Job loss not only deals a financial blow but also can affect a person's sense of self, daily routine and social connections. You might struggle for the right words to say to a friend who has unexpectedly lost his job. But while it might feel awkward to discuss the situation, being encouraging and supportive can help your friend cope with the layoff and move forward.
Stages of Grief
According to Heidi Liss Radunovich in "Coping With Stress During a Job Loss," people often experience several stages of grief after a job loss: shock, anger, resistance, sadness and acceptance. However, not everyone goes through all stages or experiences them in the same order. You can't force your friend to move on more quickly, but you can ask how he is doing in order to help determine what type of conversation might be helpful. For example, someone who is still in shock or very angry might just need a sympathetic listener, while a person who has moved on to the sadness stage might be more open to encouraging words or job hunting advice.
It's normal if your friend feels angry or depressed after losing his job, but your positive attitude can help him recover his spirits and begin to think about the future. For example, tell your friend that "this is only a temporary setback" or "there are so many people who look up to you." You might also remind him of other challenges he has overcome or discuss his strengths. For example, remind him that he's an excellent public speaker or has marketable computer skills.
Discussing your friend's dreams and long-term career goals can also help him move forward. Although he might not be immediately ready to start thinking about his next career move, try to encourage him to consider the future instead of focusing on what went wrong in his past job, suggests Idealist Careers editor April Greene. In addition, consider whether you have any contacts in your friend's field or know of any job opportunities. For example, say "I'll ask around and let you know of any openings" or "I'll pass along your resume to some relatives in the field."
What Not to Say
While honesty is usually the best policy, there are some sentiments you should keep to yourself. For example, don't speak up if you're jealous of your friend's new freedom; while free time is nice, he'd probably prefer a paycheck. Discussing how difficult it is to land a job or how everyone is getting laid off might also cause your friend to feel more pessimistic. Finally, don't nag about his job search every time you talk or spend too much time giving advice. Your friend might sometimes prefer to have a break from the stress of the job search and enjoy your company.
Rebekah Richards is a professional writer with work published in the "Atlanta Journal-Constitution," "Brandeis University Law Journal" and online at tolerance.org. She graduated magna cum laude from Brandeis University with bachelor's degrees in creative writing, English/American literature and international studies. Richards earned a master's degree at Carnegie Mellon University.
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