, in fact, will further discourage her. Yes, there are times when you may need to gently share the books with your significant other, especially if she isn't the family money manager. But coming with forward with ideas and potential solutions when unveiling the "cash is running low" message is far, far more productive and kind than throwing the, "Hey, sucker. Stop sucking because we're running out of cash" dagger.

  4. Your problem is ___________________________ . 
    This is the equally thoughtless cousin of #1 up above. Most often, the frustrated job seeker in your life is not soliciting an answer to "what's my problem?" Rather, she's working like mad to find a solution and get on with her career. So don't ever assume that she's just sitting back waiting for you to zip in and share your wisdom on everything you've observed that's tripping this person up as they navigate job search.

    Instead, try asking her how, specifically, you can support her right now. And then do that very thing she suggests, without judgment.
  5. Maybe you should go wait tables / work at McDonald's / bag groceries for now.
    In all honesty, if you're unemployed and running out of money, you very well may need to consider grabbing at a "pay the bills for now" job until you find one more specific to your interests and expertise. However, as the loved one of a struggling job seeker, you must never, ever slap them across the chops with any statement that reeks of "I don't believe you can pull this off, either. Probably time to give up."  

    Instead, offer to sit down and brainstorm with the job seeker. Perhaps, together, you can come up with some ideas that will allow the person to make some reasonably quick interim money, while continuing the hunt. 

When someone is struggling with job search, they do need your support.

But they don't need a lecture, a know-it-all, mean-spirited jabs or a pity party.  Sit down and listen, truly listen, to the person you care about. Get her input on how you can best help right now, and try like heck to come through.


Photo: Creative Commons (Rochelle, just rochelle)