This Isn’t Your Grandmother’s Job Search


I co-facilitated a “Laid Off Calgary” meeting recently. Here’s a link to one of the Event Brite listings which provides information on the meetings.

I’d prepared a hand out prior to the meeting, which was updated after the meeting to incorporate some tips raised during the group discussion. Sometimes family isn’t as helpful as we’d like them to be.  These tips may help.

  • Consider who you are talking with. A close family member whom you love dearly and see often may “merit” more response vs. a second cousin twice removed whom you only speak with once a year.
  • Handling unsolicited advice:
    • Here are some tips for what to say when offered unsolicited advice from can be adapted for the situation):
      • “It sounds like you have some ideas for this. That’s great. We need all the ideas we can get.”
      • “I’m going to try a few options to see what works best.”
      • “I can tell you want to help. I’m still working through this myself.”
      • “Thank you for always giving your advice, but there are things that I really want to figure out on my own. I like figuring things out and when I need help or advice I’ll be sure to ask.”
  • Alternatively, say something non-committal like “I’ll take that under advisement.” Or, “Thank you for your thoughts.” Or, “Thank you but I really just need someone to listen to me right now without advice.”
  • More tips: Have a script ready for times when family/friends are giving unsolicited advice, such as:
  • Consider giving your “elevator speech” to family/friends who suggest you apply for jobs other than that which you are qualified for and/or interested in.
  • If someone asks how goes the job search, and you don’t feel like talking about it, say “thanks for asking – it’s going as well as can be expected, but I really want to hear more about your ___(hobby, project, family).” (Change the subject). And/or say something like “I’m diligently pursuing all leads I feel I am qualified for and interested in. How are you?”
  • Educate them on the realities of job searching in today’s economy, for example, mention that nearly everything is done online and that unsolicited resumes (like unsolicited advice ;)) are not usually accepted.
  • In discussions with family, try to incorporate a positive of being laid off (while still acknowledging being laid off sucks). Positives could include spending more time with children, able to catch up on projects around the home, trying a new hobby, take a course, go for walks, etc.
  • Be aware of generational differences. “This isn’t your grandmother’s job search” – that generation may not have even had to go on interviews.
  • Be aware that family dynamics seem to rarely change and are established early on *i.e. the advice-giving brother will always be the advice-giving brother no matter what age/stage the both of you are at.
  • When family members don’t ask how things are going, a suggestion for opening up that sort of dialogue could be “I notice you seem to have a hard time talking about my layoff, and it’s important to me to be able to discuss this. I need some support and someone to listen.”
  • And finally, recognize they are trying to help, but just may have a not-so-great way of doing so.

Five Ways to Really Help Someone Who’s Been Laid Off

Downtown Chicago. Photo credit: my husband
Downtown Chicago. Photo credit: my husband

With the unemployment rate in Calgary hovering around 8.5%, lots of people are looking for work, including myself and my husband.  This is not a place either of us, at this time in our lives (we are in our 50’s) would have ever thought we’d find ourselves.

What’s said and done by family and friends, while well-meaning,  are often less than helpful.  Advice-giving, sending public job postings from various job search websites, not taking the time to really understand what type of job the person is looking for, or even what they do for a living, and saying things like “I don’t understand why he / she can’t find a job”, are all examples of things that don’t help.

Here are five things that might:

  1.  Take the person who’s been laid off out for coffee.  This is likely a treat they have cut back on to save money.  Being at home and unemployed is isolating.
  2. Ask the person exactly what they do for a living, what type of job they are looking for, and keep your ear to the ground for upcoming opportunities in your company – or other companies and people you are connected with –  before they are published on Workopolis, Indeed, or other job search websites.
  3. Give them a gift card for a movie or a restaurant.  Again, this is something that the one who’s laid off hasn’t been doing to save money.
  4. Think of any projects you have on the go at your home that you could hire your friend or family member to help with such as lawn care, snow removal, renovations, etc.
  5. Now that summer is here and the kids are out of school, child care to attend interviews, networking events, job fairs, etc. could be difficult to obtain and / or costly. If able to, offer to provide child care gratis so those seeking employment can attend important events.

I daresay any of the items on this list would make a real difference to your laid off friend or family member.  I know they would to us.