Time to Find Out Who Your Friends Are
One of the most difficult discoveries for job hunters is that they often have trouble getting their phone calls and emails returned — not only by prospective employers but by those who they had previously considered friends. It’s tough enough to deal with the stress and anxiety of job hunting, but there is a unique sting added when it feels as though you’re being abandoned by folks you thought were your friends just when you need them most.
And it’s often the case, in one of the cruel truths about the universe, that when people (and maybe they’re your friends and maybe they’re just people you know who you thought were your friends) feel awkward and uncomfortable about a situation that they avoid it and fade away. Former colleagues of those caught up in layoffs and buyouts may not be sure how to respond and if you’re gone anyway, they may simply fail to stay in touch. Those who have moved on and are now being asked to help a former colleague may not know how to best do so. Some may be well-intentioned, but don’t want to make promises they’re not sure they can deliver upon.
So while you may feel like it shouldn’t be your role as a job hunter to find out who your friends really are and then to make it as easy as possible for them to help you, you’ll waste a lot less time and emotional energy if you do so early in your job search. Here are some tips:
*Respect their schedule. If you’re unemployed and job hunting full time, chances are you that have a lot more flexibility in your schedule than those in a workplace whose weekdays are filled with meetings and deadlines — like you used to have, remember? Send them emails to set up a time to talk on the phone, and always ask them when it’s convenient for them to chat. And then set up times to meet that are also on their schedule. If it’s easier for them to meet you on the weekends or evenings, respect that. And don’t be annoyed or frustrated with them if they don’t return your emails or calls right away. If you’re job hunting while working and only have lunch hours or after hours to handle job-hunting calls and emails, respect that your friends won’t necessarily be able to get back to you during those hours — you may need to set up times to chat well in advance. Your timetable will almost certainly be different than theirs in terms of helping you — consider that up front and you’ll avoid a lot of angst.
*Recognize what they can realistically do for you and adjust your expectations accordingly. For instance, some friends — especially if they are unsure of their future in an organization or if they don’t necessarily think you’d be a good fit there — may be reluctant to pass along your resume to others where they work. But they might be willing to help you in other ways. Look to some friends for referrals and job leads, to others for support and advice. Figure out what they are willing and able to give, and always be appreciative.
*Try to make this a comfortable situation for them. Don’t become demanding or even your real friends will find it difficult to make time for you and to help you. Try to keep all contacts — whether by email, phone or in person — conversational and friendly (humor always helps!) where there is give and take, not just the job hunter seeking things from the other person who may have a very busy life and schedule. Even if you’re angry or bitter after your job was eliminated, try not to focus on that and instead keep the conversation about where you’re headed. And don’t take out your frustrations on them — that’s a sure way to have your emails and calls greeted with silence in the future.
*Broaden your circle of friends. Career experts advocate forming alliances or groups with others in similar situations — those transitioning out of journalism or looking to start their own businesses, for instance — as they know just what you’re going through and have a built-in incentive to help as they want your help in turn! Ask people to help introduce you to others in your situation or find them through online social networks or community groups. A “silver lining” of job hunting — that can take some of the sting out of silence from people you thought were your friends — is to find people you can rely on going forward.