1. Show compassion and understanding.
The first and most important thing you can do is be understanding and compassionate. This is especially true if someone has lost a job or is having a difficult time finding employment. When someone shares with you that they have lost a job or that their job search is not going well, one of the best things you can say is “I am so sorry. That sounds hard. Thank you for sharing that with me. Would you like to talk about it?” or “How can I help you?” Keep in mind that not everyone looking for work is unemployed or struggling. Be sensitive to each person’s situation.
2. Learn all you can about the person’s desired job.
Express your desire to be helpful, and ask them to share with you specific details about the kinds of positions, companies, and industries they are interested in. Also, learn about their previous work experience, education, and skills—but don’t assume that they would want to do something again if they did it in the past. You might ask them for a copy of their résumé to help you better understand their employment goals. As you show genuine interest in their desires, they will be more likely to trust you and turn to you for help.
3. Share information that matches their interests.
Help this person connect with appropriate job leads and contacts. We may be tempted to send any type of job lead to someone who is unemployed, assuming they must be panicked and that any type of job would be better than not working. However, this usually is not the case. Most people are intentionally searching for the right job, not just any job. Waiting for the right job could be about career advancement, stable income, or a better situation for their family. It’s not an indication of laziness, and when we share the wrong types of leads or contacts, it can be hurtful. Sending leads that don’t match their interests can feel judgmental and like we don’t understand them. Please take the time to understand first, and then provide leads and contacts that are most likely to help them reach their goal.
4. Avoid telling them how to do their job search.
Someone looking for a job typically isn’t expecting you to show them how to do their job search, and they are most likely not looking for a coach. Many job-search experts with the most effective recommendations have already provided excellent resources for finding employment. Community resources, YouTube videos, Google searches, books, and current articles are all fantastic resources for this kind of information. If the person asks you for advice on conducting their job search, it is best to help them find those existing resources.
You can be helpful to anyone looking for a job. Start with being sensitive to the challenges they might be experiencing. Then understand their needs and interests, share job leads and contacts that match their interests, and help them find reliable job-search information.