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Home > Audio, Podcast, Show > When a friend is laid off

When a friend is laid off

December 14th, 2008

Lend your ears and your network when a friend suffers a layoff

Career Opportunities podcast logoWhen a friend is laid off
By Douglas E. Welch

Listen: When a friend is laid off


Within the next several months there will be few of us who will not be effected by layoffs in some way. While we might retain our own jobs it seems certain that someone we know will lose theirs. In my case, I already know of 1 close friend who was laid off after more than 15 years of work for the same company.

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When someone is laid off, there are a myriad of emotions that surround them. They might feel shame, anger, apathy, sadness and much more. This often leaves those around them struggling for what to say or what to do. Common phrases of support can sound distinctly hollow and might even be taken with offense. That said, these people need us, their friends, for support and assistance in accepting the loss of one job — and in getting the next. I have found over the years some of the best ways to support your friends no matter what they may be feeling…


The first, and most important, thing you can do for anyone is simply to listen. They might want to vent. They might want to ask advice. They may want to rail against people they blame for their problems. It doesn’t really matter, because all you are going to do is listen and nod your head. Whenever we suffer a setback we need to absorb what has happended before we can start to develop new plans for the future. A sympathetic ear is often the first thing we need. If you look back on your own setbacks I am sure you can remember the person who put up with your complaining and whining while you worked through it all. Do the same for your friends.

Avoid giving advice or telling them what they have to do next. They simply aren’t ready for that type of discussion yet. They probably already feel lost and having you point out their lack of options is not going to make them feel any better. If they ask for advice, cautiously give it. In many cases, people don’t want your advice, they just want you to agree with them. You’ll have to figure out which they want.

A kick in the seat

This mourning period can sometimes go on for a week or so – and can last longer if, as it often happens, the layoff occurred near the holidays, but if your friend continues down the road of anger and self-pity for longer than feels right, some “tough love” might be in order. For me, power is found in action so the way I move forward from a setback is to take some action, no matter how small, to get myself moving again. Sometimes we all need someone who is willing to give us a kick in the seat to get moving again and you might be called on to perform that role. Again, try to gauge where your friends are in the mourning process and wait until they need a dose of reality to put them back on the path to productivity.

Offer your network

Finally, one of the most concrete actions you can take for your friend is to offer up your network to them. Help your friend create an email note explaining the work they do and the work they would like to do. Once this is refined, offer to send it to your network of both strong and loose tie connections. While your friend might know some of these people through you, they will likely be introduced to others for the first time. If your friend has several of their friends working for them in this way, their job prospects increase dramatically.

You always want to use these networks when searching for a new job above and beyond the typical resume and want ad path. Connections, even lose connections will always trump the “cold call”. You will be directly contacting the people with the need and authority to hire you instead of slogging through HR with everyone else using the traditional methods.

Whether you are helping a friend or have been laid off yourself, listening and helping are always the best first steps to moving on with your career. Help others, help yourself and you’ll find yourself on the road to a new job and an even better career.

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