How to Support a Friend Who Lost Their Job

Losing a job rips security and stability right from under your feet. At some point, everyone experiences a job loss, whether you were let go due to a termination or layoff. When this happens, support is called for — not lectures, unhelpful comments or unnecessary judgments.
As the news breaks that your friend lost their job, you may feel unsure about how to best support them through this tough time. Do you give them a hug? Do you help them revamp their resume or refer them to a temp agency that helped you get by? How do you know when you’re overstepping your bounds?

When sorting through approaches, don’t be afraid to ask your friend how they’re feeling and would like to be best supported in this moment. They may not know, either, and that’s OK. Here are a few tips to help you show up as a supportive ally for your friend:

 

1. Think Through Your Condolences

Sometimes, what you mean as a helpful comment feels like a judgmental statement when your friend only wants a shoulder to lean on. Your commentary in an attempt to console a friend comes across, instead, as negatively making light of their situation. Think through how it may come across before you offer your condolences.

How do you tell the difference? Take these three statements, for example:

  • “Now you can take a well-deserved rest!” Your friend will hear that you think all their time will or should be spent in pajamas binge-watching Netflix — so much for job-searching. Tone is everything, as are word choices. Instead, ask about what self-care practices comfort them when they feel down, and encourage the implementation of those practices now.
  • “Everything good must come to an end.” Don’t spout fortune cookie statements at your friend like a higher authority. As though losing their job was inevitable — please! It will make them question your underlying feelings, and no one needs to feel bad about a friendship while suffering a job loss and doubting their own skills.Try hugging your friend and flipping the fortune cookie script: “This, too, shall pass, but coffee is forever,” as you sip your coffee together. A little distracting humor will help crack a little light into their lives and may summon a smile. You know if your friend is up for humor or not, so reserve a lighthearted joke for the right time.
  • “I’ve seen a bunch of for-hire signs, like McDonald’s. My work is hiring, too! I can pass along your resume.” Yeah, thanks for encouraging your friend to give up on their dreams, like they need to apply for whatever for-hire sign stares them in the face. Do you even know what your friend does for a living? It doesn’t sound like it.Ask about what they are looking for in a position now, or if not ready, to email you when they are. Don’t make any comments about the instability of their field, either.

2. Operation Night In — or Out

Does your friend want to be distracted right now, or do they want to spend the weekend in a blanket burrito? Sometimes, you can have the best of both worlds.

With your friend’s permission, commence with Operation Night In: Plan a night in with movies, Chinese takeout and board games. Wear your most comfortable clothes and get lost in each other’s company.

Alternatively, and still with your friend’s permission, arrange a night out for dinner. Go out for drinks. Go to the arcade and play games or bowl. Do something your friend is up for, and don’t let them worry about money — everyone should pitch in to treat your friend to a pick-me-up evening without letting them feel weird about it.

3. Be Networking Buddies

Is one of you shyer than the other? Maybe you both suck at networking. It’s great to have a gym buddy, but it’s even better to have a networking buddy!

Make networking fun and creative together. Did you two meet in college? Reconnect with old college friends and see what they’re doing now, to transform old connections into new ones and further life and your careers. Volunteer in your community — walking adorable dogs will cheer anyone up.

4. Separate the Situation From Their Identity

As with any loss, the best thing you can do is be present. Lend your ears without interrupting. Offer a hug. You may spend time in silence, but your presence matters. Just showing up is a big deal.

You spend one-third of your life working — that’s a big commitment of your time, energy and self. Therefore, it makes sense that your friend will internalize their job loss. Help separate the situation from their identity — remind them that this experience doesn’t detract from their talents or amazing personality. Remind them of their accomplishments at work and outside of work, but mostly, show up.

Experiencing a job loss will make your friend question their likability and skills. It will make them worry about how to support their family and keep a roof overhead. Finding a new job will take time, and maybe your friend needs a breather before they plunge into their job search. Honor that.

Meet your friend where they are, and simply show up. Your presence as a friend is the most important and supportive gift you can offer as they deal with a job loss.

Subscribe to Punched Clocks for more tips on dealing with job loss and overcoming career-related obstacles. Keep the conversation going by commenting with your own advice and sharing.


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Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks.

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