David comes to your office in response to an advertisement in the local newspaper for a resume-writing workshop.  You sit down with David and ask him about his job skills and how his job search is going and suddenly David explodes into a teary confession about his life and how horrible the transition has been for him after losing his job.  He explains how nothing is going right at home with his family and he’s worried because he is currently three months behind on his mortgage.  He express that he’s starting to give up hope because he can’t seem to focus on his job search.  David sobs uncontrollably.  You hand him a Kleenex and ask him to stop crying and he apologetically states how he’s usually not this emotional.

Workforce Development Professionals interacting with clients on a day to day basis and undoubtedly will run across people like David.  Many workforce professionals, career counselors and coaches are becoming a “trusted ear” to those who are involuntarily unemployed.   Because most of us have been taught to avoid or suppress hurtful, negative emotions we’re not sure how to deal with others when they are expressing their feelings after losing a job.

Here are a few strategies to help your clients when they are expressing hurtful emotions:

  1. JOB SEEKERS DO NOT NEED TO BE FIXED. – they are not broken.  Often times when people are expressing their emotions in our presence and start to cry “we” want them to stop because it makes us uncomfortable.  Sure, we empathize with them, but let’s face it, when someone cries it makes us want to cry too.  Allow them the space to cry and just be silent.  A good cry every now and then is a healthy way to process hurtful emotions.
  2. BE PRESENT.  Do not MULTI-TASK!  Empathetic listening requires listening from the heart and engaging your brain to process the message your client is conveying.  Do not interrupt.  If you’re a fixer, like me, you want to jump in with a solution to their problems.  You’d be surprised just how far being “present” and being an active listener can go with a person who is grieving over losing their job.
  3. NO JUDGEMENT, CRITICIZING OR ANALYZING. Many people are not transparent when they are seeking career services for fear of being analyzed, criticized or judged.  People can make unpleasant statements that don’t do much to help the cause.   The best advice is to meet people where they are and they may become more receptive to the services being offered.  Moving people along in the job-search process might just mean showing them that you actually care!


Tracy Washington is a Professional Job Loss & Transition Strategist who trains Workforce Development Professionals and the Career Services Industry on Transition, Communication and Leadership.  She can be reached at or (888)715-9977.


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