How to (Really) Help a Friend Job Search
When you find out that one of your friends or family members is job hunting, your first instinct is to leap in and save the day. Whether that means proofreading cover letters, conducting mock interviews, or just checking in to make sure she isn’t getting discouraged, you want to be as supportive as possible.
But while your heart is in the right place, your constant help and advice may not be exactly what she needs right now. After all, job searching can be incredibly frustrating and tiring—especially if advice is coming at her from every direction.
So how can you support your friends and family without being overbearing? From the way you act on a daily basis to the general advice and assistance you offer, here are a few dos and don’ts to keep in mind.
Don’t: Always Offer Advice
Your first inclination, of course, will be to offer any and every piece of advice you have for finding the best job listings, writing awesome resumes, and nailing every interview. After all, if you already made it through the job-hunting process successfully, you probably know a thing or two.
But no matter how good your intentions are, hold back for just a minute. First, realize that your friend’s job search may not be exactly like yours—especially if you aren’t in the same field.
For example, in your industry, one-page resumes may be standard. But if you give that advice to a friend looking for a job in academia, you could actually be veering her in the wrong direction. Same goes for interview advice or recommendations for where to find the best job postings. If you’re not familiar with her field, you may not be the best resource for advice.
If you do have the right knowledge, make sure to offer your assistance in the right way. Let her know specific ways you’d be glad to help (try, “I’d be happy to review your resume or practice interview questions if it would be helpful—just let me know”), then let her approach you when she’s ready to take you up on that offer.
Do: Help Her Look Better Online
As we’ve all heard, networking is the best way to get a job—and social media is a big part of that. New contacts will be connecting with your friend online and potential employers will be reviewing her social media accounts to determine if she’s a good candidate for the job.
Now, you may not be an expert at writing LinkedIn headlines or boosting a blog’s followers, but there are still things you can (and should) do to help your friend build a successful digital presence.
For example, if you’ve worked with her in a professional or academic setting, contribute to her LinkedIn profile by endorsing some of her skills or writing a sincere recommendation. If she has a blog or online portfolio, share a link or two on your social network. You’ll help beef up her social presence, which is great on its own—but more importantly, your unsolicited participation will come across as a solid vote of confidence in her talents and abilities.
Do: Network Together
Job searching or not, networking can be pretty intimidating. But while you should encourage your friend to take advantage of those events to meet new contacts and potential employers, don’t just push her out the door with a sympathetic smile and a hearty “good luck!”
Instead, volunteer to tag along. You may not like networking either, but it’ll make it a lot easier on your friend to have a sidekick—at least until she finds her groove. With a friend by her side, she’ll avoid the awkwardness of showing up alone, searching for the nametag table, and waiting for someone to approach her. You’ll be able to encourage each other (yes, the networking will be good for you, too—job searching or not) to initiate conversations with other attendees.
And as a bonus, when you meet someone who’d be a good contact for your friend, you can easily introduce her on the spot.
Don’t: Ask for Status Updates Too Aggressively
I know: Each time you see your friend, you’ll want to know is how the job hunt is going. Has she found any good listings? Does she have any interviews scheduled? Has she been tailoring each cover letter and resume?
In theory, this is supportive—but in the same way that your mom is supportive when she asks why you still don’t have a significant other every time you visit. It stems from the best intentions, but it’s often more frustrating than it is encouraging.
So, don’t let the job hunt be your immediate and only topic of conversation. Has she picked up a new hobby, like blogging or web design? Taken up kickboxing? What’s the latest recipe she’s tried? Your friend wants your support in her job search, of course—but sometimes, she may just want a friend. Period.
Do: Send Job Listings
That said, don’t be afraid to send your friend job openings that you think may be a good fit. At first, it may sound like a constant inundation of emails could get annoying. But my best friend did this when I was looking for a job a couple years ago, and it was actually a great source of support.
First, it was a constant stream of options: If I found the listing interesting, I applied. If it didn’t grab my attention, I ignored it. But either way, my friend never badgered me about it (“Did you see the job I sent you? Did you apply? Why not?”). The abundance of jobs—ones she actually thought I had a chance of getting—gave me hope; at the same time, there was no pressure to appease her. She just wanted to help.
But beyond that, there was an added benefit that she may not have even intended. By sending me jobs she thought I’d enjoy (and that I’d be good at), she was showing me the passions and talents she saw in me. It was a helpful tool that helped me identify what I really wanted to do with my life—which encouraged me to expand my search and consider new options.
When someone in your life is job searching, you don’t have to jump in and take over. In fact, please don’t. But do remember, even if you don’t proofread a single resume or act as a stand-in interviewer even once, your support can play a big part in helping your friend land a new role.
About The Author
After beginning a career in management, Katie realized she wasn’t doing what she loved and determined it was time for a major career transition. Now, as a staff writer/editor for The Muse and a content marketing writer for a healthcare IT company, she gets to do what she loves every day—write and edit content ranging from demand generation campaigns to career advice. Her career and management content has been published on Forbes, Mashable, Business Insider, Inc., and Newsweek. Find her on Twitter @kgwolfie.