In today's tight economy, it's unusual if you don't know someone who is out of work and looking for a job -- and the upcoming holidays make the situation even more difficult. To brighten the holidays for these friends or family members, here are seven special gifts you can give, and they don't cost you a dime, according to Maria Persico, president of Career Management Consultants / Career Partners International - Harrisburg.
"This year has been incredibly difficult for those in the job market - we hear stories of individuals waiting months for companies to make a hiring decision while others struggle just to secure an interview," said Persico, who got the idea from one of her clients, a senior insurance executive who said the number one thing he wanted from his friends and family was a simple phone call. "My clients will often comment that they feel isolated. One of them said to me recently, 'Not only are companies not calling; my friends aren't calling either.'"
Persico was prompted to think of additional gifts that would be equally meaningful and important to job-seekers. "Although gift-giving is certainly highest on our lists during the holidays," she said, "I would certainly recommend keeping it out as a year-long reminder of the simple things we can do when a friend or loved one is looking for a new job."
1. A Phone Call
You don't have to be a job-search expert to reach out to your friends. You can simply say: "I just want you to know I have been thinking about you." Especially at the very beginning, when you've just learned that someone has lost a job, you can say something like: "Joe, I'm sorry to learn you got caught up in the changes at the XYZ Company. I heard that they let a lot of good people go." If you know the person professionally, you can add: "I appreciate the relationship we've had over the years and really respect your work."
2. An Attentive Ear
Although bestowing this gift takes a lot of patience on your part, just doing a lot of listening and allowing the person to vent will be of great assistance. But questions have to be asked sensitively. One client commented that during a recent social gathering, some people asked his wife, "How is he doing?" "Has he found anything yet?" No wonder he felt isolated again. You don't have to have a job lead, or a contact or a solution to honestly ask a friend, "How are things going?" and have the courage to listen and be supportive.
3. A Networking Contact
It's estimated that every person knows approximately 200 people. Think of just one person who could be a good contact for your friend. Perhaps you know someone who has just finished a job
search, and is willing to meet with your friend and talk about his/her strategies and what worked well. Or, you might offer a contact that has firsthand knowledge of a specific company of interest to your friend.
4. A Little Positive Feedback
You don't need to have a special training to give positive feedback. Listen carefully and point out the positive things the person is trying to do to get a job. Be sincere and natural. Never offer any criticism, unless it is strictly constructive. (See gift #5)
5. A Tactful Suggestion
If your friend isn't job searching effectively, tactfully suggest different approaches. Sometimes people get used to not having a schedule and put in very few hours into the search. You might emphasize the common wisdom that looking for a job is a full-time job. A good question can be, "How many hours a day are you putting into your search?" Always being supportive, suggest an increase in hours, especially after the holidays — when companies will be doing more hiring.
6. An Invitation
Invite a friend to a business expo or other gathering where he or she might make contacts that would be good leads to future positions. Or extend an invitation to a social get-together, such as a reception, party, cup of coffee, etc. We're all busy, and sometimes making ourselves available is difficult. That's when flexibility comes into play. I have taken long walks on Saturday mornings to be with friends I could not meet otherwise.
7. A Bit of Humor
There's nothing like a good laugh to turn a situation around — or at least lighten it up.
Above all, when we give of ourselves to others, life becomes much more enjoyable.
Maria Persico is president of Career Management Consultants, an outplacement and career management firm and the Career Partners International – Harrisburg firm