No one likes to talk about their job search, especially when they’re not making much headway, which is unfortunately the case for most unemployed professionals these days. But talking about your job search with your immediate family can be particularly frustrating. After all, they’re the ones who have the most to gain or lose from it.
Several of the unemployed IT executives interviewed for the story, Can You Survive Unemployment, said that they didn’t like talking about their job searches with their families because their efforts weren’t going well. Plus, they didn’t want to worry their families any more than they already were.
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Another reason they didn’t want to discuss their job searches with their families was because ‘fessing up to the fact that they weren’t getting anywhere made them feel even worse about themselves. They already felt inadequate because unemployment robbed them of their ability to provide for the material well-being of their families. Not making progress in their job searches—and having to share that with their families—exacerbated their feelings of failure and incompetence. Consequently, many just stopped talking about their job searches with their spouses.
The IT executives’ partners (most of whom are women) generally reacted in one of two ways: Either they asked their husbands every day how their job search was going, or they didn’t ask at all. Neither reaction is ideal, say career coaches.
“If your significant other is constantly asking, What have you done today? Are you getting out there?, it makes you feel like you’re being judged, like you’re not doing enough,” says Michael Thompson, an executive coach and career counselor. “That becomes more destructive than not getting a job or an interview because it sets up a cycle of more yelling, more judgment and more negativity.”
Yet job seekers need to take it upon themselves to communicate with their families, says Lisa Caldas Kappesser, a career coach and author of The Smart New Way to Get Hired: Use Emotional Intelligence and Land the Right Job (JIST 2010).
“Communication is so important,” she says. “Letting each other know what you’re doing and how your job search is going will help you gain your family’s support and help them understand what’s going on.”
Kappesser advises newly unemployed professionals to set expectations with their families about their job search early on. Let them know that, with the economy still so uncertain and unemployment still so high, finding a new job may take a year or more. You don’t want to scare them, but you need to be realistic. Reassure them that you’ll do everything in your power to land a new job ASAP.
Tell your family that you want to be strategic about your job search and that before sending out any resumes, you may need to spend several weeks up front figuring out what you want to do next, how to brand yourself, and where you need to network, says Kappesser. Share with your family articles that explain how to conduct a job search in a recession (such as Job Search Strategies: Targeting Done Right) so that they can trust that you’re following a sound job-search strategy.
If you have kids, says Kappesser, you’ll have to explain to them that even though you’re now home most of the day, your new job is your job search and they should try not to interrupt you when you’re on the phone. Depending on your family’s needs, you may or may not be able to get out of certain household or childcare duties to focus on your job search during the day, especially if your spouse works fulltime.
Some IT executives don’t want to be bothered with household chores; they just want to focus on their job search. Others want to balance looking for a new job with housework and childcare so that they can relieve some pressure off of a working spouse. Make sure you work this out with your family before it becomes a problem.
For those of you who’ve been out of work for several months, it’s never too late to start discussing your job search with your family. You can talk about the leads you uncovered and the calls you made during the day at dinner time, or you can set aside time on a weekend to review what you did during the prior week with your spouse or family.
Kappesser recommends keeping a job search journal so that you can see what tangible steps you’ve taken every single day. It’ll help you feel better about yourself and your job search. It will also help you communicate what you’re doing to your family, she says.
As hard as it may be, sharing the measures you’re taking in your job search with your family will ease stress and strain for everyone.
Follow Meridith Levinson on Twitter at @meridith.