Laura Donovan
September 24, 2014 6:17 am

After more than a year of low-paid, part-time gigs and internships that were supposed to lead to full-time work but didn’t, I finally have a grown-up job. It’s hard to believe I went so long without stable employment, but I got through the tough days (OK, months) thanks to encouragement from my boyfriend, the LA sunshine, and ten pounds worth of comfort food. Scrambling to pay my rent and purchase basic necessities wasn’t easy, but what no one tells you is how hard it is to talk about your situation.

Being forced to discuss your financial and professional shortcomings is only slightly less awful than actually living it. From the moment a person goes from gainfully employed to without a job, they’re asked a slew of difficult questions that only feed the negativity and stress of lacking solid income. So, if you know and love someone who is unemployed, do them a favor and spare them the following questions.

1.  What do you do all day?

You see, if your 9-5 schedule isn’t spent at an office surrounded by other professionals, it’s assumed that you’re using your time to watch the Kardashians or a Sex and the City marathon after you crawl out of bed at 1:30 p.m. OK, maybe a few of your days will be dedicated to lounging around and relaxing, but anyone who wants a job will be scouring the internet for postings and polishing cover letters from home. If taken seriously, job hunting is a job in and of itself, and trivializing that by asking what a person does all day makes the experience even more defeating.

2.  Are you sure prospective employers are getting your follow-up emails?

God love my mom, but for six months, she thought I wasn’t hearing back from interviewers because my follow-up emails had disappeared into their spam filters and they had no clue how to contact me otherwise. Here’s the truth: if someone really wants to hire you, they’ll get in touch whether or not you followed up online. Unemployed people know this, and it only makes them feel worse to hear that perhaps they weren’t assertive or smooth enough in following up.

3.  Have you asked people why they chose not to hire you?

It’s rare to even receive a rejection notice after an interview, let alone be told why another candidate was preferable to you. Yes, it might seem helpful to call up the interviewer and ask for feedback and suggestions going forward, but if they can’t even give you a direct “no,” they’re not going to shell out free advice and tips on nailing the interview next time around. Unemployed folks are better off moving on and applying elsewhere instead of dwelling on one failed interaction.

4.  How are you paying your bills?

Anyone who is unemployed worries about this 24/7, and having to chat about it just makes the reality of the situation more terrifying and unpleasant. Unless you share a home with said unemployed person, you don’t need to know how they’re getting by money-wise. It eats at them all the time, believe me.

5.  Why do you think you’re not getting any jobs?

If I knew the answer to that, don’t you think I’d have one by now? It’s constructive to consider what’s not working in an individual’s interviews, but this goes back to focusing on the negativity: it helps nobody.

6.  Have you attended any career fairs or contacted people in your professional network?

Job fairs can be beneficial, but they can also be expensive, intimidating, and overwhelming. There’s also something to be said about developing natural relationships with people rather than only reaching out when you need a favor. I’ve gone through periods in which I’ve reached out to everyone in my network about job openings, and while it helps when someone knows of an opportunity, outright asking for one doesn’t typically sit well with others.

7.  Have you looked into temp agencies?

Yes, and so has everyone without a job!

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