What (not) to say to your unemployed friend: 5 do’s & don’ts

Good evening and welcome to today’s helpful advice on “What to say – or better yet: not to say – when your friend is unemployed”. Given that I have been on the job market for a couple of weeks now and have come to the stark realisation that my industry isn’t in the best of shapes – thank you Brexit – I thought it was time for me to write a post I never wanted to have the knowledge to write. Alas, we don’t always get what we want. Me sitting on the couch all day is a stellar case in point. But at least it provided me with some inspiration, yes? Right, so let’s dive right in:

1. DON’T

Ask how the job hunt is going?
Trust me, if your unemployed friend had good news to share about her incessant search for work, she would have definitely already told you. Most likely she would have hired a blimp with a massive “I’VE GOT A JOB!” printed on it to scour the sky in the area of where you live. There’d be no way you’d ever miss that news, trust me. And if there was any other update to share, like, say, she scored an interview? You will have been notified far in advance, so you could root for her when she went. Even bad updates about failed interviews will be shared – if she wants to. Just… Don’t ask for them, okay?

1. DO

Talk about what is going on with you!
Your friend is, most likely, living a pretty bleak existence right now. If she had the money to spare, she would probably pay you to talk to her about anything other than her own sad reality right now! So have at it, tell her what you’re doing these days, what you’re up to over the weekend, what your significant other is planning for your birthday… It can even be OK to talk about something great you’ve done at work. Just because she’s unemployed, it doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to share in her friend’s great achievements. If she has a problem listening to your success, then I can tell you right now: that’s not a true friend.

2. DON’T

Be jealous of “all the free time” you’d love to have!
I don’t care whether you’re my bitch or not, I’m about to smack. You. UP! Say that and it’s very likely your friend is doing her best not to punch you in the face right now. You’re being a brat. Because guess what? She’d give a-ny-thing not to be at home all the time. Spending time on the couch is fun for… About a week. Max two. After that it becomes boring and with every passing day, your friend is probably just feeling like more and more of a loser. So don’t be jealous. Don’t even pretend to be jealous. Otherwise any teeth you’ll be missing are of your own doing.

2. DO

Ask what she had for dinner last night?
Did she read a good book maybe? What about a movie? Like it or not, your friend has got a lot of free time right now. You can’t spend ev-er-y waking moment applying for jobs. So odds are your friend is able to Netflix away for a day and picked up on this amazing show she’d love to talk to you about. Take an interest in her life without having what can only be described as “laser focus” on her current work status. She’ll be happy to talk to you about anything and everything, just not her job hunt – capiche?

3. DON’T

Give advice.
This one is simple. Yes, she is applying for jobs online. Yes, she has updated her LinkedIn profile. Yes, she is sending out her resume to various recruitment agencies. Yes, she is personalising emails to people in the business. Yes, she is trying to use the full extent of her network. Yes. Yes. YES! Whatever advice you’ve got: 9 times out of 10, the answer is “Yes, I’ve done that” and you implying otherwise is not only condescending, but patronising and be-yond annoying. Don’t do it. Unless you’re in HR yourself and you actually have valid advice on your friend’s resume, cover letter, upcoming interview (or anything similar), then please keep your comments to yourself.

3. DO

Talk about any job opportunities you’ve come across.
If you know what your friend is looking for and you’ve heard of a job opportunity that really matches her skill set, then of course, tell her about it!!! What are you waiting for?! Any kind of lead like that will be most welcomed! You’ll probably even win “Best Friend” Award of the Year if it pans out. If not, for sure you’ll receive an honourable mention. Either way, your help and thoughtfulness will be most appreciated. Even just knowing that you’re keeping an eye out for her means a lot. You go Glen Coco!

4. DON’T

Suggest any kind of outing.
Going to the movies. Going for dinner. Taking a spa day. Going on holiday. Going partying. The list can go on. Do you know what those suggestions all have in common? They cost money. Do you know what your friend doesn’t have at the minute? An income. Do you know what does still come in though? Bills. So no, your friend can’t go out clubbing with you to take the edge off. And dinner at that nice restaurant is going to have to wait. Anything that entails spending money is most likely going to be off-limits right now. So don’t even go there, because while you think you are taking her mind off things, you’re actually making her feel even more miserable. Trust me, she’s got enough to feel depressed about already. There’s no need for you to help with that.

