Help an Unemployed Friend this Labor Day Week

According to the Department of Labor, the first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. Before becoming a national holiday, American workers in several major cities would take unpaid leave to participate in local labor day parades. Twelve years later, at the urging of President Grover Cleveland, Congress unanimously passed legislation making Labor Day a federal holiday as a way of extending an olive branch to labor unions after the unfortunate deaths at the Pullman labor strike in Chicago.

Although Labor Day is a time for celebration, we must keep in mind that nearly 1 in 10 Americans are struggling to find a job right now, and the market will weak for some time. So, as you close the door on summer this Labor Day week, be sure to keep watch for those doors you may be able to open for an unemployed friend or family member. With the unemployment rate at 9.1%, there is no doubt you know someone who is out there on the hunt. Think about someone you can reach out to and consider the following ways you can lend a helping hand:

Brainstorm Possibilities

Its easy to get stuck within the confines of your own mind, especially when under duress. Job searching is stressful and sometimes it can create tunnel vision. We all need a little nudge at times and hearing a different perspective is always healthy. Reach out to a friend and offer to spend a little time talking through options, ideas and connections. A Sunday coffee or even an hour on the phone can make a big difference in the job hunt. The idea is to help them open their mind to jobs possibilities that they arent seeing. Dont be afraid to throw out unusual suggestions or even outlandish ideas. The key to a good brainstorming session is to get the mind flowing; be positive and focus on possibilities, not obstacles. Also, be sure to hold your job-seeking friend accountable to taking action. Identify some action steps and offer to follow up a couple weeks after your brainstorming session to get an update.

Be their Agent

Im a big believer in creating personal agents. In other words, be sure to have friends and colleagues who know how to recognize opportunities that are a good fit for you and your skills. As a consultant, Im always connecting with friends to let them know what Im working on and the type of clients Im seeking. By doing this, Im planting seeds in the back of their minds that will hopefully sprout up as they come across opportunities that may be of value to me.

On the flip side, when helping an unemployed friend in need, take on the role of agent and see what you can do to get them connected with the right opportunities. Take the time to get to know their assets, experiences and knowledge base. We all have contacts and connections that may be of great value to a friend in need, its a matter of identifying those contacts and making the introductions. To get started, be sure to familiarize yourself with their talking points as well as their primary employment targets.

Do a Mock Interview

Most interviewers are really bad at conducting interviews, so you have to be ready for anything. Hiring managers are rarely trained in the art of interviewing and often dont even prep for the interview. So, its up to the job seeker to really take the reins when the questions start coming. When it comes to helping a friend who is on the job hunt, offer to do some practice interviews. Practice builds confidence and its also a great opportunity for a job seeker to get some well-needed feedback. Ask tough questions, drill them on their talking points and dont be afraid to be a little random. The most important thing you can do is to give honest and direct feedback.

The 2011 ManpowerGroup Annual Talent Shortage Survey found that more than half of U.S. employers cant fill mission critical positions. Jobs like sales representatives, accountants, IT technicians, administrative assistants, drivers, and teachers are available, but the challenge is finding them and getting a foot in the door. Chances are you may have a connection to one of these coveted jobs and you likely have a friend in need.

So, this Labor Day week, take some time and reach out to a friend in need. Brainstorm some options, make an introduction and do a practice interview.

Michael Dr. Woody Woodward, PhD is a CEC certified executive coach trained in organizational psychology. Dr. Woody is author of The YOU Plan: A 5-step Guide to Taking Charge of Your Career in the New Economy and is the founder of Human Capital Integrated (HCI), a firm focused on management and leadership development. Dr. Woody also sits on the advisory board of the Florida International University Center for Leadership.Follow Dr. Woody on Twitter and Facebook