How to Help Someone in Career Crisis

Watching someone you go love through a career crisis is heart-breaking.  You see your child is struggling to find a focus after high school.  Your partner is working at job that they dread going to each day.  You listen to the challenges your friend faces when looking for a new job.  

And you would do just about anything to ease the pain of this person that you care for.

It is tempting to think that you know what is the best course of action for this person. You just want to help. But before you begin dispensing advice, first take some time consider your approach: 

How Invested Are You in the Outcome?  We might have ulterior motives when it comes to dispensing the career advice. Does your household depend on your partner's income? Do you feel that your child’s occupational choice will reflect on you?

Your investment in the outcome is not bad - your loved one is lucky to have someone who cares.  But ask yourself if you are acting in the best interest of your loved one or yourself. 

Check Your Bias: When you want to help someone else, you first need to look at your own beliefs about work and career. What do you believe about career and how people find their career path? 

Based on our experience and family history, we may have a bias towards certain career routes. My family emphasized the importance of shorter term training through college and trades apprenticeships. My husband’s family all have university degrees. Some families may focus their children towards culturally esteemed occupations like medicine or engineering.  

Before you start making suggestions, take a look at your own assumptions and history.   

  • Do you think that the only way to get a good job is to get a degree?   Or do you think university education is over-rated? 
  • Do you think education is necessary to find work or should someone just get a job and then work their way up?  
  • Do you think some occupations are more esteemed than others or do you think of all work as being equal?  

You know what has worked for you. Be careful in assuming that what worked for you will work for your loved one. Despite good intentions, you could be pressuring on your loved one to follow a certain route that they are not well-suited for.

Be Objective: When we are close to someone, we tend to see them a certain way. When you want to help someone make a career decision, it’s best to take a step back and try to view them objectively.

  • What are their key strength? 
  • What are areas of skill? 
  • Do you see certain patterns or themes coming up for them throughout their career path? 

It might helpful for your loved one to hear your observations.  Yet, you need to make sure that they are in a space where they are willing to hear your feedback.

You might say something like:

I know that you are struggling with trying to figure out your career direction. For some people, it might be helpful to hear some feedback on what others might recognize as their strengths and skills.  Would that be helpful to you? I’d be happy to share my observations if you are interested.

Listen, Listen, Listen:  The struggle is real. If your loved one wants to talk, be there to hear. When I was trying to make a decision on whether I should quit my job, I talked to trusted people in my life. I don't remember what they said, but having an outlet to talk and process made a big difference. Through those conversations, I began to get clarity on what I needed. I was able to acknowledge the fear that was holding me back and the excitement I had for a new beginning. Even in the confusion of my career decision, I felt the support of my loved ones who would be there for me no matter what. 

Ask Good Questions: Being in career turmoil is like being in a fog. Everything seems unclear.  You can help your loved one make sense of things by asking some good questions such as: 

  • What would be important to you in a work environment?
  • What is the story that you want your life to tell?
  • Where do you find joy in your life?  What is life-giving and sustaining? 
  • What jobs did you enjoy in the past?  What made them enjoyable?
  • What are you learning from your current situation and how does that impact your future?
  • How would you define a successful career?
  • What’s the next step that you need to take?
  • How can I help you right now?

Avoid any type of questions that start with the word, “Why.”

Make Sure Your Advice Is Up-To-Date:  Advice and suggestions can be helpful. But make sure that your advice is up-to-date and relevant to your loved one's situation.  What worked for you 5, 10, or 20 years ago may not work anymore due to changes in the labour market. And applying for work varies widely depending on the industry and company. 

In particular, be careful with resume advice. A poor resume will result in getting screened out early on in the application process. If you are helping your loved one with their resume, make sure it meets industry standards.  Talk to someone in their industry or a job search professional. 

Brainstorm:  As you have ideas, be sure to share them with your loved one. When someone is in crisis, it can be difficult to come up with creative or new possibilities.  Share your ideas, but without expectation that your loved one will follow it!

Going through a career crisis is hard.  But your support can make all the difference to your loved one! 


If you or someone in your life is going through a career transition, Career Story can help! We provide affordable, professional career counselling services.  Contact us today at 604-614-3155 or