Showing Compassion To A Job Seeker

showing_compassion.pngJacob Share, Israel’s most popular job/career blogger, had a good post a few weeks back about showing compassion to job seekers. I’ve talked about this a number of times, in the depression post and the “religion’s role in a job search” post, in another post that I can’t find, and in passing in a bunch of other posts. But his list (you can find it here) inspired me to create my own list.

This post might come across as a little sappy, which is not my intention. But the idea of showing compassion indicates that there is something wrong, at a personal level. Here we go:

  1. Take the person to lunch. Buy the lunch. And make good use of this time. DO NOT preach. DO NOT dig. Don’t try and find out why the person is in transition – it just doesn’t matter. I would even suggest that you don’t have to help “solve the problem” with your tactics and techniques.

    One of the first lunches I went to was with a wealthy friend. I didn’t know what I was doing, and it turned out that he didn’t know anything about a job search. But I left that meeting rejuvenated. This turned into a one-meeting mentoring session – after lunch we never touched bases again (even though I tried). It was just what I needed, helpful, non-judgmental, and with a big-picture perspective. I would suggest that the job seeker would either need that or tactical help. Best thing to do? Open up your little black book, figure out five professionals that you could introduce the job seeker to, and then do it that day.

  2. Be honest and helpful. Too many people have that nice smile with a look of pity in their eyes. The job seeker is already going through enough emotions to fill a room, and they’ll probably read more into it than you intend. But there is a feeling of “everyone’s talking about me.” Sometimes it even feels like man’s best friend, the family dog, will walk away when you (the job seeker) come in the room.

    I remember one of the most important phone calls I had was with Ed Ekstrom, partner at vSpring Capital. Surprisingly, Ed spent about 30 minutes with me on the phone. There was no role for me there, and my school wasn’t ivy league, which meant he wasn’t interested in me as an employee. But in that 30 minutes the honesty and guidance that he gave me was critical to help me understand how I (with my credentials and experience) was perceived.

  3. Don’t try to replace I’ve had people send me job leads they found online. The thing is, I was already spending 10 hours a day online, and knew about all the leads that were posted. The hidden job market includes all the jobs NOT posted, supposedly with 85% of the opportunities. If you have a way to help me bust into that hidden job market, please help!
  4. Cash helps, too. I always feel weird writing about this, as I’m not asking for money, and your job seeking buddy probably won’t either.

    My family was the recipient of two very generous gifts. The first gift was three gift cards for the local grocery store, maxed at $200 each. The second we found out about when we got a utility bill and found that someone paid it in advance… for a few months. I can’t even tell you how amazing those gifts were. When you get into a situation where no money comes in, and plenty has to go out, it’s very, very scary. How many months can we survive? Being on the receiving end of those gifts changed me as a person, and helped give a little bit of piece of mind to my family.

  5. A special note for the spouse. The problem, as the spouse, is that you are TOO CLOSE. Normally a spouse knows the personal weaknesses, doesn’t understand the strengths, and is closer than anyone to the emotion. That’s why they say that a spouse cannot be the job search coach.

    I didn’t realize this at the time but my wife and I did not talk for about the first month. We were trying to be strong for one another, and there wasn’t really much to say that month. Realize that this is a very difficult time, but there are things you can do. One of the best things my wife did for my job search was to network with her friends. It was very cool to have her friends husbands get in touch with me, as that helped jump-start my networking.

  6. A special note for family (brothers, sisters, parents, etc.). This is tough because some of you are in a position to help, or family relationships have been strained for years. I won’t even pretend to know the right answer for you, but I can share one experience. This is not the time for tough love.

    I was talking to my dad one night and he said “I will expect you to be unemployed for at least six months.” No way, I thought, I’d have a job much earlier… but just knowing that he was supportive, and helping, and not expecting results immediately was very, very comforting. As a side note, if you can help financially, now’s a great time to help with car payments, house payments or some other significant bill.

  7. A special note for religious leaders and congregation members. Go read religion’s role in a job search. Additionally, realize that this is no time to judge or shun. No matter how good or bad the job seeker has been in your congregation, now is not the time to teach a lesson or turn your back. This is a very humbling time, and it can be hard for the person to drag himself to church, just to feel judged by all those people with a job. My religious leaders were awesome but after my religion’s role post I got a number of e-mails from people who had been shunned. Don’t ignore this, if you are a church leader, ask the person to meet with you, seek to understand, and figure out how you can help. This is a great time to really love that person.

So there you go. Again, Jacob has some other ideas, as do his commentors. That post was inspired by a group writing project by Wade of The Middle Way, Kenton of Zen-Inspired Self Development, and Albert of Urban Monk.Net. I haven’t checked yet but he asked a few others to participate, including Vivien, Pearl, Isabella, Miriam, Ronald, Vivian, Kate, Shelly, Robert, Pete, Carolyn, Jennifer, Yvonne, Etienne and Simonne.

I’m sure I missed stuff – how can you show compassion to someone in a job search? Or, when you were in your own transition, how has someone shown compassion to you?

10 thoughts on “Showing Compassion To A Job Seeker”

  1. Thank you so much for this post. It really helps to know what helped you when you were looking.

    I’m such a lecturer that I instantly start trying to think of things to say. Saying nothing is probably better for me.

    Use your ears, girl!

  2. Thank you for this! We’ve all been through the job search phase, and sometimes it can get very discouraging. This list goes deeper than usual, and I’ll pass it on to a few of my friends, who can definitely use the advice.

  3. I have been the lucky recipient of much of the job-seeking kindness described here. Let me tell you — it makes a big difference as a job seeker. Particularly when I’d just graduated from college, I didn’t just need job advice; I needed emotional and psychological support. I needed someone with a job and the accompanying confidence to show me some kindness and introduce me to some great people.

    One person in particular, an extremely accomplished Silicon Valley executive, taught me a lesson that has served me extremely well.

    Ask everyone you meet for three networking introductions.

    So now, as a rule, I try my hardest whenever anyone asks me for job seeking help to give 3 connections.

  4. The last time I was in transition I got a few of phone calls from friends in the industry that wanted to check up on me. However I must say the most memorable one was with a colleague that had me laughing the whole time. I really needed to laugh during that difficult time and years later I still remember that conversation and try pay it forward to others.

    Recently at a networking event I over heard somebody that was new to networking say “but I have nobody to network with with. I’ve been at company XYZ for a very long time and every body I know is also in transition so they can’t help me.” I was rather surprised that it seemed the shunned were shunning themselves! Of course besides compassionate emotional support, they could share information to help each other.

  5. Glad to see you weighed in, Jason. You’ve blogged about compassion many times, and I’ll never forget your moving post about where you were before JibberJobber.

    I liked #3 in particular, but I would have said “Don’t be a”

  6. Great post. I’d add: be compassionately honest when you see them engaging in counterproductive behaviors. A hiring manager won’t honestly say “I’m not considering you for future roles because you’ve seemed far too desperate pursuing a position that is much too junior for you.” As a friend, though, you can point out how that might appear.

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