If you’ve ever been between jobs you’ve experienced it. The call that never comes. The email or text that never gets a response. The silence from former colleagues, people that perhaps you even considered friends.
Unfortunately, with so many people looking for work this silence is a daily reality. It can be one of the more painful parts of the job search process. I’ve experienced this myself over the years from both sides. I know what it feels like not to hear from people and, if I’m being honest, there are plenty of times when I’ve failed to reach out myself.
Last week I published a piece about measuring success based on a conversation with a friend who recently lost his job. He was heartened and inspired by a kind email sent from a former colleague. It led to a discussion about the people you never hear from; how it feels when the ones you thought you were close with, the people who perhaps you got promoted or helped advance their career seemingly turn their backs.
The comment you’ll hear most often from people living this is, “it’s during times like these that you find out who your friends are.” No doubt there’s a lot of truth in that statement. However I was fortunate to be exposed to a different point of view. Many years ago I got some great advice from a very successful media executive who experienced this when he lost a job earlier in his career. “In the end, Fred, it’s just information,” he said. “Do what you do with other information, process it, learn from it, and move on.” Basically his message was don’t judge and don’t dwell.
Over the years I’ve found this advice very useful. When one loses a job, it is a crisis. Solving it becomes an almost all-consuming task. But the reality is, even our closest friends have their own lives, with their own problems to solve. They may not seem as important as finding a job, but they are important to those people. So while it’s not wrong to want or expect support from former colleagues, we should caution ourselves not to judge too harshly. They very well could have their hands full with their own issues. Often there are mitigating circumstances.
Having said that, it wouldn’t hurt those of us who are currently employed to give more attention to those looking. My guess is all of us know at least one person in this situation. It doesn’t take much. A simple email or text, just to say hi or share an article can make a huge difference. Not only is it the decent and generous thing to do, it’s also an important networking exercise. As I’ve written before, this business is a revolving door, everyone eventually ends up on both sides of the desk. Someday the person looking could be the one who gives you a leg up when you need it.
Maya Angelou said it best, “…people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Remember, for the job searcher, silence never feels good.