3 Ways to Help a Job-Seeker (And One Important Caveat)

Changing careers is difficult. Anybody who’s ever come home from a long day of work and had to search job ads can tell you how goddamn tiring it is.  

But how do we support those people? Especially if they’re trying to find new work, and might not know where to even begin?

There’s a lot of ink spilled on the job search, how you personally can switch careers, do a search, snag the best interview, etc. But there’s very little written on how to help, how to make sure that you’re supporting the people in their lives to be their best selves.

I used these tactics to help someone close to me in the search; hopefully somebody out there will find them useful too.

  • Hold a Job Quest Meeting

To begin, you need to have a meeting. Schedule it. Put it on the calendar: “On x day, for an hour, we’re going to talk about this.” Call it “Job Quest 2017.” Add exclamation points as necessary.

This is the time to ask questions, to discern exactly what they want out of a new job in two ways: parameters and skills.

In particular, the parameters of their ideal next job, i.e. how much money do you need? Part-time or full-time? Industry? Particular companies? What kind of a career path? Geography? etc. This gets the seeker thinking about what sort of work they want, rather than the kind of work they’ve got already.  

In terms of skills, you want to get at what sort of skills the job-seeker likes developing. If a person likes working with their hands, there are a lot of jobs that are dying for people, some for $70 an hour. But you won’t think of these jobs until you really dig into what kinds of skills a person likes to develop. The skills you might need might be possible through means that are free or low cost. The book So Good They Can’t Ignore You has great ways of thinking about this question.   

When you’re done with this step, you should have a solid list of the things you’re looking for in a job. It’s only then you can start to seek out work.

  • Understand It’s a Marathon

The hardest idea to get around is managing your efforts. Most people try to kill it within the first two weeks, spending hours a day looking at job sites, going after jobs they’d never fit, things like that.

You need to understand that, no matter how miserable a seeker is, searching for a new job is a process. Both you and your job-seeker have to manage your endurance.

Even at a miserable job, most people can’t just up and quit without another lined up. So chances are we’ll have to search for jobs without the luxury of more time during the week. On top of that, job searching isn’t exactly fun. It drains you.

That’s why it’s is easy to drop everything for a single job ad. But if you grind yourself to the bone on every decent opportunity, the search won’t last. If you stop the process every time you have a good lead, you won’t succeed either.  

With that in mind, it’s your task to help a job-seeker to build a process. Encouraging them to a set amount of time, every day, for the job search is useful. The benefit of this type of a strategy is that you can better implement a small goal daily than a large goal less often.

If you can invest an hour each day when you get home from work, it’s much more manageable than if you try to invest seven hours on a Sunday, which might be your only day off during the week. Even a half-hour a day is better than trying to cram all your job searching on a free day.

As a helper, you need to remember this too. You can’t burn out after a week of trying to help. You have to manage your own energy. You also will have the added benefit of keeping your own life in order.

You can’t save someone in the water if you’re drowning too.  

  • Develop a Research Plan

This is the best way, I think, that a person can help another in the job search is research.

Checking different job sites every day for possible jobs and new leads frees up a job-seeker to do that complex labor – sending out resumes and cover letters, networking, developing skills – that will get them the best results.

Research is also something a helper can do daily without much trouble, especially if they know the parameters of prospective jobs. They can put in a half-hour a day, an hour a day, and check job sites for these.

One thing that I found helps was a Google doc with the links for a given day pasted in. They were separated into ‘To Apply’ and ‘Applied.’ That way, there was a record of every job applied for, and markings to know how many garnered interviews.

Without a record, it’s easy to lose hope, because you have no idea how many jobs you’ve seen or the seeker’s applied to. Keep that up, and it gives you a better sense of the progress you both are making day-to-day.    

  • Know You Can’t Help (Unless Help is Wanted)

Even if you don’t define yourself by your job, chances are you define yourself by your ability to support yourself. Our jobs make up a large part of who we are.

A person trying to switch careers or jobs is, likely, not very happy with their current situation. They want change, sometimes desperately, but they think they should know everything there is to know. That’s why a lot of people don’t ask for help in job-searching or switching careers.

In the same token, if you want to help, you have to offer and keep your judgement in check. Separate your emotions from the situation as much as you can. Go into this thinking they’ll be you, work like you, and love the process, and your life will be hellish.

These are just a few tips to make job searching a bit easier for you and the person you’re trying to help.

Hope they were helpful, and good luck. 


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