Reach out to jobless friends, colleagues

Posted April 19, 2009, at 6:46 p.m.

It’s one thing to get fired because you’ve done a lousy job at work. It is quite another to get the ax through no fault of your own. Psychologists tell us that for some, to become suddenly unemployed is like facing the death of a loved one, triggering feelings of anger, grief and despair.

Another signature emotion of this particular recession is one of survivor’s guilt. Why were you spared when so many others got the boot? All of these emotions have one thing in common: They can cause us to withdraw and become emotionally isolated.

More than likely, you have friends and former colleagues now staring unemployment in the face. Your first impulse might be to do or say nothing because you don’t want to do or say the wrong thing, but there is plenty you can do to help:

• Stay in touch. An e-mail or phone call once a week lets these friends know they are not forgotten. Let them know you care. Don’t start off with a bunch of questions, but don’t come off as condescending, either. Don’t say you know how they feel if you never have been where they are. Instead, offer your services, no matter how small. Can you help create online profiles, personal Web sites or Facebook pages for your friends?

• Space. Is there a spare desk where you work? Perhaps, with permission, you could offer this as a place for your friend to go each morning to prepare resumes, use the copier, and feel as if he or she has a place to go, at least for a few hours.

• Network. Personal introductions and connections are the best way to land a new job. Offer your network to friends and colleagues who are feeling as if they’ve become disconnected.

• Help at home. Unemployment can upset a household in ways you might not have considered. If your friends have children, offer to take the children for a weekend to give the emotionally spent parents some time off to regroup. The family’s previous day care routine may have been upset when that job said goodbye. If possible, offer child care on a weekday, because that’s the best time for them to make calls and attend meetings and interviews.

• Comfort food. Invite your friends over for a casual home-cooked meal. You don’t have to go fancy. In fact, it’s probably best that you don’t. Meatloaf, macaroni and cheese, or any other simple, comforting menu items will make your friends feel cared for. There will be time to celebrate later with a fancy gourmet meal.

Now is the time for all of us to reach out and help one another. Don’t let friends, family members and colleagues who are unemployed feel that they have been discarded. Just imagine the strength in our numbers if everyone reading this right now were to reach out and become an encourager. We all will be stronger if we stand together. That’s the only way we’ll get through these difficult days prepared and ready to face much better days ahead.

Mary Hunt is founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com and author of 18 books, including “Debt-Proof Living.” You may send her e-mail her at mary@everydaycheapskate.com, or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2135, Paramount, Calif. 90723.

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