Dear Family: Thanks, but no thanks, for your help in my job search.
Posted by Molly Wendell // in Job Search
This is an open letter to all of the wives, husbands, boyfriends, girlfriends, siblings, parents, grandparents, in-laws, children and any other relative of someone who’s in the job search.
I’ve got news for you! You’re not helping!!
It’s hard enough to be looking for a job. I’m the one with the pressure of finding the right thing. I’m the one who has that inner turmoil of going after the same old position, knowing full well I’m doing it just to make you happy. I’m the one who wakes up every day knowing I still don’t have a job. I’m the one who has to put up with your constant reminders of what I already know. Being out of work is not easy. And you don’t make it any easier by getting involved in my job search.
Here’s how you get involved:
The constant nagging. The questions. How many resumes did you send out today? Did you get any calls today? Did you get any interviews today? Did you get any job offers today?
No. No. No. No. And you know what? If I got any of those today, guess who’d be the first person I would tell. That’s right, you. I would be so excited that I’d share the news with you personally. Without delay!
The guilt-ridden statements. “Don’t you need to be online looking for a job?” “Shouldn’t you make some calls instead of watching SportsCenter all day?” “Daddy, we liked it better when you were working.” Guess what, kids, so did I. So did I. But right now, I’m going to appreciate the fact that I get to spend just a little more time with you.
The opportunities you find for me. I often see people get involved in their spouse’s job search. And I mean get involved. Sometimes, it comes in the form of the want-ads with a few positions highlighted. Sometimes, it’s a dinner you schedule, so I can meet “Pat’s spouse – the one who just got promoted to COO.” Sometimes it’s asking all of your friends – and sometimes perfect strangers – if they can help with my job search. What you’re telling everyone is that I’m incompetent. You don’t realize it, but you really are. Please stop!
You come with me to networking functions. This is different than a function where it’s normal to bring your spouse. This is the type where people go straight from work (or during work) and virtually no one is with their spouse or significant other, except you. It always pains me to see a couple show up at a networking function together. Because, the reality is, you all act differently when your spouse is not around. You’re not as fun. You’re not as interesting. You’re not as lively. Save us all and leave the better half at home!
I met a woman at one of these functions about a year ago. Her husband had been in the job search for eight months. She was going nuts. (He probably was too, I thought.) When she heard that I worked with people in the job search, she immediately said “You have to help my husband find a job.” I told her about the Executives Network meeting. She asked if I thought she should bring him to one. I told her no. Don’t bring him to it. Let him go on his own. On his first day at work, are you going to escort him to work and set up his office?
My advice to all of you who have a family member in the job search. M Y O B! That’s right. Mind Your Own Business!
But, you say, it’s our family – it IS my business. It’s our livelihood. It’s affecting the rest of us. Yes, I know it is. But it’s going to affect you to an even greater degree if you’re so difficult to live with that they decide it’s better to live without you.
This job search thing is temporary. Trust me. It’s temporary. It may be lasting longer than you expect. It may be lasting longer than they expect. But let’s hope your relationship is not the temporary kind. Setbacks like this truly test your relationship. If you can’t get through something like this, good luck with the hard stuff, like a major illness.
Here’s what you need to do:
Back off. Let me do my job search in peace. Let me have my own working environment at home – without distraction – no dog, no kids, no company. Just because I’m home during the days – working on my job search – doesn’t mean I’m available to do all of the household tasks. In fact, if you want me to do all of those, don’t expect me to get a job anytime soon.
Be supportive. When I want to attend a networking function in the evening, let me go peacefully without including the guilt trip. Better yet, plan your own night out so I don’t have an excuse to sit at home with you.
I remember talking to Ted about a function. I asked him if he planned to attend. It was a great opportunity to meet all of the people he needed to know for his search. But Ted couldn’t go. He had plans with his wife to have dinner. The same wife he had dinner with yesterday, and they day before, and the day before. And probably the same one he’ll have dinner with tomorrow. Ted’s an idiot. This was THE place. This was THE function. And no offense to Ted’s wife, whom I’m certain must be a terrific person, but you ruined it! And you wonder why Ted’s still looking?
Do your thing. Live your life as if we’re not in this situation – with one exception. Watch the expenses. Help me by adjusting your lifestyle too. Financial stress stands alone as the number one challenge with job search (obviously, right!). Don’t add to it by continuing to go through life as if our financial situation hasn’t changed.
And here’s what I need to do:
I will treat my job search like a job. That means I’ll have a plan of attack. I may not have been so assertive before, but I will be now. I’ll determine my focus, do my research and figure out with whom I need to meet. Each week I will determine what I need to do to advance the ball for my search. I will hold myself accountable.
I will look for opportunities that enable me to be a more active participant in the family. I’ll work at my daughter’s school – and help out in her kindergarten class once a week. And if all they have me do is stand in the office and make copies – without having interaction with my daughter or any other adults – I probably won’t go back. I’ll volunteer to assist coaching their sports teams – or drive them to their debate team match (and while I’m there, I’ll network with the other parents).
I will proactively give you an update. This could be in the form of a monthly meeting or a simple, “Hey, here’s where I’m at on the job front.” I know that you need this information to make you feel like something’s happening.
I will evaluate any potential offers carefully. Just because I get an offer doesn’t mean I’m going to take it. If I decide it’s not a great fit, please don’t try to convince me otherwise. But know that I will be very open to the opportunities and ensure it works for us as a family.
I once got an offer to run marketing for a technology firm. It was a small firm – and I was the silver bullet that would save the company. This coveted offer came in 1 ½ years into my job search. The pay was about 40% less than I had made previously. My family said “Take it!” But I didn’t. I couldn’t. How motivated would I be going to a job every day feeling like they weren’t paying me what I was worth? I wasn’t 100% confident the company was even going to survive. As it turns out, they went out of business soon after. I would have invested a lot of time and energy only to find myself exactly where I was – right in the middle of another job search.
A couple of months later, I ended up taking a job that paid less than a third of what I used to make. But it also came with the opportunity to make significantly more than I had ever made. See, it wasn’t about the money. It was about finding the right fit.
We all know it’s frustrating to stand on the sidelines and watch someone go through a challenging job search. But being an armchair quarterback is not going to help win any games or popularity contests. It’s only going to create additional stress, frustration and resentment. Let’s make a pact. Let’s let me be an adult and take my job search seriously – with a plan and accountability. And let’s let you go back to focusing on your responsibilities. And know that once this is over, we’re going to celebrate in a big way!! And we’re going to appreciate that next job just a little bit more!