Katie Wright speaks to experts to find out how you can support a friend or family member who’s out of work.
Unemployment is at a three-year high in the UK, with more than 1.5 million people out of work by the end of summer, while the Republic of Ireland is dealing with a 5.2% unemployment rate, largely as a result of Covid.
And the impact of the coronavirus pandemic is set to continue hitting businesses hard.
Losing your job can be a devastating experience, which is why it’s important that friends and family rally round to offer support. “Unemployment is tough on the individual as well as their extended family, but there are things people can do to help their loved ones through this challenging situation,” says Trudy Simmons, clarity and business coach from The Daisy Chain Group.
Not sure where to start? Here’s how you can help support someone dealing with unemployment…
1. Help them set realistic goals
“Encourage them to make job-hunting a full-time job by assisting them to create an action plan,” says Nicholas Agwuncha, strategy consultant and co-founder of Money Medics – but be careful not to pile on the pressure.
“[Setting] small achievable goals is a good way of injecting a positive into their week,” says Simmons. “Whether it’s to apply for one job by the end of the week, or to read through their CV for them.”
2. Be a good listener
Losing your job can bring up a lot of different emotions, so having someone to talk to is vital.
“It’s so important to encourage loved ones who may be going through this difficult process to talk about how they feel,” says Kelly Feehan, services director at CABA. “Sharing our thoughts and feelings with others can help us to process our emotions and come to terms with what’s happened. By encouraging a loved one who is struggling to lean on the support from those around them, they’re bound to feel a sense of release.”
3. Establish a new routine
“People who’ve been made redundant [often] say they find it helpful to establish a regular daily routine,” says Feehan. If it’s your spouse, partner or someone you live with who has lost their job, encourage them to get up in the morning and go to bed at the usual time, so they don’t slip into the habit of sleeping in and staying up late.
“If you have a loved one who is struggling, helping to establish some structure to their day will help them to stay positive and keep track of what they’ve done today – as well as what they need to do tomorrow,” adds Feehan.
4. Consider their financial wellbeing
Money worries can be stressful at the best of times, but a sudden loss of income can be even more anxiety-inducing.
“Your loved one might be worried about how they’re going to contribute to the bills this month, or if they’ll have enough money to look after their family,” says Feehan. “These feelings often weigh heavily on us, making us feel caged and like we are running out of options.”
She recommends encouraging your loved one to “take stock of their finances and create a budget,” so they know exactly what’s going in and out of their bank account each month.
Agwuncha says: “Act as a source of accountability. Help them to try and review their current expenditure if they haven’t done so, and get them into the habit of tracking their expenses. Thoughtful gestures such as bringing round home-cooked meals and encouraging them to cook more, can help bring their overall cost of living down.”
5. Help with interview prep
“If your friend has an interview, it’s worth offering to role-play interview questions and topics to help them prepare,” says James Reed, chairman of recruitment company Reed. “You could start by asking some general questions that are likely to come up, such as, ‘Why do you want to work at this company?’ and situational questions such as, ‘Tell me about a time when you have succeeded when working under pressure.’”
For a more personalised approach, research the company they’re applying to and tailor the questions, Reed says: “Coming equipped with additional information that can test your friend’s knowledge will keep them on their toes and help them learn something new they might not have known.”
6. Don’t make it all about job hunting
While it’s great to encourage practical steps to help your loved one get back to work, don’t make that the sole focus of your interactions.
“Give them the time and space to think about something else for a while—it’s vital that people don’t begin to identify themselves simply as ‘unemployed’, as this can inevitably cause a downward spiral of emotions and self-esteem,” says Dean Corbett, chief people officer at learning provider Avado.
“Sometimes it is easy for an individual to ignore messages during such an emotional period,” says Agwuncha. “Try phoning, video calling or leaving audio messages to check in, or send them things that can relax their emotions and cheer them up.”