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5 ways to support your friend while they’re unemployed

Tips for having helpful conversations with your unemployed friends and family.

Written by Úna-Minh Kavanagh | View this authors Twitter page and posted in opinion

This is an opinion of a young person and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of It is one person's experience and may be different for you. If you'd like to write something for please contact

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Unemployment can be debilitating, it can question your self-worth and your ability to perform as a person. For those who haven’t gone through it yet, you are quite fortunate.

To me, being a good friend to someone who’s going through this difficult time in their lives is one of the greatest gifts you can give but often we don’t know how to approach it for fear we may say the wrong thing or come across as nagging.

Based on my experience of watching myself and friends go through unemployment, here are a few suggestions on how to support a friend who is searching for a job:

Avoid asking that question

“How’s the job hunt going?” “Anything on the horizon?”
Though often well-meaning, these are probably the hardest questions to be asked when you’re unemployed. For those who genuinely are looking for work and are actively applying and putting effort into cover letters and CV, we don’t really want to be asked them. It’s difficult to keep our spirits up when suddenly unemployment apparently defines us.

Treat the person exactly the same way as you would if they were employed

Remember that there are real reasons that you both are friends. You probably bonded over similar interests and though maybe the job hunt is a big part of your friend’s life at the moment, it shouldn’t be the only thing you can talk about. Keep the conversations as you normally would. There’s nothing worse than feeling pressure from your family and friends.

Really be there

You don’t even have to mention “unemployment”. By simply saying that you’re actually there for the person should they need someone to listen to or to have a chat with could mean the world to another. If they vent or cry, let them. Many people feel ashamed of their situation and often see themselves as a burden to others when they’re job hunting and will avoid social situations at all costs. Don’t wait for them to call you.

Reward steps forward

Rather than be critical or nagging, focus on supporting your friend during this time. If they tell you that they applied for jobs or made calls out to employers, emphasise that it was great that they did so, but be genuine.

That being said, go easy on the pity

Learn to listen and let your friend initiate the conversation on unemployment, if and when they decide to bring it up as an issue. Be sensitive that your friend may not be able to head on nights out anymore or an expensive meal but don’t point it out, no one likes to feel like a victim on a daily basis.
The longer you’re unemployed, the harder it is to maintain a positive outlook and self-image. Include your friend in your life as you normally would. They’re probably in need of someone who still believes in them. Be that person.

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Published March 31st2015
Tags unemployment mental health
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