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How To Support A Friend Who Just Lost Their Job

A Paper Doll chain.

There’s lots of great advice out there about how to cope with losing your job. But what if you’re not the one who’s gotten the pink slip? When a friend gets the axe, here are some ways you can help.

Keep the support coming

If you’ve ever been in the sudden-job-loss boat, you might know how it feels to be bowled over by a tidal wave of kind words and generous gestures in the days and weeks following the bad news. People call, take you out for condolence drinks, say they’ll keep their eyes open, maybe even offer to introduce you to so-and-so who could be a good connection. But as time goes on, the initial rush wears off, and it’s likely you then noticed those encouraging words and thoughts waning.

So do your best to stick around! When your day comes to do the supporting, turn the tables on old man entropy and make a point of checking in with your buddy regularly, for as long as he’s unemployed. (Being a committed friend like this will also save you the embarrassment of finding out about his next gig from LinkedIn.)

Aim to assist, not annoy

You want to make your friend feel cared about during this rough time. However, there’s a fine line between that and making him feel guilty or put on the spot when no promising news has yet rolled in. So instead of putting on a broken record-sounding “So, how’s the job search going?” every time you talk, try mixing it up and attempting to actually be helpful.

Keep your eyes open for opportunities that might suit your friend and articles that might help him, and forward them with an encouraging note. Take the time to look through your social networks and peruse your old resumes to think about who you might know that your friend could benefit from talking to. Imagine for a few minutes that you’re looking for a job in your friend’s field; if any people, resources, or next steps come to mind that you haven’t heard him mention, consider sharing your ideas, just as food for thought. Your perspective as an “outsider” to the situation could prove truly helpful—and even if it doesn’t, you’ll be showing you truly care.

Be a pillar of positivity

Losing your job sucks, and your friend may well want to vent her frustration. It’s a real gift to be a good listener, but indulging too much in angry feelings won’t ultimately help her keep her feet on the ground and eyes on the prize. So stay upbeat yourself: If you see your conversations veering too often into depressing rehashes or blame games, try to gently steer them toward brighter future possibilities by asking your friend about her goals, dreams, and accomplishments instead of enabling more wallowing in “what went wrong.” Here are some more great pointers for starting and sustaining compassionate, positive conversations.

Don’t show jealousy

It might sound weird at first, but even people who love their jobs occasionally fantasize about doing something else. And now that opportunity’s been foisted on your friend for real! Even though you might not reeeallly want to be in his situation, seeing all the time he suddenly has or his relief at never again having to deal with a higher-up he didn’t like could make you wish for a moment that you’d been set free, too. With a very good friend, you might be able to discuss some of these emotions—at the right time and in the right spirit—but for the most part, and at least at the beginning, keep any envy to yourself. See this interesting list of good-friend “don’ts” for more faux pas to avoid.

Put your friendship first

Friends help each other with their careers in various ways all the time, and that’s great. But it’s important for both people to remember here that you’re friends first and professional whatevers after. Between being there when she wants to talk, remembering what positions she’s applied to, and strategizing about networking, take the time to invite your friend to sheerly fun activities (especially, at a time like this, when they’re free or cheap) so that both of you can enjoy a break from career brain. You want the fabric of your friendship to survive tough times like this, and to remind your friend that her identity is bigger than her job title. Plus, creating intermittent vacations from stress is a great way to let your pal clear up her thoughts and ultimately return to her job search feeling refreshed and stimulated—the perfect mindset to get back to business.

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