On my 10 hour job search post there is an interesting discussion about how to do a job search, and keeping your chin up, motivation, advice, etc. Here’s a snippet from Doug, asking those who are not unemployed to have more consideration when trying to help a job seeker:
… treat those that are out of work with care and as the intelligent, motivated and well-educated individuals we are. Do not insult our intelligence. Do not think we haven’t tried the standard options. We have. Unlike those in a payrolled position, those without jobs are focused on doing the best they can to stay positive, somehow survive and work to develop increased employable skills — all without compensation, leadership or external motivation.
This reminded me of a frustrating experience I had during my job search. I was a few months into my job search. At church, an older lady approached me in the hallway with a paper that had a bunch of job openings, all of which were about 33% less than I needed to make (not what I wanted to make – I was beyond that, but I would have to have two jobs in order to pay the bills if I took one of those jobs).
She seemed insistent that I simply take that list, apply to the jobs, and then accept the one that offered me a role.
This was months into my job search, and I had spent way too much time online looking at and applying to job postings. I had realized by that time that job postings were something of a farce …. that is, they weren’t real. Perhaps they were already filled, or the process to hire could be months and month, or I was over- or under-qualified. I had come to view job postings as unreal, even artificial.
Getting this list shoved in front of me by someone who hadn’t been in a job search for decades was *almost* comical. It was offensive and hurtful. Did she really think I couldn’t go to monster and find other outdated, artificial postings?
Did people really think I hadn’t tried the “standard options?” When she put that list in front of me, one thought I had was “oh, these are all outdated – I’ve been scouring the job boards and I know these aren’t open anymore – I RECOGNIZE ALL OF THEM!!”
Doug says to remember that we are “intelligent, motivated and well-educated” people. Indeed we are. It was a huge realization for me when I figured out I not was inadequate to live in this world of working people, rather I just had a different status than my working peers. I was still a professional, still knowledgeable, competent, capable, willing, etc. Just like them. They were just more fortunate than I was at the time, with their regular paycheck and health insurance.
Let me share five things you can do, if you are employed (including self-employed), to help a job seeker. All of these are tactical ideas, but keep in mind it’s essential that you treat us, the unemployed, with the respect we deserve.
Thing 1: Get to know me. I may not be good at communicating who I am and what I do (or want to do)… this is a hard time for me and I’ve never had to talk about myself in this way (elevator pitches and all that). But try and get to know me on a deeper level, and as you get to know me you’ll see how you might be able to help me. I remember having lunch with someone I thought I knew (we were both in the job search) and during lunch I learned so much more about him, I was blown away. Once I got to know him at a deeper level I could (and did) go back to my network and make more proper, more meaningful connections. This only happened because I took the time to get to know him better.
Thing 2: Offer to help me with something specific. I hated the “is there anything I could do?” or “if I can do anything, let me know.” I would answer “not now,” but I really wanted to say “help me get a job!” Look for opportunities to help me. For example, ask me what companies I want to work at. Hopefully I can give you a list of 3 – 5 target companies – when I can tell you, then dig into your network to try and help me network into that company. Maybe you facilitate an introduction, or go to a lunch with me and a company insider… but this is something much more specific, and quite meaningful, in my job search.
Thing 3: Open your network. I don’t mean open your black book of contacts, and give them all to me. Perhaps you aren’t comfortable with that yet. But could you at least introduce me to ONE person? Just one person… and if I handle it well then perhaps you can introduce me to more. Here’s a bonus idea: Read Never Eat Alone, and think about how YOU can play a significant role in your own career, as well as the lives/careers of those around you.
Thing 4: Inspire and motivate me. Don’t do it artificially, but if you have had an experience where you were out of work and lived to tell about it, perhaps share what you learned, or what strengthened you. I don’t need your sympathy, but I can use your encouragement and help to see the big picture. In my job search I was dumbfounded by the number of friends and neighbors who had been unemployed, some for longer than a year, who shared very personal experiences and feelings with us. We could know, with their support, that indeed we could make it through.
Thing 5: Remember me after our first meeting. One thing we all hate about networking is how superficial it is. Having an initial meeting and then not doing anything after that is part of this superficiality. I know why it happens, but please consider the job seeker as someone who you need to follow up with regularly. In my job search it was easy to be lonely, and people treated me with kid gloves because they didn’t know what to say… usually they didn’t say anything at all. Which meant I was left alone in my failed job search. How powerful it is to get a constant reminder, whether it’s a phone call, an email, a regular lunch date, or something like that, where I can feel your encouragement and communicate my needs – not once, but regularly.
Bonus Thing 6: Give me money. Wow, that feels weird even writing it, and I’m not advocating on behalf of all unemployed people that we want your money. We most certainly do not want your money. However, I will say that there were a few instances where anonymous friends, neighbors and probably family gave us money in different ways. Some left fruits and vegetables on our porch. Someone left gift cards for the local grocery store in our mail box with a very kind and inspirational note. Someone paid our water bill for a few months. I would have never asked for these things, but out of the kindness of their hearts, these good people helped us in a way that was more significant than the amount of money they gave. Oh yeah, I should mention, for proud people like me, it’s better to do this anonymously than outright give it to me…
As I write this I think about a related post, Religion’s Role in the Job Search… it might be applicable to you.
What do you think? What has someone done for you that was significant? If you have helped a job seeker, what have you done that has made a big impact?