How to help a friend through a job loss.
A few years ago our family experienced the awful situation of my husband (the sole income earner in our family) losing his job. It was a really difficult 7 months as we struggled with someone that I know many go through. Having no income, trying to job hunt as door after door was shut in his face, all while trying to stay positive for the kids was hard! However, like most trials in life, we learned many lessons that will stay with us forever. We learned to be resilient, patient, and how to pinch every penny. We also learned how to be more sensitive to others going through similar situations. I am now much kinder, loving and more understanding to all those who lose a job. I thought I would share a few tips with you today about what to say to someone who loses their job, so you can help a loved one through this difficult time.
What NOT To Say To Someone Who Lost Their Job
First, let’s start with what NOT to say to someone who lost their job. Each of these phrases were said to either me or my husband when he was unemployed. I know that they were all said with the very best of intentions, and I never held it against anyone, but they hurt and I have learned to not say them to anyone. So, I urge you to never say these things to someone who lost their job.
1. “How are you affording to live?”
First off, personal finance is personal. We all know we shouldn’t ask people about their money and income situation…being unemployed is no different.
I always felt so uncomfortable when we got this question. We were mostly living off of our emergency fund, unemployment benefits, and my husbands side jobs he would bring in. This wasn’t something I really wanted to explain to others. It was personal and stressful.
2. “What Happened????”
I think the question, “What Happened?” is really common when someone loses their job. It’s meant more as being interested in their life, but it’s usually not an experience others want to talk about.
Whatever happened was most likely a terrible experience and nobody wants to relieve bad experiences, so do them a favor and don’t ask for details. If your friend wants to tell you the whole story, they will. Otherwise, it’s just best not to pry.
3. “You’re lucky. I wish I could sit at home all day.”
Never treat your unemployed friend like they are in a desired position. Nobody wants to be without a paycheck, so don’t even joke about it. It’s not funny when it is actually the life you are living.
My husband once told me that the worst part of being unemployed was that he didn’t “feel like a man.” It crushed him. He personally feels that as a man it is his responsibility to provide for our family, we depended on him and his paycheck. It absolutely crushed him when it was gone. Please don’t ever make light of someones personal nightmare.
Plus! Most unemployed people do NOT sit around all day. My husband spent all day every day looking for jobs, calling potential employers, interviewing, writing his resume, and doing side jobs to bring in some extra income. He kept busy from the early morning hours to way after the sun had gone down.
- Related: What To Do If You Lose Your Job
I know it’s hard to know what to say when someone is going through a situation you haven’t been in. But please PLEASE don’t just ignore the elephant in the room. Say SOMETHING! Saying something is MUCH better than not saying anything.
It really hurt when good friends treated me as if life was normal. It felt like they didn’t care. I just wanted the situation acknowledged in some way.
5. “Everything Happens For a Reason”
Honestly, looking back on the past 7 years of going through unemployment and then seeing where we are now….I am SO glad he lost that job. The job he has now is much better in almost every way. Plus, we grew and learned and are better people now than we were then. We have more gratitude, more contentment and more appreciation for our life.
With that being said, I would still NEVER tell anyone that they lost their job for a reason. That’s just not what they want to hear at the time.
It almost feels as if your experience is being demeaned, like you shouldn’t feel sad about it because there’s a reason for it. Let your friend figure out these lessons for themselves and allow them to feel whatever they need to feel!
6. “It could always be worse! Did you hear about Bob down the street who lost his job, wife and house in one month?!?! At least that didn’t happen to you.”
We all know that life could always get worse. That does not mean we should tell each other that fact. Saying this phrase to someone is an easy way to make them feel like their hardships do not matter.
7. “What can I do to help you?”
I know that this phrase comes from a good, loving place. But, if your unemployed loved one is anything like me they will probably answer with a smile and say, “Nothing, we are fine.”
Instead of asking what you can do to help, look for a need and start helping. Most people won’t ask for help, but they might accept it if it’s given to them.
What You SHOULD Say (or do) When Someone You Know Loses Their Job
Now, let’s discuss a few things you SHOULD say (or do) to a friend who has just lost their job. These are also all phrases that were said to us during our months of unemployment. It’s funny how the smallest gesture or phrase can change the entire day. It might not feel like much, but kind words can make a huge difference in someone’s life.
1. “I have a few friends in a similar career as you. I’ll ask around about job openings and get back to you.”
Helping your friend in a job search is one of the best ways to show your support to them. If you know of someone who might have job leads, reach out to them and see if you can help your unemployed friend get a foot in the door. Networking is so important when unemployed!
We had an acquaintance in our neighborhood, not even a friend at all, reach out to us when my husband was unemployed. (He worked a job similar to my husbands.) This acquaintance went out of his way to search for job openings for my husband. He pulled strings, he asked for favors and he found a few leads for us.
We didn’t ask this man to do any of this for us. He just did it to be kind. I’ll never forget that generosity and hope to pay it forward many times over.
2. “I believe in you. You got this!”
If you have a friend going through a job loss, they probably need a good pep talk! Encourage your friend, give them praise, compliment them and let them know you see goodness in their future.
3. “I know how hard you worked at that job.”
Your loved one is probably second guessing their abilities in the workplace right now. Be supportive and encouraging. Remind them that they are an important, valuable and hard worker.
Even better would to point out specific example of how great they are, things you’ve noticed them doing over the years that makes them special, unique and needed.
4. “Do you want to talk about it?”
Your friend may or may not want to talk about their unemployment situation. It’s important to give them that space to vent, but not pressure them into it.
If they do want to talk, always listen without judging. Give kind and supportive feedback and never ever criticize them or their decisions.
5. Serve them.
Look for ways you can serve your unemployed friend. We had so many envelopes of cash secretly dropped off at our doorstep, it moved me to tears every single time.
You don’t always need to give a cash hand out. You could also drop off a gift card to a restaurant or movie theater, mow their lawn, offer to watch their kids, or invite them out to lunch with you. Most people will not accept a hand out, but secret service is always much appreciated.
6. Give them a hug.
We all need a hug every now and then. When someone you know loses their job, give them a big long hug. They need your love so much.
Every person will handle unemployment differently. What you should say to someone who loses their job will vary from person to person. You are friends with this person for a reason, follow their cues and treat them how you would want to be treated.
And when they find a new job, celebrate them! Give them a hug (yes, another one!) and tell them you knew they could do it! Job searching is a long, tiring process and your loved one deserves some recognition!
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I hope these tips helped you know what to say to someone who loses their job.