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Six Ways to Support a Partner Who Has Lost a Job

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At the Career Development Center (CDC) of Jewish Family & Children’s Service, clients from all walks of life are experiencing career transitions and unemployment because of many different circumstances; Perhaps they were laid off or downsized, maybe they are older workers, women who are returning to the workforce, recent college graduates, immigrants or refugees…we see any number of life experiences every day.

The actual loss of a job, regardless of the circumstances, is one of the top five most stressful life experiences. When a job loss is unexpected, the trauma can understandably affect someone’s self-esteem, self-worth and confidence. Routines are upended, the future is unknown and there is a sense of loss.

For individuals conducting a full-time job search, the uncertainty can last for 6-9 months, the typical time it may take to find a job in the Pittsburgh market. Fortunately, at the CDC has an excellent record for this turnaround period – an average of 17 weeks as opposed to the national 30-week average. The CDC also employs counselors and offers workshops covering up-to-date best practices for resumes, networking, technology, social media and interviewing—everything a jobseeker needs to boost their confidence and prepare for their next job.

As a partner or spouse of someone who is experiencing a job loss, you can play a significant support role throughout this process. Betty Berkely, Career Counselor at the CDC, suggests the following tips for how to best support a partner during this difficult time.

  1. Be a Supportive Cheerleader: Individuals often define themselves by their work and what they do professionally. With a job loss, an individual suddenly no longer belongs, they aren’t part of a team, and they no longer have a place to go from Monday-Friday. Understand that your partner’s emotions may fluctuate from anger to frustration to sadness. Recognize that he or she will need a grieving period to process these emotions.  Bear through this and be patient. Resist the temptation to pepper your partner with job leads until they can regain their footing before starting something new.
  2. Maintain Communication with Your Partner: Listen without judgement before you respond. As a listener, it’s helpful to be patient, ask questions and show empathy. Understand the need and communicate in a respectful way.
  3. Encourage Him/Her to Go Out and Network: Today nearly 80% of the jobs are found through networking, not sitting at a computer reviewing job boards.  Your partner needs to connect with individuals who can advocate or provide useful information about organizations, a company’s culture, or other networking contacts.  Encourage them to do so.
  4. Adjust Your Finances: A job loss affects the entire family and open communication about spending and lifestyle adjustments is helpful. Focus on priorities, budgeting and resolving financial issues.  Include your children in the discussion so that they understand what resources are available. Discuss how to find creative ways to balance the budget.
  5. Be Willing to Adjust: Your routine and roles may also change. That said, you need to take care of yourself so that you have the emotional and psychological strength to withstand pressure over the long term.
  6. Stay in Touch with Family and Friends: Your social and familial circles can be a welcome “anchor” during this time. Accept their support and stay connected.
    As a life partner, you’re part of this journey. For many, the experience can help the marital relationship grow stronger. Focus on what you have, rather than what you don’t have.  Maintaining a hopeful outlook during a time like this enables you to expect that good things will happen and allows you to keep a long-term perspective.If this time becomes too difficult, we are here to help. While the CDC offers career counseling, workshops and valuable networking opportunities, additionally, Squirrel Hill Psychological Services (SHPS), another program of JF&CS, is available to provide counseling services for you and your spouse individually or as a couple. Contact the CDC at 412-422-5627, and/or SHPS at 412-521-3800.