How to Help Someone in Job Transition

Do you have a friend or colleague in between jobs? Here are 6 suggestions for how you can help:

  1. Don’t avoid the person or the topic. Broaching the subject of your friend’s job transition may be uncomfortable – especially if the person was asked to leave. But just because you may not know what to say doesn’t mean you can’t be supportive or helpful.
  2. Don’t ask about the details; ask how you can help. Resist the urge to ask about the details of why she left the job – particularly if you suspect it wasn’t her choice. She will tell you if she wants to tell you. Instead ask, “How are you doing?” “How are you feeling about what’s next?” “How can I help?”
  3. Demonstrate empathy. If the person was let go, he is likely experiencing a loss. He may need time and space to go through the grieving process – shock, denial, bargaining, anger, depression and acceptance – more than he needs your advice. Listen and show empathy for where he is emotionally before you suggest he should apply for the cool new job you heard about recently.
  4. Offer your network and connections. Ask for the names or types of companies where she would like to work. You may know someone at a company she named and be able to recommend her. Or you may know someone else with whom she should connect. Share your network where you can.
  5. Give professional referrals. In some instances, your friend or colleague may be extra depressed or anxious and need professional help from a trained counselor. Or he may benefit from a career coach or outplacement firm to clarify his ideal next role, polish his resume, practice interviewing skills and strategically network. Ask if he’s checked out these resources, along with the many networking groups, professional associations and web-based reading and exercises available.
  6. Stay connected. Check in with the person throughout the transition. She may need your support now more than ever. And don’t make your conversations all about the job search. People are more than the jobs they hold, and they sometimes need to be reminded.

Be there for your friends and colleagues during a career transition and not only will they appreciate your help, but it will strengthen your relationships over the longer term.

Joe Baker is a Partner with PeopleResults and an executive coach and leadership consultant. He serves on the Board of Executive Leaders in Transition Exchange (ELITE), a Chicago-based non-profit organization that helps senior HR and finance leaders find jobs through networking.  Contact him at or on Twitter @JoeBakerJr.