Saturday, September 30, 2023

“So, What’s Next?” What Not to Ask Your Friend Who Has Just Lost Their Job

“Woah, just saw about your job!! What are you going to do now??”

A mere three hours had ticked by since I’d lost my job, and I’d thought the answer to this text message would be rather obvious – particularly given that my industry had just imploded and we were in the middle of a pandemic lockdown. Read: Not. A. Bloody. Lot. Thanks.

Yet still, in the hours, days and weeks that passed the messages continued to roll in. “Heck. What’s next for you?” “Gosh, what will you do?” “Do you have anything lined up?” “Got a new job?” “What are you doing for work now?” “I don’t know how you’re coping. I’d be losing my mind if I were you right now.” And possibly my favourite: “Oops! Your answer phone message still has your old job on it! Might want to change that! [cry laughing emoji].” I’d like to note that it had been less than 24 hours.

In the wake of being made redundant my inbox saw it all – the complete breadth of human emotions and sensitivities.

But sadly, with our unemployment rate on the rise, and more and more Kiwis finding themselves on the wrong end of a Zoom of Doom call, I know my situation is not unique. So what should we be saying to our friends, family and colleagues who’ve lost their jobs? Having seen a good few examples of what to and what not to say, I’d like to pass on a few tips.

Think, then speak

Please don’t ask what they’re going to do. I can assure you that as your brain tries to come to grips what has happened, it’s that very question that continues to roll around in your head – sometimes rather loudly and hysterically. Don’t add to that noise, please.

Let them know about their abilities and strengths and how when they’re ready, there will be a great job out there for them. Just try not to put too much pressure on. “I can’t wait to see what you do next!” is a lovely text, but it can also feel like a lot of pressure when you’re feeling a bit out of control about your future. My favourite messages were ones that said, “I hope you’re giving yourself a chance to lay low and take a break right now – there’s no rush, but I know bright things are ahead for you.”

It’s okay to be lost for words, but it’s not okay to say nothing at all. Make sure you still reach out if the person is close to you. I cherished the messages that simply said, “I’m absolutely lost for words, but please know that I am thinking of you.”

Do share your experiences. Among the best messages I received were ones that let me know I wasn’t the first person this ever happened to, and positive outcomes could very well be laying just ahead of me. Many were along the lines of, “I’m so sorry to hear the news. I hope you don’t mind me sharing, but I got made redundant five years ago and it was devastating, but it led me to finding my passion. My job is so much more fulfilling now than it was back then.”

Do unto others…

Don’t be a grief tourist. Now is not the time to reach out and reconnect to someone you haven’t seen in forever and pepper them with questions. It’s 100% definitely not the time to send your ex from a decade ago, a Facebook request. Please just leave them alone.

If it does seem appropriate to get in touch with the former colleague/acquaintance, keep it simple and kind – don’t pose questions that make them feel they have to respond to you. And only ask how they’re feeling if you’re genuinely interested in engaging, and prepared to send back another response when they tell you about the emotions they’re feeling,

Don’t use this time to unload on the person who has just lost their job about how hard you are working right now, how little you’re actually having to work right now or how easy your job is. Talk to your other friends about that for a while.

Just be kind, folks.

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