October 8, 2009
Can a spouse's meddling help your career?
During the past week, I've conversed with several hiring managers and recruiters about helicopter spouses who play far too prominent a role in their significant other's job search.
I'm not talking about proofreading your husband's resume or introducing your wife to a professional contact who has a hot job lead for her. There's nothing wrong with lending a hand like this. I'm talking about spouses who insist on participating in their S.O.'s interview and salary negotiation process, whether it's calling recruiters on their partner's behalf or showing up -- uninvited -- to the actual interviews.
According to the experts I've questioned, meddlesome spouses are the third rail of candidate searches. With so many qualified applicants out there, the thinking goes, why bother with those who can't speak for themselves? ("Ask the Headhunter" syndicated columnist Nick Corcodilos recently devoted an entire post to this subject.)
Yes, the loss of income that comes with a partner's layoff affects you both. Same goes for the disatisfaction your sweetie feels for a job that's turned sour.
But how much prodding, cajoling, and advocating on their behalf is appropriate? And how much will turn off your partner -- and any prospective employers?
In her recent post about what to do when your better half loses their livelihood, Yahoo! blogger Marci Alboher offered this priceless advice:
"Give help when it is asked for, and try not to give help when it is not asked for."
If you're the one who's been laid off, Alboher explained, you of course need to show your S.O. that you're actively looking for work. Likewise, Alboher wrote, supporting a laid-off partner -- emotionally, mentally, and financially -- means not hovering.
There is, however, such a thing as successful spousal interference. My favorite recent example of it occurred online.
In September, Chris Lehmann, a senior editor of Congressional Quarterly, was one of 44 journalists laid off from the publication. His wife, MSNBC contributor Anna Marie Cox, waxed sympathetic on Twitter, where she has more than 1.2 million followers. When one of Lehmann's fellow editors was allegedly canned upon demanding an explanation for the ousting of his 44 colleagues, Cox tweeted her outrage. Repeatedly.
A rash of scathing Twitter posts aren't likely to win back the jobs of Lehmann and his colleagues, no matter how many of her 1.2 million-plus Twitter followers Cox whipped into an irate frenzy. But it's helped garner sympathy -- from the public and fellow media professionals -- for her husband's employment lot. I'm guessing he already has upped his freelance contributions and is entertaining new job offers.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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