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.


– Your couch potato





About words, MacBooks & friendships

Dear words, how I’ve missed you! Such beautiful vowels and an amazing amount of letters in general, there’s something about you I cannot resist. If there’s anything in life I am truly passionate about, which I promise will last forever and a day, then it’s you guys. The ability to express, to enjoy a good rant, to cry out in despair, to laugh and joke around, it’s addictive in a way where I’m feeling okay to not go into a 12-step program or something like that. Because let’s face it, that would be pretty useless anyways? I love you guys like a proper drug addict loves heroin. Except that my particular drug of choice is slightly less harmful to my body or even my mind. No offence, dear heroin-user. Feel free to pump that junk into your veins. From one addict to another: no judgement here!

It’s strange though, sometimes you don’t know what to say. And other times, it feels like you have all the right arguments in place, but the other person just isn’t hearing you. Or maybe they do hear what you’re saying, they’re just not listening. Because you’re coming from two different perspectives and no matter what, there’s nothing congruent about the two. That happens. Sometimes it sucks a little, sometimes it sucks a lot. Because even though you speak the same language, in essence at least, it’s like the two dialects basically show to the world that the compatibility that should’ve been there in theory, actually masks a massive difference in reality.

Let’s give a small example: the interesting communication saga of my malfunctioning MacBook. Holy crap, I have been into the great den of iniquity when it comes to different Apple Support people! To explain the problem: I bought a new MacBook over the summer. A beautiful, glistening, shiny thing that cost a pretty penny. But baby, I love my technology. I was 7 when I had my first laptop – 11 when I created my first email address. So considering that little fact about me, I was happy to make the purchase. Not in the least because I’ve been slowly descending into the Apple world for quite some time now. I’ve always been a satisfied customer – I saw no immediate reason for that to change.

However, that was before this truly illuminating & oh-so-delightful experience. Now, I’m not going to go into the technical details – they’re boring anyways – but instead, I’ll give you some insightful numbers:

  • 10: the number of different people from Apple Support I’ve talked to. 5 via telephone throughout 3 different calls. 1 via chat. 4 at the Genius Bar on 4 different occasions.
  • 11: the number of hours I lost talking to Apple Support. I’ve easily spent 4 on the phone, truly a joy to experience. Half an hour via chat – don’t recommend it. And 6,5 hours travelling to/from & spending time at the Genius Bar. Kind of exhausting. Also, they don’t like it when, in the absence of chairs, you sit on their completely empty tables. You want to get their attention? Do that, trust me. Potentially let your legs swing back and forth as well. They’re bound to get to you faster!
  • 3: the number of items they replaced for me for free. A new iPad mini – which wasn’t the problem. A new lead – which wasn’t the problem either. A new MacBook – which was the problem all along, but no one believed me on that, because “I’d only just bought it?!” Oh the irony…
  • 1: the number of females I spoke to working at Apple Support. She also, conveniently, turned out to be the one and only person who listened to my entire story and then figured out it must have been the MacBook all along. Us women, blonde or with purple hair, we understand one another, you know?

Communication. It can break down sometimes. Especially when people don’t actually listen to one other. Especially when one party has already decided the exact turn of events and isn’t willing to hear about a different version. It doesn’t matter if it’s a technician at a desk, or someone who promised one thing, but delivered something else entirely. I guess that’s the one thing I don’t like about words. The ability to misunderstand them. Or the way people abuse them. Or how there’s so much left to say, but you know whatever you’d say would land on deaf ears. And that’s hard. Because not only does it hurt, but knowing words are pointless, you are strangling your own voice. You are willingly – or not so willingly – pushing yourself to remember that you will not be heard even if you tried. Or at least that’s what you tell yourself, as anything else is too scary to contemplate.

The exception to this though, is usually that group of people who’ve always got your back. Your friends. Somehow, they usually just get you. Bizarrely, words sometimes aren’t even necessary. A look can say everything you’ll need to know. A laugh will tell you all you’d want to hear. And a gesture will mean the world. I used to have this thing with one of my best friends: we spent so much time together on like a daily basis, we would sometimes utter the exact same thing at the exact same moment. If it wasn’t so funny, it’d be seriously freaky! But yeah, it usually just made us laugh even harder :-).

It’s different when you’re living farther away than before. Like, when you’re living in London and most of your friends are back home, in Belgium. You can’t just get away with the same ways of communication as before. Not always, anyways. But somehow it also becomes much richer. Because given the distance, communication requires more effort. So every word means so much more. And every joke is treated with more laughter. And everything you share just feels so much more precious. Maybe it’s different for everyone, I wouldn’t really know. Maybe I just got really lucky with my friends? Well, regardless of whether I did or not, I certainly feel like I did. So… Thanks.

The Road Not Taken.
The Road Not Taken.

The mystery of the “bromance”

If you’re like me, then you have a bunch of friends. If you’re like me, then sometimes some of those friends get together and start “something special”. And if you’re like me, sometimes that “something special” is called “a bromance”.

Over the years, I’ve had several of my guy friends start a bromance with someone. It’s like this otherworldly feeling between two people you can’t really explain, but I’ll try to describe it. Let’s take one recent example: two guys I see on a day-to-day basis have – in my humble, honest opinion – started a phenomenal bromance. And according to my perceptive nature, I believe it to be rooted in the following aspects:

A) They have found each other by coincidence. Through sheer happy luck they met and are now going strong with the endless gazing into each other’s eyes. And everybody knows that something isn’t real until it happens purely by chance. So that put me on the track to believing their attraction to be more than just friendship…
B) They giggle like little school girls amongst one another. This is what definitely roused my suspicions about their relationship becoming a bromance. It doesn’t get much more obvious than when they’re left to their own devices, which then generates this extraordinary girly sound from two very manly men indeed.
C) They seem to be perfectly made for each other. Whereas the one is more like a suave, old school grandpa – but with the flair of James Bond – the other is more like a young, wide-eyed puppy very eager to be transported into another time. Together they just click and become a slightly devious duo, a force to be reckoned with, as it were. I would advise everybody to not sit in between them or interrupt their hushed conversations. Do so at your own peril!

Now, all this is what I believe to be a thorough root-cause analysis of how their bromance came to be. But one key ingredient is missing. And that would be… Their conjoined wickedness for all things funny! My god how these men can share their innermost jokes by only a look?! And it doesn’t stop there! No, why would it?! Secretive texts! Even a whole new language, spoken in code so only they would be able to understand each other’s meaning. It’s like they have resurrected a new Rosetta’s stone, the bromance edition. I am utterly in awe by the advanced nature of their relationship. It goes beyond anything I have ever seen! It’s almost like I’m a scientist, able to study this new form of manly behaviour. If possible, I would even intend to write a book about it in the near future. The possibilities are truly endless in observing this fascinating development, would you not agree?

I wonder at this manly relationship, the bromance, and I am curious to how other females perceive it. Are any of us XX-chromosomed people jealous of two guys, going to the gym together, possibly showering together too? Can we be held responsible even, for not obtaining their attention in a significant manner and thus perhaps forcing the two together – creating a bromance? Are we at fault here? Or have the men in our lives finally understood the powers of bonding with someone of the same sex, no actual sex included?

I don’t believe I will be able to solve this mystery completely tonight. And I certainly don’t think anyone in their right mind would take me seriously right about now. But perhaps that’s not the point of today’s post. Maybe, just maybe, I just felt like writing down some jibber-jabber and sharing that with the world. Last year, at school, we had this saying: “Sharing is caring!” Now, I ask you: isn’t that romantic?

“The Peak District. An inspiration to many. Romantic to all.”