How to Help a Friend With The Job Search—Without Totally Ruining the Friendship

How to support a friend through their job search
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You graduated from college, moved to a new city, and even found yourself a job. Now there’s officially nothing for you to worry about. All you should be doing is sitting back and sipping on mai tais. #amiright?

Wrong.

You may have miraculously made it through this tumultuous post-grad stage, but I can guarantee that not all of your friends have. Part of your after college life is learning how to not only navigate your own job search—but your friends’ as well.

And let me tell you, understanding how to offer the right amount of support while still being honest is tough.

So, we thought we’d share our simple guide to going through the stages of a friend’s job search after college—without totally ruining your friendship.

You may not have to go through all four stages with your friend(s) but, just in case you do, here’s how to handle them.

Stage 1: Starting the Job Search

Your Role = Encourage Everything

At the beginning of the job search, it’s important to be supportive of every and all of the choices your friend is making. Whether you are going through this process at the same time, or you went through it a year ago, you have to understand that this is a time in someone’s life that is full of uncertainty and doubt. Encourage rather than criticize.

Your friend is already under a lot of pressure and doesn’t need you to provide additional stress; they need you to help alleviate some of that stress.

Besides, at this point, there’s no evidence that their job search techniques won’t work out. So don’t discourage any job search attempts unless it’s something crazy like trying to get an employer’s attention by lighting themselves on fire…

Example conversation:

You: So how’s the job search going?

Friend: Great! I’ve got an interview for a customer service position at this super amazing vegan catering company!

You: [Watching your friend as she inhales a 100% beef double-double cheeseburger] Cool! That sounds great!

Stage 2: A Month Or Two Into The Job Search (A Decent Number of Job Applications/Interviews Into the Search)

Your Job = Offer Guidance

After the initial uncertainty and fear wears off, it’s okay to start offering supportive guidance. This includes sharing awesome job search advice blog articles, making introductions to anyone who might be good for an informational interview, helping with elevator pitches or interview answers, and accompanying this friend to networking events.

This guidance should not come in the form trying to “fix” their bad job searching techniques. It should be offered as a supplement to their efforts.

Example conversation:

Friend: Did you know it was possible to live off of soup? Because it is. I’m doing it. Soup for breakfast, soup for lunch, soup for dinner, and if I’m feeling a little crazy, soup for dessert. I NEED to start making money. I think I’m turning into soup…

You: Ahh! Have you thought about working with a temp agency until you find a job? I read an article about doing that the other day and it seemed pretty legit.

Stage 3: Many Job Applications/Interviews Later (Your Friend Is Running Out of Money With No Possible Opportunities In Sight)

Your Job = Be Honest About Choices

If you make it to this third stage, your friend has been in the job search for a while. You’ve seen him/her make mistakes and turn down an offer because “It’s entry-level and I have a degree from Berkeley for goodness’ sake!”

At this point, it’s okay to criticize. Constructive criticism, of course. Don’t be mean.

It’s okay to let them know that there are a few things they need to change. That corner office they expect to get right out of college? They should probably erase that from their list of non-negotiables. Only doing the bare minimum amount of research before applying/interviewing? That attitude has to change. Answering “I’m too caring” for the question of “What is your biggest weakness?” That has to stop.

At this stage, it’s time to be completely honest.

Example conversation:

Friend: Yeah, I dunno. It just didn’t seem like the right position. Like, I’d have to actually make the smoothies and, you know, I’m just much more of an over-seer. I can pick a pretty palatable pear but the whole blending thing… I just don’t think I went to juicing management school to be standing around cutting up fruit all day.

You: Okay, but you do realize you have to start making money soon, right?

Friend: Yeah, but I don’t want to take a job that’s not going to advance my skill set.

You: Alright. I’m going to be honest with you for a second. You’re a recent graduate. Yes, you went to a top juice management school, but so did a lot of people. You don’t need to get your dream job right out of school. Those employers want blender managers who have years of experience dealing with pineapple problems and banana blunders! You need to just get your foot in the door. No one is going to hire you without that work experience.

Stage 4: You’ve Given Your Constructive Criticism And They’re Still Unemployed (You’re Not Sure How Your Friend Is Paying for Food But SOMEHOW They’re Still Eating at Least Ramen)

Your Job = Shut Up

At this stage, whether they’ve chosen to listen to your advice or not, it’s time for you to stop talking about their job search.

You’ve done all you can. You’ve offered support, guidance, and criticism. The only thing you have left to offer is silence. Golden, golden, silence.

You got it. It’s time to shut up. It’s officially none of your business anymore. Even if they want to talk to you about it, don’t. You don’t want to encourage bad habits but you also can’t offer any more criticism because whatever you say will just make your friend feel like this. So it’s really just better to go on with your life as though there were not this little job search problem.

Trust me. This may be the hardest step but it will save your friendship. And if you’ve done steps 1–3, you can walk away knowing that you’ve helped all you can.

Example conversation:

Friend: Hey, we haven’t talked in a while!

You: Yeah, I know it’s been crazy busy here. How are you?

Friend: I’m okay. This job search is just really annoying.

You: Yeah. OH! Did you see what happened on The Bachelor last night?

Tell us your own story! Have any stories about supporting a friend in the job search? Or were you that friend who was getting job search “help”? We want to hear about it. Tell us about your experience in the comment section below and share any advice you have about being in either of these positions.

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