4. DO

Surprise her with a bag full of food you are going to cook for her!
Or just spontaneously show up with a bunch of dvd’s and demand a movie night! Or maybe you feel like you’d like some company on a walk through the local park?! Any activity not costing money and designed to hang out – without strings attached – is absolutely amazing. Like a breath of fresh air, she’ll be pleased at how considerate you are. Being unemployed can leave your friend feeling isolated, because there’s so many activities she suddenly can’t participate in. By surprising her with your (free) company, she’ll get the benefit of your friendship without that pesky financial cost. Bliss! And also eternal gratitude.
Oh, and if you’re trying to circumvent the “cost” issue by offering to pay for her? Be careful with that one. A nice treat is fine and truly generous, but don’t overdo it or she’ll start feeling like a charity case. Even if she kind of is one right now, there’s no reason she should feel like one.

5. DON’T

Talk about your friend of a friend of your brother who’s in the same position as she is.
Great. What the fuck do I care? Is this helpful information? Is it going to make your friend feel better? Do you really think your friend is going to be pleased to hear that other people are also having a hard time with finding a job? I’m sure you think it’s going to make her feel less alone and therefore less of a failure, but you thought wrong. Instead, it’s just going to convince her that the market is absolutely horrendous and her next opportunity for a job might not be weeks, but months away. She probably already knew that, but you confirming it really adds on the pressure. Thanks for that.

5. DO

Say that you believe in her.
All she really needs from you is support. Belief that she can do this. She may not always believe it herself, so therefore your relentless encouragement is key. There will always be days when it seems hopeless and on those days it means the absolute world that her best friends are rooting for her. You may not be able to supply her with a job. You may not be able to give her advice. You may not be able to show up on her doorstep with a collection of chickflick movies. But you can show support by simply saying that you believe in her. You believe in her skills. You believe that, despite that this is a rough patch she is experiencing, she will get through it. Do that and you are already the best friend she could ever have. Word.

Voilà. And there you have it folks: some insight into what it’s like being unemployed and how to talk to someone who is – i.e. me. Of course, anyone who’s ever had an unemployed friend and now realises that they may have done some of the aforementioned “don’ts”: don’t worry. We, the unemployed friends, know you mean well. We’re not here to bite your head off and discount you as “unfeeling idiots”. On the contrary! We know that you’re trying to be a good friend, but you’re not entirely sure how that works in this new situation. And that isn’t anyone’s fault, it’s simply “uncharted territory” for your friendship. We I would never hold that against you.

Though, now that you understand my situation a bit more, I will no longer make apologies for any grunts, eye rolls, yawns or potential walk-outs you may encounter if you fail to comply with the above. Not to be mean, but you have been forewarned, so no calling me out on being “grumpy”. Because until you wear a robe more often than you wear jeans, you haven’t even begun to understand the meaning of the word.

XOXO

– Your couch potato

 

 

 

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The awakening.

In those days, he often had trouble sleeping. He’d wake up, toss, turn and most times if he did it long enough, he would find sleep again. Not this night though. This night would turn out to be a night he’d remember.

His throat was parched and he decided to go downstairs for a glass of water. Getting ready for the long trek towards the kitchen, he threw off his Spiderman-patterned covers and tapped his feet on the floor, trying to find his slippers. Then he slowly opened his bedroom door, trying to minimise the creaking noise so as not to wake up his parents. Their bedroom was located opposite his. Most nights the door was open just a crack. Tonight though, it was wide open. He shuffled through his doorway and found himself on the upstairs landing, staring into his parents’ bedroom. There was no one there.

Did they go out tonight? Sometimes they would go out to dinner parties with old college friends. He was such a good kid and they trusted him implicitly, he usually didn’t have a babysitter anymore. Only if they’d be gone for a full night, then they would call on the girl down the street to sit with him. He vehemently disliked her. She never paid him any mind and spent her time talking to her boyfriend on the phone, yammering about how much she loved him and didn’t he love her just as much? Thanks, but no thanks. He preferred his evenings all to himself, if that was going to be the case. But tonight, there was no babysitter. Did they go out? He couldn’t be sure. Then he yawned and decided it didn’t matter. He was thirsty.

