Q. My husband got laid off last week. We knew it might happen and these are scary times to be looking for a job. We have plenty of debt, child care bills and a mortgage. I want to be supportive, so tell me how, because I want him to find a job now.
A. Unemployment affects the family and job loss adds stress to any relationship, no matter which person is laid off. It is great that you want to be supportive because there are some do’s and don’ts that can show support and build confidence, or show a lack of support, and add to the tension.
Develop a public statement. Know what you want to say to inquiring minds – relatives, neighbors, anyone. Make sure the public statement doesn’t disparage your spouse or the company. That’s your story and stick to it. ”ABC company changed its strategic focus and as a result the entire XXX group was dismantled and 45 people are looking for new jobs.” Any version that is negative or catty will be the version that travels, so stick to the positive version.
Understand the realities (#1). Finding a new job takes time. Plan on at least six months; have a party if it is faster, and join many people if it takes longer. Anticipate that your job seeker will do everything he can to find a job and that it won’t happen overnight.
Understand the realities (#2). Cut expenses, but not all child care. A successful job search takes time and flexibility. Job seekers need to be able to meet during the day to network informally and formally, attend professional association meetings at night and have undisturbed time to make calls and write emails.
What does he do? And what does he want? Be able to articulate the job he is looking for and the skills he brings to any employer. Sound like a recruiter, not a proud spouse. Your network can be helpful to him if they are well informed. If you have a good network, in person or via LinkedIn, share the job search information – after spouse approval.
Be encouraging. There is plenty of disappointment and rejection in any job search. Let it be from the employers, not you. Encourage him to use all resources available to him; outplacement, employee assistance programs, unemployment and job search support groups. Stay positive, encourage exercise, sleep and health maintenance for both of you.
Speak to children at their level. Children need to be told something age appropriate, if they are informed. Younger children need to know that Dad is looking for something, not that he lost something. Losing anything isn’t a good thing, but finding something is. Adolescent-aged children may need to be reassured that they are safe; they don’t need to be told that they may have to move unless there is an imminent offer which will be considered. Older kids get a learning experience on developing a resume, interview preparation and the challenges of figuring out what you want to do in the future.
Recognize whose search it is, you can only do so much. You can’t find the job for him, interview for him or network for him. He needs to understand and own the process and commit the time – at least 35 hours a week of meeting with people and trying to connect by phone, email and LinkedIn.
Getting a good job is a full-time, interactive job. Realize this now and not three months later after sitting at the computer expecting to make it happen.
Elaine Varelas, Managing Partner, Keystone Partners