We live in a world where your job is connected to your identity.
“What do you do?” is one of the first questions we’re asked when meeting new people. And there’s something demoralizing about answering with a version of “I’m between jobs right now.”
Having been laid off twice in one year, I’m getting good at hearing the business version of the “it’s not you, it’s me” break up speech.
“You’re a great employee and you do great work, but we just can’t afford to pay you any more.”
Sometimes this announcement is sudden. Sometimes there’s a warning. But every time it’s jarring and upsetting.
If you’re someone who loves what they do or places a high value on being able to financially contribute to their household, it’s particularly difficult to separate who you are from the job you held, even though those are two very different things. It’s important to remember - especially following a layoff - that you are not your job and your income does not define your worth.
While unemployment remains high, there are lots of people who have retained their jobs during the pandemic. If this is you and you’re watching friends get laid off, you may feel a little guilty and wish you could do something. You want to help, but how?
It’s easy to feel helpless, but there are actionable items - many costing only your time - that you can do to truly help someone who’s unemployed.
Here are 9 Ways to Support Your Unemployed Friends:
- Endorse their skills and/or write them a recommendation. Head to their LinkedIn profile. Look at the skills they’ve listed and endorse as many as you can. Is your friend also a former colleague? If so, write a recommendation for them. This one requires more effort, but it also means more.
- Look within your network for positions that might interest them. Carefully read through your friend’s LinkedIn profile and keep their skills in mind should you hear of any job openings.
- Make the connection. If someone mentions an open position at their company and you think “My friend would be great for that!” - speak up, but then go one step further. Send an email to both your friend and the person who knows of the job opening, making the introduction and connecting them to each other.
- Volunteer your skills. Are you great at resume writing? A good editor? Reach out to your friend and offer to help them update their resume or proofread their cover letters. Enjoy babysitting? Offer to watch their kids for a few hours so they can job search uninterrupted. Think about your own skills and what your friend might be needing. What you could offer to help them with?
- Buy them a cup of coffee. Whether you live near or far to your friend, you can still buy them their favorite coffeehouse drink. Send a Starbucks egift card for $5 directly to your friend’s email. It takes just a few minutes and will make their day.
- Spend time with them. Meet up for a socially-distanced hike, bike ride or just sit (6 feet apart) at a park and chat. Make the conversation about them and what they’re going through. Listen. Learn. Then go back to #4 on this list and do that.
- Get them a treat. It’s incredibly likely that the first thing your friend did when they lost their job was to stop spending money on small luxuries like extras at the grocery store, trips to the ice cream parlor, or meals out. If you live nearby, take them out for lunch. Buy their favorite snack and drop it off or send it to their house. Buy them a gift card to the local ice cream parlor so they can take their family out for a treat.
- Send a little cash. Don’t ask if they need money. Their pride will get in the way and they’ll probably say no. So just send some. We live in a world of PayPal, Cash App, Venmo and the like, where sending money to someone is EASY. If you can afford it, send them a little bit of cash to help pay a bill. It will be appreciated, even if they didn’t ask for it. Your friend doesn't use a payment app? Paper checks are still a thing. Write one and send it their way.
- Keep it up. Getting laid off rarely results in immediately finding another job. Don’t only check in on your friend right after they first share their unemployment news. Drop off cookies a couple weeks later. Send that Starbucks gift card a month later. Meet up regularly. Forward them job openings that might interest them until they tell you to stop.
Support from others is vital, but often difficult to ask for. If you’ve found yourself unemployed and people are saying “How can I help?” - pick a couple things off this list and tell them. And if you're in a position to help, don't ask, just do.
People want to help. Here’s a place to start.