This post is courtesy of guest blogger: Jane Dewar.

To everyone reading this who has a friend or loved one currently between jobs, looking for the next opportunity, ready for the next chapter, i.e. painfully unemployed, please pause before asking this question “How is the job search going?” and take a moment to consciously check in with yourself ensuring you are able to be fully present and hold space for that person.

As the individual on the receiving end of this question, there are a few options most readily available to you.

Option 1 – The Zen Approach: Going well, it is a good learning opportunity, I am ready to do something different, following the process = enjoying the journey. This will generally not align well to anyone in a financially pressing situation. It could also be a front, a defense mechanism masking fear and anxiety.

Option 2 – Reality Meets Avoidance: Looking for work is hard, it is emotionally draining, exhausting, disappointing and often lonely. This is the honest option when you don’t have any promising prospects and / or the opportunities you had fell through and now you are back to being in the “drudgery” of the process. While honest, the job seeker often does not want to be seen as the “downer” instead opting to deflect with some coy comment like, “it is a process” or a personal favorite,  “I vacillate between wanting to put my head through the wall and believing everything will work out in the end.

Option 3 – Vulnerable & Authentic: I am scared, my confidence has taken a hit and I question if I am any good at what I do anymore. This is a level of vulnerability most of us don’t want to engage in. It is a “conversation” that requires a level of trust that exists in genuine friendships where a sacred space is held.

Option 4 – The Best-Case Scenario: I have a promising prospect and here are all the super duper details I am delighted to share. Yaaay – this is fun!

The loss of a job is one of the top five life stressors along with death of a loved one, divorce / separation, moving, long term illness. Instead of bringing over home cooked meals and offering distraction activities, it seems even the most well-intentioned people feel the need to offer advice and solutions to the job seekers in their life. Did you need a cover letter, resume template, would you like to work with an expert coach? Have you thought about using this time to take a trip? Perhaps it is a good time to figure out what you really want to do, etc. etc.

While well meaning, the danger with the “take charge, rescue and dive in headfirst” approach is the assumption that is what our friend / loved one needs. In other words, our impulse “to help” supersedes genuine understanding.

We ALL want to be seen, heard and understood.

As Joseph Conrad wrote in The Heart of Darkness “I don’t like work–no man does–but I like what is in the work–the chance to find yourself. Your own reality–for yourself not for others–what no other man can ever know”.  For those who have identified heavily with their chosen fields for many years, being left without the anchor of ones professional community with a common sense of “purpose” can be very isolating.

Before offering “a solution” to the person in your life whose “job” it is to look for work, remember to stop and ask what they need. Understanding communication style, love language (reference The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman) and / or overall wellness, stop to consider what it must feel like to be in their shoes. Perhaps instead of peppering them with questions, simply offer to meet for coffee (love language – quality time) and catch up. If you sense the person doesn’t wish to speak about their job search, which is already consuming their existence, talk about interests, hobbies, make them laugh, etc. Take their cue from them by being present. Offer a space for vulnerability.

In listening to Simon Sinek’s A Bit of Optimism podcast episode 113 How to be a Friend, something very relevant stuck out to me.

Why don’t we call a friend when we are in need? Why don’t we call in times of need to say “I am hurting, I am lost” – because there is shame and embarrassment attached to it. If I say it out loud, it makes it true. Confusing vulnerability with defeat. If I acknowledge it, it is real.

We live in a world that is inundated with a plethora of communication methods, some prefer to “process” via text, some pick up the phone while others need a face-to-face conversation. Be a friend who offers the invitation to others so that they know they are not alone. There is no need to “fix anything” – simply show up and be willing  to “sit in mud” with them.

Bio: Jane Dewar is a Corporate Functions Project Manager with a heavy focus on HR initiatives. Her passion lies in improving the human experience.Through kindness and empathy we connect to each other as human beings. Jane is a big proponent of understanding the “oneness” / the thread between the mental, physical and spiritual self. She has previously worked in mental health and is currently a mentor through the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization.

 

 

 

 

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