Saturday, January 30, 2010

Helping the unemployed with great questions!

I have run into large numbers of people that are unemployed and struggling. I think questions (the right ones) can have a massive impact.

When someone is unemployed and lost about what direction to go. I think the answers to this could help a ton of people: I have run into people that are discouraged.

Answer any number of the following

1- What question or questions would you ask to help someone get focused?

2- What question or questions would you ask to help someone that is discouraged?

3- What question or questions would you ask someone to really show that you care about them and their situation?

4- What website other than craigslist and monster would you suggest they read to give them hope?

Thank you for your continued support! I am grateful for every single answer that I get to these questions.


  1. Tom, I propose one question that will address most of the concerns on your list.

    What face-to-face network events or groups do you attend regularly?

    The answer could be as simple as: "I go to church." Or "I volunteer at a homeless shelter."

    Anyone who regularly attends social events that are open to the public will know that these events provide many chances to meet new people and hear new ideas. They also give you an opportunity to tell your story. Every time you tell your story, it will change. Sometimes the changes are small, sometimes they are dramatic.
    When you share your story, you will get feedback that will help you to make it clearer and better. That is focus.
    When you take the time to share you practice courage.
    WHen you care about others, they care about you. It's automatic.

    And the best social network out there is ... Twitter!

  2. Great questions.

    1. What do you like to do, regardless of whether you'd get paid for or not?

    2. What gives you great pleasure?

    3.Imagine your perfect job. What would it be? How many people would it have? What would everyone be doing?

    4. Troll the non-profit agencies and volunteer your talents until an opening comes up. Tell them you are looking for a job in a certain area, but would work for minimum wages while you are looking for a more permanent position.

    I have hired many people who started up as volunteers in my organization. I encouraged them to apply as I knew their skills would be a good match with our needs.

  3. My daughter is an unemployed victim of the recession. She has been out of work for over a year. My son is a prosecuting attorney. He was let go for budgetary reasons last week. I didn't have a clue what questions to ask either of them, but these two responses are a wonderful start. I've copied them to share with my children. Thanks.

  4. What one wants to do in terms of pleasure?
    How a person see himself or herself after 5 yrs from now?

    I think these two questions give direction to the thoughts.

    Best wishes. :)

  5. Hi Tom,

    This is an interesting post, and I'm glad you brought it up. Up until 3 years ago, I did not know what I really wanted to do with my life and what my "niche" would be. It really bothered me.

    I finally found it after A LOT of soul searching and some "failures". I just feel blessed that I even know what I want to do with my life.

    For me there was no easy way out. I had to go through a lot of trial and error. I got my bachelors, traveled overseas, had a couple of dead end jobs and then realized I needed to go back to school again.

    Anyway, I know I am rambling but I can totally identify with anyone who feels lost.

    My tip is to get out there and network. Life for me has been a hustle, and I networked my way into new opportunities. It's really mainly about meeting the right people who have your best interests at heart. Take a look at There are a lot of people to get to know.

    And for those who are shy like me in person, take a public speaking class, or force yourself to get out there. You have to be fearless and grow thick skin.

    Another thing............ After you have found your passion, make it a point to help others find theirs, especially if it is in your same field. I try to bend over backwards for those who are trying to get experience in my field and it is therapeutic for me.

  6. What a relevant post for our times! I appreciate the responses so far. I am a bit concerned that there has been no mention of the fact that jobs are not as plentiful at this this time. Asking people about their talents and passions is always in order to help someone acquire personal direction. I personally don't feel that can be helpful in the light of the unemployment issue that predominates.

    1. What happened that you lost your job?

    When people (which they do) come to my office in crisis because they lost their job the first thing I do is have them tell me what happened. Let them tell their story. This connects them to me and they feel I now understand their plight.

    2. What resources are available to help you make it through until you find another job?

    My next tactic is to begin the focusing process by asking what resources are available so that they can sustain at least basic living necessities. This helps them start to begin the practical application of what can be done now. I have found this fosters a sense of relief knowing there are resources out there that will help and that will calm their fears. It also shows that I care about what is happening to them now. (EX: unemployment, food pantries, State Family Services, churches, family members, etc)

    3. What kinds of employment are you willing to take on until a desireable job can be obtained?

    At this point, it is time to talk about what kinds of jobs they are willing to take. It would be awesome to walk into a dream job, but that is unlikely. It can happen, but it is a rarity. This is a very introspective time for some people to really think about what they are willing to do. I discuss with them the fact that this is a temporary support tactic until they can get the job they want. It brings in an income and keeps food on the table. Again, I find that they have a sense of relief and development of hope that it will be difficult but there is a way through this.

