In the past couple of years, we have endured massive pay cuts and job losses. Even as things are coming back to normal, many of us are still struggling to find jobs that do justice to both our pre-COVID salary expectations and job profiles.
We all know a friend or a family member who has been adversely affected on the job front, or has incurred huge losses in their business.
Financial struggle is an incredibly isolating experience. In an earlier column, I had written about how our vocation is the most important part of our identity and our pay check, though erroneously, a source of self-esteem.
However, small gestures from friends and family can make those struggling on the financial front feel included. Here are some small ways in which we can take care of friends, who have lost their job or are struggling financially, without making things awkward.
1. Offer to pay for coffee.
The concept of "going dutch", even though fair, can often result in cutting out some individuals struggling with money from the group. Sometimes in the process of splitting every penny down to the last bit, we forget to acknowledge all of us are not equals at all given times.
2. But make sure to not pity pay.
Not having money makes one feel extremely powerless and puts them in a deeply vulnerable situation. All their interaction with the world is driven by their lack of money. Offering help is only half the job done. Never ever see them as a victim of the circumstances. Always, see them as empowered individuals simply going through a rough phase. Place your confidence in them, even if you are the one paying the bills for the time being.
3. Invite them home to a warm family lunch.
The thing with urban joblessness is that the moment we lose our job, we also lose the urban lifestyle -- weekend life, ordering in food, having a fully furnished comfortable air-conditioned room. I have personally experienced the change when I willingly gave up my job a few years ago. I can only imagine how demoralising and uncomfortable the change is for people who did not choose it. Even while being fully aware of the adjustments I would have to make, it took me a long time to accept them. Quitting my job meant not living in an air-conditioned apartment for some time, not having a bathroom with a shower, and living on the fourth floor in a building without a lift, cooking all three meals myself, doing my laundry and cleaning up while also trying to figure out what to do next.
Inviting your friend to your house for lunch or a night stay can rejuvenate them, make them feel normal and taken care of. Some of my friends have been very kind to accommodate me in their comfortable house for long periods of time and offering me their spare rooms when I couldn’t afford a decent place.
4. Don't send them links to random job offers if you are not sure what they are looking for, or if you haven't read it properly yourself.
While all the help in finding leads is welcome, not bothering to properly read the brief before forwarding it is plain lazy. Even when someone is struggling to make ends meet, or has been jobless for a few months, no one can take away from them their right to turn down an offer. As I said, how we offer to help makes all the difference in how our help is received.
5. Bear with them if they withdraw.
Even with all your well-meaning support, it is possible the friend might find it difficult to feel cheerful and included. They may turn down invites to go out, or not mingle at all. They may feel lost in the group. Professional uncertainty is a huge cause of anxiety and it's a lonely struggle. At the end of the day, you cannot make things work for another person. But you can certainly be patient and wait for them to be themselves again.