How To Not Stink At Supporting Someone During Their Job Search

be supportive

One of the things I love the most about what I do is that I get to help people. Really help. Not the “hey, let me know if you need anything” then fall off the face of the earth help that unfortunately they get from a lot of people in their circle ‘help’.   Real help.

After working with people in transition for almost a decade, I hear many stories and a lot of frustration. I am taking it upon myself to be their voice today. I am speaking directly to you: their support system, their network, their friends, family and colleagues.

Here is what you need to know to truly provide support or assistance to them during their job search and things that we all wish you would stop doing.

First Things First

Before you even make a single comment – take a step back and remember this one thing: what they are going through is an end of a relationship. It was a commitment much like a serious relationship or marriage.  The relationship may have stunk, but it was still their relationship.

The ending may have been their idea or they may have been blindsided with divorce papers. The point is it is over and it hurts.  There are emotions tied here so let’s be sensitive about that. No downplaying it with things like, “you are better off without that dirt bag” or “you were too good for her”.  Nope.

Be compassionate and remember there are feelings here. That job may have treated them badly but it was their job and they were vested in some way, even if it was a paycheck. So being kicked to the curb or walking out on a bad thing is very taxing to the emotions, confidence and their spirit.

Be kind, not assumptive.

Start With This

Instead of asking what happened, asked instead “what can I do”. Asking what happened is almost akin to asking for gossip. It also rips open those emotional wounds – see section above for a refresher on the whole emotion thing.

When it comes down to it – does it really matter why? Nope. The point is the relationship is over. No one wants to go through their ordeal over and over again how they were left for a younger version of themselves. Give them a break. The gossipy part is not the important part. The important part is showing your support.

What can I do let’s them know that you are there to help I whatever way you can and you are looking at this as a way to participate in moving forward, not reminiscing about the past over a gallon of Ben and Jerrys….or wine. Whatever the preferred method.

Walk The Talk

If you are going to ask, then be sure to follow through when they ask you for something. If they say they really want to meet someone at a certain company and you know an individual that fits the bill, than make that introduction!

They do not need lip service. That will only pour salt in the emotional wounds. I would say see first section about the whole emotion thing, but it should be sunk in by now.

Find Their Comfort

When making an introduction, ask them how they want to be introduced – in other words – what they want the other person to know about them and how to handle the “available” situation.  Maybe they want to go in a new direction and they would prefer that you focus on those skill sets instead of what they were doing prior to the split.

Give Them A Reason

When introducing people, give them a reason to connect.  Simply sending an e-introduction with “Bill meet Susie, Susie, this is Bill” kills the connection before it even happens. Bill and Susie do not want to feel like sixth graders at their first boy-girl dance pushed together by their parents not knowing what to say to the other.

Give a little background with the info gleaned from the prior section. “Bill, I would like you to meet Susie – she is an absolute wiz at XYZ and someone I think you should definitely have in your network!  Susie, meet Bill, he is the go to person in COMPANY for ABC and has been a great resource for me.” That was totally off the cuff, but you get the drift.

Keep In Touch

It is not your job to follow up with them or harass them to make sure they connected with whom you introduced them to – if they are appreciative and professional, they will do so and let you know.  No, this part is about just dropping a line every now and then to let them know you are still there.

No one likes feeling like they have a mad dash of support than two weeks later it is crickets in their computer. Have a cup of coffee and talk about something else. How ‘bout them Cubs? I saw a great movie the other day, have you ever seen it?

Help them get their mind off the overwhelming task of job searching now and then – it helps, a LOT!

Don’t Squash Their Dreams

If your person says they want to take their career in a whole new direction, or even just veer it a bit, please do not respond with, “you can’t do that” or “why on earth would you want to do that?”. It is their dream, their journey so no negativity from the peanut gallery.

If you don’t get it, just respond with something non-committal like, “that’s nice.” If you want to get it, ask them how that came about, as in “wow, I never thought of that, tell me more”. If you are close with this person and want to help them achieve their dream, then really engage in conversation.

Just make sure when you engage in conversation it is not from a ‘can’t do’ or squashing standpoint, instead ask them to paint you a picture. What skills do they have that align with the dream. If you don’t’ know anything about this dream job, ask them to tell you about it and they maybe you can start seeing some transferable skills. Just come at them from a ‘let me help you build a road map’ stance instead of ‘that’s the dumbest thing I ever heard – you’re going to this as a rebound relationship’ stance.

Know When Enough Is Enough

Sometimes you help people and they become octopuses. One little suction cup gets stuck on you (not wanting to go to a networking event if you aren’t there) and pretty soon a whole tentacle is wrapped around (never wanting to attend any networking event without you, constantly asking for help but not following through on anything you give them.). Next thing you know, you have that big squishy octopus head sucked onto your face and you can’t breathe.

Distance yourself. It is okay to tell them that you have given everything you know to help and right now, just can’t think of anything else. If you are real tight with them and that kind of friend, it is okay to say, ‘look dude, I gave you 10 leads and you did not follow up on one of them. I can’t help you if you don’t want to do anything.’

Don’t let their fear, insecurity or lack of follow through ruin your relationship. You need to be healthy too. Put some distance in there if they are just not moving on. Suggest help. Let them know that you have exhausted all your brain power and maybe it is time they talk to a professional who can help – no, not a relationship guru, a business person.  You know, maybe someone like…..I don’t know, possibly me?

It doesn’t have to be me, there are so many amazing resume writers, brand strategists and career coaches out there that they should talk to a few to get a sense of who is right for them. Just as a side note – if your person is stuck in the angry phase (still blaming the ex or unwilling to move forward) please do not send them to me. I don’t like working with angry people.


It all comes down to this: heaven forbid you ever find yourself in that situation – how would you want someone to help you? How you answer is how you should proceed.  Remember, the Golden Rule has never tarnished.



A little about me: I do what I love: help leaders break out of a suffocating corporate existence and into a position and place that renews their brilliance.

As the Founder and Principle of Career Polish, Inc., a national career personal branding firm, I am an Executive Brand Strategist, Resume Writer and Career Coach. I work with individual clients, companies, leadership and teams to identify, strengthen and effectively communicate their brand, engagement, commitment and most importantly – their value – by learning and leveraging personal branding as applied to LinkedIn, resumes, networking, communication, relationship management, presence and influence.

Click here – – to find out more about how we can help you.

To get all my latest articles, click the “Yes Please!” button on the right


Leave a Reply