As he walked down the stairs, he again noticed something odd in his sleep-deprived mind. There were voices. Hushed voices coming from the kitchen. He took a moment and realised they were his parents’ voices, sounding panicked. What could they be arguing about at this time of the night? Even at the ripe old age of 11 years old, he knew that 3am in the morning wasn’t a normal time for his folks to be up, arguing about God knows what. They rarely ever argued to begin with, so this scene was strange indeed.

He silently stalked towards the kitchen door, which connected to the hallway he now found himself in. From there he was able to make out his mother’s anguished voice and his father’s controlled rage towards her. He stopped his quest for water and stood still, trying to make out the words.

“You know it is the only way, Beatrice! We have to put a stop to this, right now.”
“And then what?”, his mother pleaded. “How will we face every day beyond that, knowing what we know, having done what we did?”
“It doesn’t matter! I will not let you bring us all down. You are out of control. I have been more than patient. All this time, I have been waiting, hoping, even praying that you would come to your senses yourself, but tonight was the last time I stood by you. If you are adamant to continue down this path, be warned, my darling, that you will be going down it, alone.”
“Please Patrick, please understand. Everything I have done, I did for us. For you and for Michael, for all of us. I would never willingly…”
“Stop. Just… Stop.” His dad sighed. “I don’t care anymore what you willingly did or didn’t do. The fact is that it’s done. And it can never, ever happen again. You have to stop. We have to stop. Do you understand that?”

A long silence followed.
Then her voice was soft, so soft, like the caress of a whisper across damp skin. Like a promise unspoken, but powerful nonetheless.
“OK. I, uhh, yes, I know. I know it can’t continue. I wish I could take it all back. I never wanted you to be involved in any of this, in any of my… Pursuits. If I could do it all over again, you know I would spare you any connection to this. You know that, right?”

His father took a few paces towards the hallway, away from his mother and closer to where he was standing. He held his breath as he waited for his father to come out of the kitchen and discover him standing there in the middle of the hallway, lurking like a common thief. Instead, he turned back to his wife: “Maybe one day I would have. But now… I don’t know anymore.”
“Please, Patrick, please I need you to believe me. I know I screwed up, OK? I know. I’ll do anything. For you. For Michael. If you can believe one thing, will you believe that?” She sobbed.

One sob, actually. It wasn’t long or drawn out like he’d seen those women do on the reality tv shows his babysitter liked so much. It wasn’t loud either. But he still heard it, that sob. It felt like it came down from deep within his mother’s inner crevices, spilled out for his father to hear. For his father to forgive her, whatever it was that needed to be forgiven. He couldn’t understand much of what was going on, but he knew that at least.

“Fine. Yes. Yes, I do know that. But never again, you hear me? After tonight, we never speak of this ever again! If you so much as even breathe in the direction of… We are done. And I will take Michael with me. You hear me, Beatrice? I will take our son. So you better be damned sure that you can do this. Starting now, you get what I’m saying?” The anger had left his father’s voice. He sounded like a kid who had lost all of his former bluster, who was once the greatest bully on the playground, but then got his ass kicked so badly that he was forever doomed to be but a mere fly on the wall. And without that anger, he just sounded… Scared. Terrified, even. As if his mother’s answer would determine the rest of their lives, which, he supposed, it would. Michael held his breath, not knowing what he’d want her to say next. He was too young to comprehend the scene behind the kitchen door. They were his parents. He loved them both equally. What were they talking about? He waited.

After a long time, his mother finally inhaled deeply, as if to get ready for speech: “We will never speak of this again. And it will never happen again. I promise you. On our son, I promise you.”

His father let go of the breath he was holding. Deflated, Patrick put his arms around her and together they staid like that. He didn’t know how long it lasted, maybe long after he’d snuck back into his room. Maybe long after he fell back asleep, dreaming about what this unspeakable truth was his parents so anxiously discussed late into the night. All he knew was he never found them like that again. He never heard them pass so much as an angry word between them. For the rest of his childhood, they would be his parents who would lovingly kiss when they thought he wasn’t looking. They would take him on holiday and try to teach him the value of culture over videogames. They would sigh when he would break curfew after he’d try to sneak in, like the typical teenager that he was. Their lives returned to normal. For all intents and purposes, their lives would always be normal.

Until today. And despite how he still remembered that night, never in a million years did he see it coming.