    How updated and complete is your resume and what are the ways you can get it out there to be seen?

    Now it's time to actually pound the pavement. Once they have been able to stabilize and know they are adequately sustaining they can focus on securing a new job. Not only are there websites that host your resume, but there are also websites that help build a resume, provide information on how to do a successful interview, and give pointers on how to get your resume out there. The majority of normally stable people seem to make it from there.

    Sorry I get so wordy Tom. It's all your fault. Your posts always make me dig into my head and pull out thoughts. Thanks for providing a place where I am encouraged to do that.

  7. Hi this is a thought provoking question:
    Many people get discouraged when unemployed which invariably leads to negativity, A person looking for employment must be to some extent remain positive .......though that must be hard if one is turned down time and time again.
    Try to remember you are as good as anyone else
    and your opinions count.
    Thanks for an interesting post, also visiting
    my world of poetry and comment, much appreciated.
    Take care.

  8. Perhaps they could try to find work in something they enjoy as a hobby....whether that is gardening or some other craft, maybe starting as a volunteer to get a foot in the door.

  9. All an umemployed person wants to hear are the words:

    'Your hired!'

    Not a lecture.

    The previous comment hit the nail on the head - negativity. I am looking for a job right now, and the hardest part of the challenge is staying positive. And that is essential. So I keep fit, socialise, network, be pro-active ...

    The truth is, there are not enough jobs to go round. People want jobs not questions Tom.

    My point is, you can't help someone get 'a job' if 'a job' does not exist. Anything other than providing jobs is lip-service.

  10. Re: the John Lennon quote on my Blog,-yes thank goodness for a world of possibilities!Also I agree with you about the simple things, they are so often the most uplifting,especially if we are able to share them with good people and good conversation.

  11. When I was having a difficult time with my desigh business a few years ago my friend Eli called it an opportunity for me to do what I always wanted and it was. I started writing and I still work in design. I haven't made any more money but I'm happier, if that makes any sense. So I guess what I'm saying is 'purpose' life needs no more than purpose. Work will come again, the bad times will pass.
    Warm regards,

  12. Amen to INSIDE THE SHRINK and SHARON McPHERSON. Getting laid off is quite a blow to the wallet and ego. I went through a traumatic time when I was laid off last January. None of the above questions did anything to help me, but only drove me more crazed - especially since they all came from employed friends. Just be there for someone who's going through the grief of job loss. It's the most and the least a person can do for someone they care about.
    PS I feel so blessed now every day that I have work.
    PPS Tom, thanks for visiting. Loved your input on the song list.

  13. #1. If there were no limits what is it you want out of your life?

  14. I lost my job due to illness. It was apparent after 9 months that I wasn't going to be physically able to do the work. I use my state, city and federal resources and am pursuing retraining. I have actually found that people in these agencies care but have a huge caseloads. So I struggle to make ends meet while trying to live more cheaply. Good luck.

  15. I would suggest to anyone that loses a job to try freelancing if they have some experience. There are so many freelance websites on the net and I am sure they could get to do some work. Meanwhile, they could continue to read up and update their skills and keep trying for a new job. That way they would have gained some positive experience despite having lost their job.

  16. Hi Tom,
    My husband has been unemployed since May of last year, so I really don't know what to tell them. We live in Michigan so it's pretty commonplace around here, unfortunately.

    My husband has a bachelors in Corporate Finance, and the places he's applying are asking for Masters and CPA's. So I think education is a huge advantage in this economy.

    1- What question or questions would you ask to help someone get focused?

    What do you really want to do with your life? What do you enjoy?

    2- What question or questions would you ask to help someone that is discouraged?

    I wish I knew.

    4- What website other than craigslist and monster would you suggest they read to give them hope?

    I've heard careerbuilder and linkedin were good. That's what my husband says.

    Oh I'm featuring you on my Monday Featured Blog! Thanks ;o)

  17. I would ask them what kind of work are they good at, and if they are willing to try something they've never considered doing before.


  18. I think one of the most important questions to ask someone who is going through difficulty with unemployment is this: Can you find one thing to do on a daily basis that makes you happy?

