Knowing what to say and do when a friend loses their job or hits a financial rough spot is a challenge.
You want to help, but have no idea where to begin. You also don’t want to stick your foot in your mouth or give bad advice and make the situation worse.
Here are some easy-to-remember rules for helping a friend who’s unemployed.
Don’t be an ATM. Let’s get this out of the way first: If you care about your friendship you should never, ever loan a friend money. You should also never give them money hoping (and maybe even secretly expecting) that you’ll be paid back. This may never happen. Assume that anything you help them with, from buying them a beer to a small sack of groceries, is a gift. But don’t worry—the karma gods will reward you someday.
Be a good listener. What your friend will need most right now is an ear but don’t give her the silent treatment. Financial problems can cause a lot of stress, and your friend may be moody, negative, or emotional. Recognize her need to vent and be prepared to listen for as long as necessary. Don’t try to sugarcoat the situation and blindly assure her everything will be okay—this can seem patronizing. Just keep your mouth shut and your ears wide open.
Get creative. Think of easy ways you can help your friend in need without stressing yourself out or making it seem like you feel sorry for them. Start a carpool, or suggest a girl’s night in with cheap beer and movies instead of an expensive evening out. Next time you bake, wrap a few extras up for her she’ll appreciate a delicious treat, especially if chocolate or breakfasts out have been cut from the budget.
Offer advice… maybe. This rule comes with a big fat “Be Careful” sign attached. It isn’t your job to fix your friend’s troubles. That said, if you have an area of expertise that could be helpful, you can offer advice if it seems appropriate. If you’re a financial wizard, offer to help set up a budget spreadsheet. If she eats out a ton, share your favorite easy recipes. If she’s incapable of buying anything but designer labels, clue her in to your favorite low-end fashion haunts. If you choose to offer advice (and she accepts it!), keep the tone positive. Reassure her that she’s wildly talented and capable of dealing with whatever life throws at her.
Spread the word. If your friend defaulted on a loan she probably wouldn’t want you sharing that info with everyone you know. But if she lost a job, she might appreciate any free PR she can get. Offer to keep your eyes and ears open for new opportunities. Help her make connections, prep for an interview, and rework her resume. Remind her that rough spots are often a great opportunity to make big changes. If she’s been thinking about making a career shift or trying something new, now could be just the time to do it.