Practical tips for supporting a friend after a layoff
It was a mild winter morning. Tina was adding the final touches to her six-year-old daughter’s braids and getting her ready for school when she heard her mother holler that the school bus had arrived. She ambled over, her breath short and feet heavy. These days moving around seemed a herculean task, with the delivery of her baby just two weeks away.
An hour later she reached the office, turned on her computer and, slowly walked toward the vending machine for her morning coffee. The canteen area was packed. She saw distraught faces and felt a sense of impending gloom. The news hit home; 30 team members in the tech company she was employed as a programmer, were given the golden handshake.
She was a part of the 30. The boom, the organisation experienced in the lockdown years, busted and the company had no choice but to downsize. From thereon, life turned topsy turvy for Tina.
She almost fainted with the news and a senior colleague offered to drop her off at home. Her mother was surprised to see her so early as was her husband, Roy. She rushed into their arms and sobbed, uncontrollably. She had lost her job and with that her identity and ability to provide for her growing family.
Losing a job can be one of the most devastating experiences for anyone, and it can be difficult to know how to comfort someone who has recently been laid off.
As a friend or family member, you may not know what and how to give solace or help. However, with a little bit of empathy and understanding, you can be a great support to them, during this tough time.
Be there for them, emotionally
Losing a job can feel like a loss and it is important to give your friend the space and time they need to cope with their feelings. Let them know that you will be there for them no matter what they are feeling and that you care about what they are going through. Listen to them without judgment and offer words of encouragement and support. Sometimes, just having someone to talk to can make a huge difference.
It is equally important to understand their feelings. They may go through emotions of sadness, helplessness, anger, and frustration. Try not to dismiss these feelings or tell them to "cheer up" or “be positive”. Instead, validate their emotions and let them know that it is okay to feel this way.
Another way you can help them is by offering practical assistance. This can include help with job searching, reviewing their resumes or connecting them with potential employers or consultants and, even helping them prepare for interviews.
It's also helpful to remind them that they are not alone and that many people go through job loss at some point in their lives. Share any positive stories you know of people who have been laid off and went on to find even better job opportunities. Help them to see the bigger picture and to keep things in perspective. Importantly, remind them that this is a temporary setback.
Help your friend take care of themselves
Losing a job can be stressful and can take a toll on a person's mental and physical health. Encourage them to take time for themselves, to exercise, and to eat well. Suggest activities that can help them relax and de-stress, such as yoga, meditation, or even just going for a walk.
It is important to also remind them that they are not defined by their job. Encourage them to take some time for themselves, pursue hobbies and interests, and focus on self-love and self-growth. This can help them to feel more in control of their situation and can also serve as a good distraction from their job loss.
You may want to help encourage their network, get active on LinkedIn, and check in with them from time to time.
Your absence is the worst thing for someone you care about, who has been laid off. Do not let them battle this alone. I have been down a similar road as Tina and was fortunate to have friends and well-wishers who stood by me through it all. Some helped me with connections, some guided me in rewriting my resume, and some didn’t do anything but were there through all my meltdowns. Most of all, they believed in me and helped me believe in myself. Just doing that is enough, too.
To those who have been laid off, hang in there. It is not the end of the world. Like every other low phase of life, you will bounce back harder and stronger! The positive energies of those who care for you, will morph any feelings of doubt and play victim into a winner. Make way for the comeback and script your victory story!