‘JT & Dale Talk Jobs’ is the largest nationally syndicated career advice column in the country and can be found at JTandDale.com.
Dear J.T. & Dale: I’m trying to be supportive of a friend who lost her job — I’ve shared my experiences with her after I lost a job. Everything I say starts an argument and ends with a bunch of excuses. I have shut up about it. What is she hiding? — Susan
Dale: Your goal is to help your friend, right? But you seem to have settled on this formula for judging people: “I don’t want to talk about it” equals “I’m hiding something.” To my ear, that’s not how a friend thinks; that’s how a police interrogator thinks.
J.T.: What your friend may be hiding is fear and sadness. Anger is one form of denial, which means that she’s not ready to hear about ways to move past it. She may even see herself as having failed. The term “unemployed” has such negative connotations that I refuse to use it with my clients. (This topic is so important I did a video commentary about it at CAREEREALISM.com here.)
Dale: So, Susan, moving forward, you know that commiseration isn’t working. And we can tell you that most unemployed people get weary of hearing advice. What they really need is help. Ask your friend if you can help her come up with a list of target companies and offer to look for connections to help with introductions.
J.T.: If she rejects those efforts, and I think she will, then I urge you to just be a friend, avoiding career conversations.
Dale: Point taken. There is nothing so dreary as being asked, “Have you found a job yet?” It’s awkward and you’ll end up avoiding one another. Instead, be the one person who doesn’t ask.
J.T.: Then, when she’s ready, she’ll ask you about your offer to help. If not, that’s OK. You’ll be a better friend than career counselor.
Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and the founder of the consulting firm, JTODonnell.com, and of the blog, CAREEREALISM.com. Dale Dauten resolves employment and other business disputes as a mediator with AgreementHouse.com.
Please visit them at JTandDale.com, where you can send questions via e-mail, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.
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