I recently found myself jobless after being laid off from my company. While my partner and I aren’t immediately concerned with the layoff because of the severance pay and our savings, some friends and family are and are quite vocal about me finding a new job right now. How do I get them to back off without being an asshole?
First, I hope that you’re doing okay. A job loss — even if you get some compensation, and even if you didn’t particularly love the job — is still a loss, and requires some grieving time if possible. And if you loved the job, that’s even worse.
Thankfully you and your partner are lucky enough to be in a position where you aren’t overly concerned, but I want to acknowledge this isn’t the case for many people who are let go. In fact, half of U.S. families live paycheck to paycheck, so the unwarranted advice may be even more stressful for them, as they are quite aware of their precarious state. Constantly being asked ‘did you find a job yet’ doesn’t help.
That said, I’m willing to bet that your friends and family do have genuinely good intentions. They care about you and want you to be alright. Of course, considering you’re still likely under some stress (even if your finances are all in order), it’s a bit unfair of them to project their concerns onto you and essentially force you to do the emotional labor of making sure they know you’re okay, even as you’ve repeatedly tried to do so.
My response below is split, as I think that your approach to friends and to family might need to vary some.
If they live near you and/or work in the same field as you, friends may be your best connection to a new position. The number varies (as does the quality of the survey methodology), but some suggest that between 70% and 85% of jobs are filled via networking connections. So while it may be annoying at times — especially if you’ve just been let go and are still processing what it means — if your friends are offering connections in addition to their concern, it might be good to at least hear them out.
Of course, if you’re not interested in their assistance, or if they position they want to connect you with is not what you’re looking for, it’s fine to say something along the lines of “Thank you! That doesn’t sound like a good fit, but I really appreciate you thinking of me.” If they keep sharing jobs opportunities that aren’t great, just keep responding in a similar manner. At some point they’ll stop offering.
If they aren’t offering any positions but offer up advice unsolicited, it’s fine to say “thank you” and then shift the conversation. One idea is to say “Thank you. I’m working on it. How’s your job? Weren’t you starting a big project?” People like to talk about themselves, so hopefully this will give you a break. However, I only suggest using this with friends you aren’t close with, because you don’t need to get into it with them.
If these are your very close friends, I think it’s a good idea to share your feelings. Something like “I appreciate you asking – it’s a weird / hard / interesting time right now, but I spend all day looking for work and applying to jobs, so when we hang out I’d love it if, at least for now, we could not talk about it.”
This should go for any topic, like a break-up, or fertility issues, or family troubles. Sure, you might be interested in a quality venting session, and it’s a bit silly to think that your friends won’t be interested in helping out when you’re going through a major life event. But they should also recognize that you might just be looking for an evening out with the girls where you just talk about how amazing Wonder Woman was.
These close friends will still likely ask you how its going when you see them, but hopefully will now understand that you’re usually looking for a break from talking about it, and they shouldn’t take offense to that.
This can be a bit harder, because usually family knows just how to get on our nerves. I don’t know what it is, but the same exact question asked by a close relative might elicit a totally different response than if a friend asked me. Plus, family (well, close family) likely feel some sense of responsibility for your well-being. Especially they type of parents who have been actively involved in your life thus far.
If you see your family regularly and they live near by, they might offer up advice similar to what your friends offer, although their leads might be wildly inappropriate. Thanking them for their offer but telling them that you’re working on other leads at the moment should be sufficient.
Questions from family might be more likely to be invasive as well. Parents might want details about your finances, or try to suggest that you’re stressing out your partner. They may have decades of experience in cutting right to what will bother you the most. In those instances especially it can be very hard to keep cool.
However, as you probably don’t want to add ‘fight with mother’ to your list of stressors just now, I suggest repetition and reassurance.
Repetition: Whenever they ask how things are going, say “I’m working on some leads, thanks for asking, but I’m a bit tired of thinking about it just now. How are you?” If they won’t let it go, try “I spend so much time applying for and interviewing for jobs these days, it’s great to have a break to catch up with you.” If they pull the “I’m just concerned” manipulation in an attempt for more details, I suggest “I appreciate that, but there is not cause for you to be concerned right now.”
Reassurance: Whenever possible, remind them that you will let them know if there is any news, and that you know they care, so they don’t need to ask about it repeatedly. Something like “If I have an offer, or if my circumstances change, I will definitely let you know.” And then do that. Share when you get a job. If you’ve talked about an interview that’s coming up, let them know the outcome. Then you’re providing information you want to share, and keeping them informed on your terms.
Recognize that while your friends and family are (hopefully) coming from a good place, not everyone has a good relationship with money and so can’t imagine having any time without work. This could be because of luck (good or bad), or perhaps they didn’t handle finances well and are concerned you’ll be in the same position. This push to get you to find a new job right this second may not be about you, but about how they think they’d feel if they were in your position. And that’s not something you can change, so try not let it get to you.