By Matt Bell, Crosswalk.com
I recently overheard someone complain loudly and bitterly about what she perceived to be a stingy benefit offered by her employer. There were quite a few people within listening distance, and with so many people out of work, I couldn’t help but think of the comment as insensitive. Call it conspicuous employment.
While the three-day Labor Day weekend provides an annual, much-needed respite for many hard-working people, for many others, such as the 20 percent of workers who are currently unemployed or underemployed, it may be one more painful reminder of their situation.
If you’re reading this on or before Labor Day and you’re planning to get together with friends over the long weekend for a barbeque, be sure to be mindful of any guests who are out of work. They may not want to hear about your latest work challenges. Regardless of when you read this, consider taking action on one or more of the following ideas. They are suggestions for what those of us who are gainfully employed could do to help friends of ours who are looking for work.
A word of encouragement. When someone accustomed to working in an office finds himself or herself working on a job hunt from their kitchen or a spare bedroom, it can be unsettling and isolating. As they see neighbors heading off to work in the morning, that may only add to their discouragement. Send them a note of encouragement or make a call. In fact, use your calendar to set up a schedule of times when you will contact them to let them know you’re thinking about them and praying for them.
Some networking help.Many employers offer financial incentives to employees who help recruit qualified candidates for jobs they’re trying to fill. Find out if your employer offers such incentives. Even if they don’t, keep an eye on your company’s job listings to see if something may be appropriate for your out-of-work friends and send them the leads.
You might even do some internal networking, asking various department heads whether they plan to do any hiring. A large percentage of available jobs never get posted.
Some coaching. When you’re out of work, it’s all too easy to move from pursuing jobs you’d really like to pursuing any job. You’re anxious to get back to work, and there are bills to pay. Remind your unemployed friend that those who are successful in finding a new job are usually those who target specific companies where they would like to work.
Free babysitting.When someone loses their job, entertainment is one of the first items to get struck from the household budget. But going for long periods of time without an enjoyable diversion can only add stress. Offer to watch a job-seeking friend’s kids on occasion so they can get out of the house for a low-cost date night.
Now more than ever we could all stand to be more attuned to the pain of unemployment. Who do you know who’s out of work? What could you do to help? Why not at least send an encouraging e-mail right now?
Matt Bell is the author of three personal finance books published by NavPress, including the brand new "Money & Marriage: A Complete Guide for Engaged and Newly Married Couples." He teaches a wide variety of workshops, including MoneySmart Marriage, at churches, conferences, universities, and other venues throughout the country. To learn more about his work and subscribe to his blog, go to: www.mattaboutmoney.com.