“Are You Ok?” and Other Questions Not To Ask An Unemployed Person

This morning, I read that Hallmark is now selling cards for the 9.1% of Americans who are unemployed. For all those considering purchasing a card for $3.99 to remind me that I’m unemployed, I suggest you use that money to buy me a Chick-fil-A biscuit; that’s my favorite breakfast that my budget no longer permits me to buy. Unemployment is another word for broke and hungry. Money or food is the greatest gift you can give an Unemployed Person.

Unemployed People appreciate the great lengths people take to console them, but sometimes these acts of kindness have adverse effects. Unemployed People are the most sensitive people on this planet. Something that you ask or say that you intend for good, has an opposite effect. Purchasing a card that says “Sorry you’re not working” is not going to soothe our pain; it will make us grieve even more.

I understand, Employed People. You are gainfully employed and don’t know what to say or how to act towards people who aren’t working. I get it. I thought you could use some help and wrote a list of questions/comments not to say to an Unemployed Person.

1. Are you ok? / Is everything ok?

I hate this question. I hate it more when it’s asked repeatedly. Are you ok? Is a question that implies that something bad happened to me. Ask this question and I think you’re prying.  But since you asked, no, I’m not ok. I just lost my job; my income is gone. I am forced to live with my in-laws or other family members. I am crunched in a 2 bedroom house, share a room and bathroom with 3 other people. I don’t have my spacious loft anymore. I eat Raman noodles for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and between rerun episodes of Beverly Hills 90210 and General Hospital on SoapNet, I write e-mails, make phone calls and attend job fairs, and none of my efforts have been successful. And frankly, I’m tired of looking. Being a bum seems like a viable option to me these days.

Ask me “Is everything ok?,”  and I will dismiss you; ask me “How are you doing?” and I will be more receptive. Unemployed people are prideful people with a bruised ego. We are not going to tell you that we have $5.00 in our Wells Fargo checking account and we spend our free time looking between sofa cushions and digging through old Piggy Banks to salvage enough money to make the minimum balance on our cell phone bill, so Sprint won’t cut off our service.  We won’t tell you that we’re basically living off Tostitos and Gingerale; and haven’t eaten a nutritious meal in almost two weeks. We may just talk about how the Cowboys beat the Redskins on Sunday and what we’re expecting for the Panthers/Bears game.  We may want talk how big Beyonce’s pregnant tummy is becoming. Whatever it is we want to talk about, just listen. Don’t disregard what we’re saying. Unemployed people are lonely. We want someone to talk to. We want to get our mind off  our struggles. If we don’t talk to you about our struggles, leave it alone. Offer the fact that you are free whenever we need a listening ear.

2. Do You Have A Job Yet?

If I hear this question one more time, I am going scream. Don’t worry Employed Person, when I get a job offer, the entire world will know it. I am going to stand on my rooftop with a bullhorn yelling for my entire subdivision and all nearby complexes to hear, “I got a job!!!” I am going to send an e-mail to practically all of my 700 contacts listed on my G-Mail account; I’m going to post the new position on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Hey, I might even update my Google Plus profile and put it out there too. Thanks.

3. You’re Not Looking Hard Enough 

Unless you are with the Unemployed Person 24 hours per day, you cannot make this assumption. And since, Employed Person, you have a job, you’re at least busy for 8 hours of the day, you may only be with the employed person for 4 of her waking hours each day. You don’t know what we’re doing while you’re away at work. It’s a tough market out there. The best and the brightest are looking and each position receives at least 150 applicants. To say that we’re not looking hard enough is implying that we are lazy people who are sitting at home all day, polishing our nails and waiting for them to dry; that is not the case. Some of us are the most hard-working people that you will ever meet. We are just unfortunate in our job hunt.

4. What happened at your last job?

Nosy. How is my response to this question going to help you in your life? Perhaps, it will teach you a couple things, but it doesn’t matter cause right now I don’t want to talk about it. There’s a recession; so assume that’s what happened to my job.

Whatever is encouraging, whatever is empowering, whatever is enlightening, speak those things to Unemployed People. The main thing that an Unemployed Person wants to know is that there is someone in her corner and that she has a listening ear whenever she needs to vent. That’s all. And when you listen, get this, you don’t even need to give advice! You just need to listen!

4 thoughts on ““Are You Ok?” and Other Questions Not To Ask An Unemployed Person

  1. Are you ok Jess? :-)…just kidding…
    I have a lot of faith in you and frankly i think that an employer loses out when they don’t put on board a person of your calibre and charm…


  2. Nail. Head. You hit it dead on. When I find a job, I’m going to call my 5th grade math teacher to tell her too.


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