how can I help a job-searching friend who can’t catch a break? — Ask a Manager

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

My small, very tight-knit group of friends and I are all suddenly finding ourselves in an exciting season of job transitions and moves … except for one (let’s call him Ross).

Over the last several years, Ross worked in a really challenging field/environment while finishing a master’s degree, got (understandably) burned out by that job and left to pursue a PhD, but ended up not finishing (for various institutional reasons mostly outside his control). Having to quit the PhD program early left him feeling pretty defeated. He had been a rockstar at the place he worked before the PhD, so they were happy to welcome him back on staff … but now he feels like he’s back at square one (plus he’s temporarily living with his parents while trying to figure out what to do next, which doesn’t help).

Ross has a ton of education and expertise in his field, and has been applying to what seem like highly-targeted, ideal positions for him, not only in our metro area but all over the country and in international locations as well. We were all super excited when he received an offer for an amazing opportunity in another country … but then he got rejected on a technicality only a few weeks before he was due to leave. He’s continued trying to job hunt since then, but it’s obvious he’s getting more and more demoralized as the search goes on. And while he’s glad to have some income in the meantime, it’s a seasonal type of job and will most likely be on hold for the summer.

I guess I’m just wondering how my friends and I can best support and encourage him while he’s going through this. I almost feel guilty about us all celebrating our new jobs and promotions and cross-country moves while he’s struggling … I mean, of course we’re not trying to rub it in his face, and he’s happy for us, but it can’t feel great for him. We try to give him both pep talks and practical help, but it’s almost like he doesn’t want to hear any of it and just wants to believe he’s cursed for life. I also recently had a long, drawn out job search (about two years total) so I get how hopeless it can be until something *finally* comes through. (Talking to a therapist helped me during that time, and Ross is a strong advocate for mental health, so I hope he’ll consider that too.) But how can we help him keep his chin up until then?

Readers, what’s your advice?

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