Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Spouse’s Role In Your Job Search

I write this from my heart, not to offend anyone. Read on…

When I lost my job I suffered a terrible loss, and had no idea I would be going through various stages of mourning. Neither did I know what my wife was going to go through.

We made it through. I can’t say we did a stellar job of it, but we had no idea what was going on, or what we should do. Since we are still together I can say we made it through okay. In this post I want to share some ideas of what a spouse’s (see PC footnote 1) role is in your job search.

I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot since we went to a new friend’s house for dinner last week. On the way to their house my wife asked “so… how much can I tell her? If she asks how much money we make now, what can I say?” My wife asked because she has a tendency to share… well, everything. I tend to be significantly more private. My response to her was “Honey, you can say whatever you want. Tonight, I trust you :) ” (see PC footnote 2)

Even though it’s been 4 years since we lost our job, we’re still figuring out what happened to us and how we got through it, and framing it in such a way that we can help others through it. This dinner was something I wish we could do more often.

After dinner my wife was alone with my buddy’s wife and when I went up to make the “let’s go home” signs I noticed there had been tears. Lots of tears. It was a good reminder of how raw and in-the-moment this “I lost my job, am I am worthless” the feelings are.

This topic has been on my mind ever since. I wasn’t the spouse of the job loser (you feel like a loser, don’t you?), but I lived with one, and I’ve met many. So I’m kind of, almost qualified to write this list of suggestions. I hope it is helpful. I welcome any thoughts in the comments.

  1. Be supportive. What I really needed was support. Most of how I defined myself professionally, which helped me define who I was as a human being (I hear this is a male characteristic), disappeared overnight. I went from Jason-the-somebody to Jason-the-loser. I really needed support, even though I turned into a loser overnight. Many of the points below are how to be supportive, but this was Number One in my list of needs.
  2. Let him/her go and network. The job search is probably different than what you think it is. It was dramatically different than what I thought it was. I remember a guy who learned about the power of networking in a job search… he said his wife had a really hard time since he was out networking (lots of breakfasts and lunches), and not at home on the job boards and submitting resumes. Please, please know that the best use of time is not sitting at the computer all day… when your spouse goes out to network, be proud, and encouraging (and know that he/she is probably doing something out of his/her comfort zone… any extra encouragement will go a long way!)
  3. Be intimate. Hm, how to approach this topic. From my perspective, the job search is filled with enough rejection… let me encourage you to continue to be intimate even during the very difficult, emotional job search. Aside from what you are probably thinking, know that a backrub, a snuggle or holding hands goes a long ways. Let him/her know you are still there, and not rejecting or judging. You can make it through this, and continuing the sweet somethings of a relationship can be quite reassuring.
  4. Be clean around the house. You can’t let this go. There is a tendency to give honey-do lists, and have expectations that “since you are around more you can do more work around here.” I don’t totally disagree with that, but don’t take too much time away from a job search and want him/her to put it into the dishes, laundry or basement project. Both of you should continue to keep up the house and chores like you did before… and if something needs to change, communicate about it!

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