Sabotage! Is your family derailing your job search?

Photo by Graham Campbell

A job search is hard enough without being sabotaged by well meaning friends or family members.

I have worked with job seekers and career changers through multiple ebbs and flows in the economy in the years that I have been a career marketing strategist and resume writer.

Whenever you lose a job, you go through the same feelings that anyone does in a loss situation. You need time to work through the stages of grief.

Take Anything – Get a JOB

Your family may be going through their own stages of grief but often may seem much less willing to let you go through yours. Even after a week of being unemployed, they may want you to take any job that comes along.

Since the length of a job search has grown in this current economic crisis, family may be pushing you to just grab a job. Get a Job. Any job. Perhaps they are even suggesting a low level job that doesn’t at all compare to your recent position as Director of Operations for XYZ Corporation. They might tell you, “McDonald’s is hiring.”

Could you sabotage your future employment?

While taking a job just to cover expenses may be a solution and in some cases, it might be the right solution, it has its own risk. I have worked with clients who have grabbed a job off base from their talent, skills, or level of expertise and then found that it didn’t work out. Then they grab another one which also fails. Pretty soon, their resume is choppy and off track with no logical sequence for the prospective employer to grasp. It may even make the employer wonder if the person is a job hopper or doesn’t really have the skills for the more advanced position in the future.

Role Reversal

Sometimes, it is easier for another person in the family to get a short-term position to cover expenses while the spouse works on creating the connections to their next position.Even if your family structure is such that one spouse stays home with the children and runs the household, you might find that this is the time to reverse roles and at the same time, schedule friends or family to help cover for the job seeker when he has an interview or networking meeting.

Job search is a strategy.

You need to be prepared with a keyword rich, accomplishment-driven, value-filled resume, research potential opportunities, work at networking your way into the companies that attract you, and brush up on interviewing. And that’s just my short list without delving into the intricacies of creating a LinkedIn profile, launching a subject matter expert blog, or starting to communicate on social networks.

So if you are the family member reading this, think through your strong desire to get everything back on track and see if you can help the job seeker find the right position and not just “a job.” In the long run, your family structure will benefit from someone who feels fulfilled in his work and happy that he or she is contributing to the family income once again.

Have you experienced sabotage in your job search?


  1. Jane C Woods on August 14, 2010 at 9:40 am

    As usual you make some really good points, Julie, particularly those relating to the pyscholgical impacts of job changes. I’d agree with you, try not to panic and allow yourself to be inveigled into taking any old job but use unemployment as a time to work out what you really want to do, even if the route to it may be circuitous! And of course, then I’d recommend using your services!!

    • Julie Walraven on August 14, 2010 at 10:55 am

      Thanks, Jane! I appreciate it… and the recommendation!

      Many family members who are also impacted psychologically by job loss don’t understand the impact on the job seeker or how critical a long-term strategy is to ensure there won’t be a repetitive cycle of job loss because the job seeker isn’t fully engaged in the role.

      As you know as a woman’s development coach, the underlying factors to success are so many and most of us don’t take the time to delve into them even when everything is going right.

  2. Barb Poole on August 14, 2010 at 9:56 am

    Well said, Julie! I agree with you wholeheartedly. There is so often a grieving process not dealt with in job loss. Even when it’s a calcuated search, the length of time in the search and other factors can create stress. It is essential for the job seeker to be armed with a strategy and action plan. And part of that strategy/plan should always include assembling a support team that will not only support, but hold the seeker accountable. If family (or friends) are not part of that scenario, then there must be others who will be. Susan Whitcomb has a term I love–“fish fever”–jumping from one thing to another without focus. Often that distraction from focus is directly related to sabotage by people who know you and mean well. But their advice is not in your best interest. Great post!

    • Julie Walraven on August 14, 2010 at 10:59 am

      Thanks, Barb, I love your coaching perspective that comes from years in the industry. Accountability is important and the accountability has to be delivered by someone that the job seeker respects and will follow.

      If a family member is constantly nagging the job seeker, the result will be rebellion and potentially depression.

      Thanks for commenting and the conversation on the phone that led to this post. Looking forward to hearing more from you perhaps on your blog. It is such a critical subject!

  3. Dawn Bugni on August 14, 2010 at 10:45 am

    Julie –

    What you’ve said is so true. Being unemployed or even making the decision it’s time to move on is difficult enough without the ones nearest and dearest nipping away at self-confidence and delivering doubt at a time when confidence has to be at its peak.

    Back when Careerealism was running the Twitter Advice Project (TAP) I answered a question from a recent graduate asking how to handle his mom’s constant hounding about getting a job and what her negative input and constant criticism was doing to his psyche and his search. I tweeted: “Move out now. FIND a way. Living in mentally toxic cesspool not helping.”

    Poor kid. His desperation, exponentially increased by his feeling of letting mom down, was probably “shining through” during each and every interview.” Without a major shift in thinking, he was destined to stay headed down that long and difficult road.

    Some may say my response was a little harsh. (I won’t disagree completely.) But I don’t mean abandon mom forever. Regardless the source of the toxin, you have to jettison it during a job search. A job seeker, especially, in today’s market, needs all the positive energy they can get.

    You listed great examples of how to give positive support and alternatives to make sure in the long-run everybody wins. A job search is difficult enough without dragging around the weight of negative words and “hurry up” expectations too.

    • Julie Walraven on August 14, 2010 at 11:03 am

      Thank you, Dawn, I wrote this post before I read your excellent one on the same topic. Not only are job seekers pushed to take just anything and fed negativity when they don’t land fast enough for spouse, mother, father, or siblings but they also are often chastised for reaching out for help from the qualified career professionals who can shorten their search.

      Investment in help because you believe you are worth it makes it easier to get landed sooner.

      Here’s your great post for those who didn’t read it yet.

  4. Brent Peterson on August 14, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    Hi Julie,

    Another good discussion. The old adage a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush generally holds true in the job marketplace. But not always. 3 years ago, I worked at headquarters for a company you probably knew (Circuit City). Well, 30,000 people lost their jobs in one day so this question kept coming up for the people impacted.

    There are not easy answers. For reference, I presented the question… Should You Stay Unemployed? on my blog earlier this year and received some valuable responses:

    To this date, I receive updates from people who found employment in their line of business, but at a significant pay cut. However, they are keeping their eyes open to other opportunities while gaining valuable experience in the interim (it is an approach I applaud).


    • Julie Walraven on August 14, 2010 at 1:35 pm

      Hi Brent,

      It depends on how long you have been off and how deep the cut is. Pay cuts are to be expected if you switch companies especially in this economy. If your value is exceptional and you fit a niche that the company needs to fill, you might come in at the same or slightly higher salary than the one you had before. As downsizing continues, cutting the large salaries to reposition people in positions with significantly lower salaries can keep the company doors open.

      Thanks for the comment and the additional link and information!

Resume Design and Job Seeking Tips

Here are Design Resumes' latest articles on job search, resume design, resume writing, and Linkedin optimization articles I've written.

FREE Resume and Job Search Tips by email

Get free tips and strategy direct to your inbox. just add your name and email below. I respect your privacy.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Julie Walraven, Design Resumes

Julie Walraven

Professional Resume Writer

Here are ways I can help you land your dream job.

You may be halfway across the country or the world. When you work with me, we share coffee, laughs, and concerns. This turns the scary job search into creative, consultative writing and learning sessions.