Many times career information is aimed at the candidate who is conducting a job search rather than the spouse who is often left in a supporter role. The emotional side as well as the process of searching for employment has been discussed at length; however, a job loss can take a toll on the family.
So often, communication breaks down because one partner does not understand what the other person is — or should be — doing. Partners usually face emotional distress along with the job candidate, and they have an added burden of not really understanding how to help.
The stress of a job loss is magnified in a marriage because now both parts must work harder to stay positive and be supportive. This becomes even more complicated because things said with the best of intentions can be misinterpreted by an unemployed spouse who is feeling defensive or inadequate. A form of the Miranda Rule applies in these situations: when your spouse is unemployed, anything you say can and will be used against you.
It is quite easy for one or both sides, with communication being so fraught with peril, to cave into cynicism or criticism, or just plain silence. That’s why it is important to communicate throughout the entire process of a job search.
There are numerous areas that need to be evaluated when a job loss occurs such as; taking stock of your finances, deciding on a new career direction, updating your contact information and preparing to conduct a job search. One of the areas that create concern among spouses is the “getting started phase” where some will face a spouse who is procrastinating with their search. It helps to understand why this takes place, procrastination usually is rooted in fear of failure. Rather than fail or get rejected by employers, job seekers tend to put off searching for a job until the home environment becomes too painful.
Even though a job seeker knows what they should be doing, they may feel overwhelmed or paralyzed. It’s okay to give them a nudge in a positive way that gets them over this hump and onto proactive things. The difficulty, of course, is not letting these loving “nudges” appear to be nagging.
If your unemployed spouse turns into a procrastinator, try to talk about what is keeping them stuck. It’s no surprise to hear about job candidates “acting” as though they are job searching when in fact they are filling time with unproductive behavior, such as visiting friends, talking about starting new ventures for long periods of time without specific plans, daydreaming, wishful thinking and relying too heavily on passive job search techniques.
It’s important for employed spouses to have patience and sincerely listen. There is only so much a spouse can do however being supportive goes along way.
Here are few suggestions that you can start implementing right away that will help you work as a team when searching for employment:
• Accommodate change in your home environment. Your spouse’s office may now be at home with you. It’s super easy to lose track of time when face with projects at home such as organizing the garage and overdue chores. Help your spouse by giving them space to manage their search priorities.
• Include the family when talking about the job market; children will have questions and will be more supportive if they know what’s going on. Allowing them to understand the process of a search will teach them how to bounce back and change. If your children are older, it could also help them pick up more responsibility such as taking a part-time job to help pay for their personal purchases.
• Share your networking contacts with your spouse. Your contacts might be in a different area giving them a broader approach to meeting new people.
• Reconsider ways to look at new employment opportunities, taking on a part time job or project work especially during the holidays is a good way to help your spouse stay active in the marketplace.
• Agree to talk about job searching progress as needed, avoid the career coach role in asking for daily briefings and instead keep your expectations in check. Setting unrealistic expectations about the time it takes to land a good job varies with the health of the job market and industry.
• When a much sought after job opportunity does not work out, allow time to process it and help one another move forward. The process of job searching includes numerous starts and stops along the way.
Enjoy the time you have with your family, conducting a job search is one season in your life that will pass.
How did your job search affect your family? What did they do that was helpful for you in moving forward?