Whether your area is starting to cautiously reopen for business or not, it’s clear that layoffs will continue to ripple through for a while to come. Chances are, you know someone who has been laid off due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Whether it’s someone close to you, or a casual passing acquaintance, it can be hard to know what to say or do – especially if you are feeling guilty for still working.
When connecting to peers, colleagues or friends who have been laid off, there are 3 keywords that should guide your communications with them:
- Sympathy: If someone has just lost their job, they may not be ready to “get back on the horse”. Be prepared to give them space to be upset without reaching for immediate solutions. Acknowledge and affirm their pain, you can say “this is an awful situation,” or even just, “I’m so sorry this happened.”
- Support: Offer actions and words of support. You don’t need to go beyond your own ability to help, even just being available to talk is a form of support. If you hear about a job loss from a LinkedIn post, click on a reaction button or comment. This will help the person’s post get more reach and could help them get new opportunities.
- Sincerity: Don’t say or offer anything that you can’t follow through on. If you are willing to connect a person to your network or other resources, by all means offer to do so. However, making promises just to fill the silence will make both of you feel worse when you can’t follow through. Sincerity shines through, so make sure your words and actions are sincere.
With those 3 keywords on hand, here’s what to do and say when you hear a person has been a casualty of layoffs:
Depending on how you’ve heard about a layoff, it’s ok to reach out to a person and address it directly. Maybe you heard about their company in general and you want to check in on them, or perhaps they shared the news with you directly. In any case, it may feel awkward to send a note but even a line or two saying that you are sorry to hear about the layoffs, and asking how you can help if it feels appropriate can go a long way.
During this time of quarantine and general upheaval, don’t leave a note and drop the communication there. Reach out again in a week, in a few weeks, even after a month or two. People are more isolated now than ever before and a small kindness can make a big impact. More than that, the person may have different needs at different stages. Right after they are laid off, they may want nothing more than a sympathetic ear. In a week or a month though, they may have more concrete things in mind, and if you’re the one initiating contact it will put them in an easier position to share what would be most helpful.
Do What You Can to Help
This pandemic is a unique situation, and getting laid off now is incomparable to losing your job in a normal time. It’s important that each person takes the initiative to do what they can to help each other. Note, do what you can, that means be honest with yourself about your bandwidth and what you can offer. If someone has shared a LinkedIn post that they’re seeking work, can you like and share it to help them reach more people? Are you a good writer or proofreader and can you offer to look over a friend’s resume or cover letter? Do you receive job opportunity newsletters or have other resources you can send the person that might help them? Do you have connections in their field that you could introduce them to?
Keep in mind that each person is different, and your relationship to each person is unique as well. You do not need to offer the same help across the board. If you are close to one person and happy to edit their resume and cover letter but are only distant acquaintances with another and just feel comfortable wishing them luck then follow your instincts.
Be Mindful of Others’ Circumstances
This time of pandemic is a singular period in history, with unemployment skyrocketing to the highest levels since the Great Depression. Keep this in mind when you interact with people and when you think about the content you share and create. Don’t be afraid to share if you have good news like a promotion, but put extra care that your messaging is tasteful for the times we live in. Try to keep your messages positive and productive, without losing touch with the current reality. It’s a fine balance, but as long as you keep in mind the keywords we discussed earlier you’ll be sure to act and speak in a thoughtful and considerate way.
The Pandemic May Be Long-Term, But It’s Temporary
Keeping perspective and helping those around you to do so as well is one of the best ways to stay sympathetic, supportive and sincere for as long as the pandemic lasts and beyond. Always acknowledge the real difficulties of the situation, remember that nobody has all the answers, and that eventually this will pass. Move at other peoples’ pace while always making sure to include self-care in your routine and you’re sure to offer the right kind of help that those your network may need.
Looking for other ways to help? Become a mentor to other Ivy Exec members.