Every one of us has been on both ends of the job hunting story: we’re either looking or know someone who is looking. And no doubt every one of us has received well-meaning advice from someone who hears we are looking. Every time I renew my job hunt (and tell people about it) I am on the receiving end of quite a bit of advice, tips, suggestions, and more. Some of it has been helpful in one way or another, but other commentary proved to just frustrate me further. So I decided to put together a list of five things you should avoid saying to someone who’s looking for a new job.
“But you’re so good at what you do…”
People like to say this to someone who is struggling with finding something. However, it doesn’t really matter how good at their job someone is. There will always be someone better, or someone just as good willing to work for less money. Or someone not as good willing to take less money. And that’s just the actual doing of the job. Let’s not forget things like fitting into a company’s culture, how the interview goes, location, and a host of other issues that factor into whether or not someone is truly a good fit for a job. Simply being good at what you do is just not enough to land a gig.
“I’m sure you’ll find something soon!”
While this seems, on the surface, to be encouraging, for someone who’s been looking for months “soon” feels like it should have happened already. All this phrase does is magnify the job-seeker’s frustrations and makes them feel more hopeless in their search. It’s also a little patronizing, and no adult likes that.
“You must be doing something wrong.”
I don’t know why people say this kind of thing, but for whatever reason, it gets said. Perhaps the person saying it thinks they’re being helpful, but they are certainly not! If an empathetic “I’m sure you’ll find something soon” only serves to magnify frustrations, imagine how hearing this makes a job-seeker feel. If, for whatever reason, you think someone looking for a job is doing something wrong, it might be best to keep your thoughts to yourself. Or better yet, offer to look over their resume or do a mock-interview with them. Those kinds of things are far more helpful.
“Have you tried [insert job search website here]?”
If someone is seriously looking for a job, and has been for awhile, there’s a very good chance that they are aware of the basic job search sites like Monster, CareerBuilder, ZipRecruiter, and Indeed. They probably know that there’s a job section on LinkedIn and that they can set their profile to “actively looking”. Depending on how long they’ve been looking, they might also have a headhunter or few involved.
The only exception to offering this kind of advice would be if you are a colleague who knows of an industry-specific job board, networking group, or recruiting firm that might help. There’s a good chance your colleague knows of your suggestions, but that’s not always the case, so making a suggestion in that case may, in fact, be helpful.
Another exception to this would be if you have a resume writer that’s really helped you, or a recruiter that worked out for you. Pass that information along!
“I wish I could help!”
While this is often said in empathy, it’s not helpful and, again just frustrates the job-seeker. There are ways to help someone looking for a job, and it’s best to ask if you can help instead of just saying you wish you could. As I already mentioned, offering to look over a resume or offer a mock-interview is a great way to offer help. You could also offer to look over their portfolio or go with them to a networking event. You don’t have to be a colleague or in the same industry to be able to help someone looking for a job.
And if you’re saying “I wish I could help” as kind of an empty aside, in an effort to show your empathy but not because actually wish you could help, then perhaps just don’t say anything at all.
So what should you say to a job-seeker?
Asking “is there anything I can do to help?” is way more encouraging than saying any of the above things. It gives the person looking for a job an opportunity to tell you if they need help with anything, and that’s really something that’s dependent on each individual. It will show you care and that you empathize with their situation. It gives them a chance to say “no, I just need to vent” or “would you mind doing a mock virtual interview with me? I’m really struggling with that right now.” And who knows, you might actually be able to do something that helps them land that dream job!