Let’s just say it: Being out of work sucks. Whomever’s choice it was – be it a result of a lay-off or even if you chose to leave a position – being unemployed carries with it a whole set of fears, worries, self-doubt and exhaustion. (All of the feels, right?) Sometimes, even with the best of intentions at heart, people can say the most awkward things when you’re in this situation. Often times when people are tying to make you feel better, they trip over their words or don’t think things all the way through, leaving you with some emotional wreckage.
Many of my friends and I work in fields that render us “between opportunities” on a recurring basis. Public relations has a notoriously fast turnaround much like production or post-production, marketing, gaming, social media consulting and more. A lot of my friends are full-time freelancers and often find themselves incorrectly labeled as unemployed so they bare the brunt of this hot mess, too. When I got the idea to make a list of things not to say to unemployed people, I sent out an email blast to several friends to help and was nodding my head with every reply.
From me and many of my friends, whose names have been withheld to protect them, I give you a great resource of things not to say to your unemployed friends and family.
- “Oh man, I bet you can just relax and watch TV now. You are so lucky.” -M.
- “Now you have time to do all of the things you haven’t had time for!” -KK.
This is not a vacation. Let’s be clear. I realize this is kind of a “silver lining” offering. “Yes, we’re in a rough situation but there’s a positive side to it, too!” Except there really isn’t. Because when you’re working hard to find a new job and stressing about how you will pay your rent or mortgage next month, it’s hard to enjoy anything.
- “Well that sucks. It took forever to find my job. It’s a bad market.” -M.
- “I’m so sorry, that is the worst thing ever.” As if someone just died and they always throw in the sympathetic shoulder pat. -L.
- One time a friend sent me an article on how getting divorced when your husband is unemployed makes getting full custody easier. -MM.
Thanks. I feel ALL BETTER now, bro.
- “I was going to invite you out, but I know how broke you are right now.” -K.
Do you? Do you really? This is obviously a fine line. You probably don’t want to invite your unemployed friend to spend $100 on a night out but don’t explain things away with assumptions either.
- “Have you been looking?” or “Have you been applying lots of places?” -P.
No. I’m mostly just staring at my laptop and eating chips. (Seriously, that is such a benign question. Do better,)
- “Oh, my friend is hiring a receptionist. Do you want me to send her your contact info?” -T.
To clarify, I always appreciate being introduced to anyone. That said, be really careful about what kind of openings you start forwarding to people. Don’t insult an out-of-work executive with an entry-level opening. Not cool.
For the freelancers, there were a good handful of replies, too.
- “Ooooooh…. you do freelance work…..” as if to say “what do you even do?” or “how the hell do you make a living?” -S.
- “I could NEVER do what you do. I HAVE to have a full time job.” -B.
Freelancers do have full-time jobs, guys. The freelance dream is to be busy enough to welcome time off (don’t forget, they usually don’t get paid time off like full-time in-house employees do) and never to scramble to find work again, but that’s just not always the case.
Overall, there are some eggshell moments here, I know. But I swear, we’ll all get through it with hugs, liquor, and a little common sense. After all, the number one thing I got back in my email replies was:
- “DON’T WORRY! YOU’LL FIND SOMETHING SOON.”