woman carrying box of belongings down stairs with another womanBy Amanda Greene Kelly
If you haven't lost a job yourself, you probably know someone else who has. And while layoffs are as prevalent as ever, talking about this touchy subject with a newly unemployed friend can be tough. "Much like when someone passes away, others often are at a loss as to what to say," says Jodi R. R. Smith, president of Mannersmith etiquette consulting firm and author of From Clueless to Class Act . "They want to say something--but some comments are more thoughtful than others." Read on for nine common-yet surprisingly offensive--comments that newly unemployed people often hear, and learn what supportive things to say instead. Photo by: Getty Images
"But you hated that job, didn't you?"
Similar to the platitude "You're better off without them," a statement like this can come across as a feeble attempt to soften a major blow. While you might be trying to help your friend see the bright side, says Smith, you're really diminishing her loss. "Sure, I despised my boss and am thrilled never to see certain coworkers again, but that doesn't make losing my marketing job a great thing," says Jenna, who's now a blogger . No matter how much your pal hated her job, "she likely hates the unknown even more," points out Lauren Milligan, a job search coach with ResuMayDay . Another reason not to say this: "You never know if your friend will end up at that company again," says Smith. Instead, help your friend think about the next step. Ask her what sort of job she sees herself doing instead, and offer to look over her resume or get in touch with contacts you might have in her preferred industry. "Recommended resumes are generally given more attention than ones sent directly from the candidate," says Smith. So if you have any leads, take an active role in opening the door for your friend-it will come across as way more supportive than the above question will.
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"Now you can help me move, chauffer my kids, etc."
Many of Milligan's clients hear this. "Unless you follow it with 'and I'll pay you double what you made at your last job,' it's rude to assume that your pal will do anything with her time except sharpen her resume, look for job leads and network," she says. Though you may think it's fine to enlist your newly freed-up friend to help you tackle errands, realize that she will be occupied while she's jobless. "Now, finding a job is her job," says Milligan. So why not offer to help her out? Try: "I know you'll be so busy with your job search. If you ever need a break, let me know and I'll take you out for lunch!" suggests Milligan.
"What are you going to do with all that free time?"
When friends would comment on-or even express jealously about-the free time that Caroline* had after being laid off from her magazine editor job, she would silently fume. "My 'free time' was filled with anxiety, frustration and boredom!" And as Milligan points out, job-seekers don't have much downtime. "A productive job search often means putting in a 12-hour day, starting with searching online for new job leads. Then there's making calls, sending letters, connecting with colleagues and recruiters and checking in with alumni. Then you end the day at an after-hours networking event." Take the opportunity to offer your friend a much-needed confidence boost. Milligan suggests saying, "You're so good at what you do; any employer would be lucky to have you."
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"Are you scared about job hunting? I heard it's impossible to find a job these days."
When Robert* was laid off from his newspaper, a few friends pointed out how tough the job market was. Though they were likely trying to commiserate, says Smith, "all they did was reinforce my nervousness," says Robert. "Anyone involved in a job search knows the difficult path they're treading," says Milligan. "There's no need to remind them." Rather than commenting on the current job market, the best thing to do is offer help brushing up her resume or expanding her professional network, suggests Milligan.
"It must be nice to get an unemployment check for doing nothing!"
Sure, in theory, "free money" sounds pretty nice. But receiving an unemployment check is a far cry from winning the lottery. As Milligan explains, unemployment is funded by employers who pay taxes on each employee-so that unemployment money is actually earned through prior work. And "unless your friend is independently wealthy, she's going to be scaling back while she's out of a job," says Smith. "Be understanding when it comes to your social life together. Include her whenever possible, and allow her to choose which gatherings she wants to attend." She also recommends getting creative with your plans: Instead of going out to eat, host a potluck dinner at your place, or offer to bring take-out to hers. Understanding her financial limitations will help her feel less like an outcast.
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"How many interviews do you have lined up?
The one thing more disheartening than not having any job interviews lined up? Having to tell people that you don't have any lined up-something that Robert can attest to. "I was doing my best to make contacts, but when people assumed I already had tons of interviews it made me feel like a failure." While you might be showing your interest in your friend's job hunt, you may make him feel like a slacker if he doesn't have anything on the books yet. "Though this comes across like a loaded question, it's the obvious thing to ask when someone is job hunting," notes Smith. But again, it's better to help your friend get interviews than keep tabs on his progress.
"It's not just you; everyone's getting laid off these days."
While it's true that times are tough-and were especially tough in the media industry three years ago when Caroline lost her job--pointing out that she's not alone won't make a jobless friend feel better. Though you may think misery loves company, it may instead make her feel hopeless, as Caroline did. "This type of statement implies that the job seeker will have a hard time finding work," says Milligan. A smarter tactic: Lend support by asking her what's on her mind-and avoid making sweeping generalizations.
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"Did you see it coming?"
When Elliot* lost his job as a law firm associate, a friend implied that he missed warning signs-and should've changed his ways before it was too late. "This comment stung because in reality, I had a lousy boss who routinely dismissed associates, but everyone thought that getting fired was all my fault." "Unless he's a major player at his company, he has no influence over decisions his bosses make," notes Milligan. Even if he could've seen the writing on the wall, there's likely little he could've done about it. So focus on offering help if he needs it-and let him do the rest of the talking.
"I'm jealous; I hate my job!"
If you've had a bad day at work, it's easy to envy your friend's freedom from office politics and impending deadlines. But keep in mind that they'd take the stresses of the daily grind over the monotony and uncertainty of job-hunting any day, says Milligan. "Of course I remember when work was tough," says Jenna. "Feel free to complain-but maybe to your employed pals. While jerky bosses and piles of paperwork are awful, not receiving a paycheck is worse." Since your buddy likely envies your position, offer to see if your company is hiring, suggests Milligan. Try: "I'd be happy to walk your resume to HR for you!"
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*Names have been changed
Original article appeared on WomansDay.com.
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