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Helping a Hopeless Job Seeker

If you have a job seeker in your life, there’s a decent chance you’re concerned about them. This is especially true if they are currently unemployed. They’re upset. You feel upset. You may secretly wonder what they’re doing wrong, and what you can do to help.

The right answer to this question can be tough. One thing to keep in mind is that although the job market is improving, it’s still not easy. Jobs are more specialized. Many roles are done by fewer total people than in the past. And, different markets and cities are improving at different rates. As you would expect, not every job seeker is having the same rosy experience.

The online process also presents huge challenges. It’s hard to overestimate this issue. Companies often use their websites to collect resumes, but it can be tough to know which internet applications are actually seen by human eyes. The online process sounds like it should be simple, so a job seeker may wonder what’s wrong with their resume when they don’t hear back. They begin to take it personally. This negative experience is compounded when family and friends begin to question the job seeker regularly on what the problem is, or perhaps more accurately, what “their” problem is.

One of the best things you can do is be supportive and provide a listening ear. Job searching, especially when you’re unemployed, can be an isolating experience. This is true for almost everyone. The job search and its difficulties is something job seekers rarely talk about openly to other people. Because of this, the job seeker will likely assume they’re the only one struggling through the process, or the only one not getting calls back from online applications.

A second helpful thing you can do is to offer assistance. Offer to review the job seeker’s resume. Offer to introduce the person to contacts you have. But, be prepared to follow through on your promises. During this time of change, the person needs to know they can count on you.

Last, try to be understanding and supportive. If you haven’t looked for a job in some time, realize that the job market is constantly changing. Finding a new job takes time – even for the most seasoned and successful professional.

It’s also important to note that finding a job in one field (for example, technology) can be much easier than finding a job in another (for example, communications). Some fields are flooded with applicants while others have very little competition. And, certain jobs require certifications or education while others are open to a broader base of candidates.

The bottom line is, don’t assume the job seeker isn’t trying, or that they have chosen the wrong career path. And, if they have a tough time emotionally, realize that it’s just part of the process. They’re normal and they will find something new in time. Until then, try to be as patient and supportive as you can. It will help them in the long run.

Angela Copeland is a Career Coach and Founder of Copeland Coaching and can be reached at or on Twitter at @CopelandCoach.

Believe In Yourself


When I meet with job seekers, there’s one quality that quickly separates those who are successful in their search from those who flounder. It’s not the college they went to, whether or not they have a MBA, or how smart they are. It’s not if they have a particular certification, or a certain number of years of experience.

Surprisingly, the thing that can make all the difference is confidence in our own abilities. I’m not talking about being completely unrealistic and assuming we can become an accountant with no background in math (for example). What I’m talking about is when you see a requirement on a job description that you know you can do, despite not having done it before at work. Even with no professional experience, it’s in your wheelhouse.

For many people, putting themselves in the running for a job when they don’t meet every single qualification seems like a terrible idea. We assume it’s a waste of time, and we’re certain we’ll be embarrassed when we’re turned down. But, in reality, by not submitting ourselves for a job, we’re saying we’re not good enough – and then company never even saw our resume. They don’t even know our name.

This is an area where youth can beat experience. It’s much more common for a young person to feel comfortable applying for a job they aren’t a perfect fit for. And, it makes sense. They’re just starting out. What do they have to lose?

But, think of this problem from another perspective. When a job is created, a job description must be written. In many cases, the hiring manager enjoys writing a job description as little as you enjoy updating your own resume. The hiring manager may pull it together from old descriptions or random jobs they find on the internet. Ultimately, their list of required skills may or may not really reflect what they have to have. It’s a wish list.

And, consider this – If you were a hiring manager, would you prefer to hire someone who met one hundred percent of your qualifications, but had a bad attitude? Or, would you prefer to hire someone who met eighty percent of your qualifications, and had a great attitude? There are many times that fit outweighs specific qualifications.

Frankly, it’s rare you’ll meet every requirement within a job description. If you do, it’s possible you’re not shooting high enough and the move may be lateral. Perhaps this job won’t be challenging enough for you.

At the end of the day, don’t let a few requirements on a job description slow you down, or make you feel bad about yourself. Focus on the strengths you do bring to the table and go from there. Submit your resume and give the company the opportunity to decide whether or not they would like to work with you. If you don’t, another candidate (who may be much less qualified than you) will.

As J.J. Rowling once said, “Anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve.”

Angela Copeland is CEO and founder of Copeland Coaching and can be reached at or on Twitter at @CopelandCoach.