    When we're faced with troubles, we tend to get bogged down by them, and buried underneath them, and don't allow ourselves to see that we do have some things to be happy about. Everyone has things to be happy about. It's just that we blind ourselves to that reality by allowing our troubles to dictate how we will live and feel. If people can find one thing to do, daily, that makes them happy, those moments of happiness will allow their minds to clear so they can think straight and make objective versus subjective decisions.


  19. Tom,
    HI! I know this is unrealted but thanks for the follow and the comments. It made my day!

    Also, GREAT blog I just added you to my roll.

  20. To help get someone focused I would ask:
    (1) What dreams or visions have you had for your life since you were young?

    (2) What can you say you are really passionate about?

    (3) What talents do you have that you are proud of?

    (4) What kinds of things do people always tell you that you are good at?

    (5) What is your ideal career?

  21. Being very honest here..I despise my job. 72 percent of our staff was let go ovr a year ago. My hours and pay were cut, but with more work since the staff is gone..*but* with food on the table, and heat in the house..i am thankful. It is all very bitter sweet. I know I would despise NOT working versus what I do now.

  22. Rabbit, Rabbit

    You've gotten so many good questions already.

    In what ways can you take you past experience and think outside of the box? What unique ways could you make your skills viable?

  23. I would tell them to look at what they are passionate about...nothing to loose now so why not just go for it?

  24. Tom, I would ask them what they are really passionate about? I woulds also ask them what craft or skill or ability they have that separated them from the masses?
    I would then steer them towards taking responsibility for their destiny, and ultimately self employment. Does that help?

  25. Thank you for this post. All these comments are priceless to me. :)

  26. I've been unemployed for almost a year after the business that I managed closed down after nearly 20 years. I figured it would be a breeze for me to find another job. Based on that, the question I would ask here in L.A., where I am, is: Have you learned to speak Spanish yet?

  27. Gosh, Tom, those are tough questions, and I don't think I have an answer to any of them. I have helped people polish their resumes so they are able to present themselves better, and that has helped them get a job. Sometimes something concrete is what they need. I would also tell them to register with as many temp agencies as they can, because often that leads to permanent work. I would also say to get their computer skills upgraded. It's amazing how many people let that slide. And I would wish them good luck.

  28. I have pondered these questions for a while trying to figure out some answers for you but I had a hard time coming up with any.
    You see, I have been there a number of times and thinking back it wasn’t questions I wanted to hear but answers.
    Why are you unemployed?
    Why am I?
    What do you do?
    What do you got?
    When were you laid off?
    When can I start?

    Everyone is asking questions but there are no answers.
    Maybe there should only be one question.
    “What can I do for you”?
    There you go, that’s the question they could ask all the unemployed people out there.

  29. I think that spirituality is an amazing tool for self empowerment. It boosters hope and self confidence. I have done the courses of the Art of Living Foundation ( and my life has changed. Honestly. I keep on doing courses, practicing the techniques and now I feel very confident in expressing my talents. Besides the fact that I feel TRULY HAPPY.


  30. I think the best question would be to inquire what their passion might be, and then go from there. I think people who follow what they are truly interested in are the happiest.

  31. I've been laid off twice in the past three years, so I speak from experience. Many others already have wisely answered your questions.

    --You must stay optimistic, and surround yourself with realists, not negativity. Go into each day and week doing something toward finding a job and something good for your soul that you never had time for before.
    --Network, and if you aren't a social person, get over yourself because no one is hiring extreme introverts anymore. You don't come off as shy, you come off as hard to read and therefore hard to work with.
    --You must learn how to best market yourself and if your skills or profession are obsolete, you must find a new career. There are, fortunately, many more free resources for the unemployed than in the past (thank you, Mr. Obama!).

    The biggest thing that hasn't been mentioned and fits nicely with this blog's title is, once you're again employed, to pay it forward and assist others who are still jobless. Offer to circulate their resumes; invite them to meet for coffee or tea (in public so they keep up their hygiene and appearances - you laugh, but many depressed people fail to shower and dress); keep in touch via email and make sure they are doing enough for themselves; and show them how to sign up for email alerts from CareerBuilder, Indeed and SimplyHired - three job board aggregators.

    One good thing that tends to come from long-term unemployment is an inner happiness and appreciation for the simple things in life that was missing when you were working for a better house and car and vacation instead of a truly better life.