Is job hunting a solitary project?

I am currently job searching. My wife, who is in another field, constantly asks me how she can help me with my job search, and I don’t know what to tell her. I consider a job search to be a solitary activity, or an activity where the only help I get is from people in my same field. What should I tell my wife when she asks how she can help me?

You should handle all person-to-person contact during your job search, including e-mail. If a spouse (or anyone else) does it for you, there will be inevitable lapses when you are exposed as using a proxy. Employers don’t appreciate encountering the job hunter’s secretary or assistant.

If you need to do research, your spouse could help you with that. However, the risk is that while she’s exploring an info source, she may miss info that you might recognize (serendipitously) as useful. That’s up to you.

No matter how close your spouse is to you, I think you’ll find that job hunting and career change are indeed solitary activities. This is a time when we learn about ourselves and often find that we’re not who we thought we were. Another person can’t help you have this experience, except in passing. One of my favorite quotes is from Vladimir Nabokov, whose words might inspire epistemological terror in even the most self-confident person: “You are not I, and therein lies the irreparable calamity.”

No one — not even a spouse — can substitute their experience for your own.

One great way for a spouse to help is to listen and be a sounding board, without actually getting involved.

Let’s hear some other ways a spouse might be helpful (or cause problems) in a job search!


  1. Resumes. No matter how well you know your resume any time you make an update ask your (person by whatever title) to read it for errors. Happens every time.
    Of course you can ask them to keep their eyes/ears open during their day. They may be talking to someone who says their spouse is hiring a (fill in the blank) and they can say My spouse is in that field. Can I have them connect with you?

  2. The helpful spouse can be a great sounding board to bounce ideas off of. Sometimes we get so into our job search that we don’t see things the ways others do. Ask your spouse to not only proof read your resumes and other communications, but ask their opinion on new search strategies; how your profiles on social media sites look to an other person; ask them what they think your transferable skills could be; constructive critique on interview outfits. Ask them to just listen without judging and be patient with you.

  3. I agree, Nick, it’s difficult to outsource aspects of the job search to a spouse. You already touched on the biggest way they can help – to listen and be a sounding board. Other ways they can help include drafting or editing letters, proofreading documents, printing and mailing cover letters and follow up/thank you letters, and helping with interview prep.

  4. I think being that sounding board and editor when it comes to things like resumes, cover letters and handling interview questions, these are key points for what a spouse or friend can do to help. If they go, “What the heck does that mean?” or “What was your point in this sentence?” it can be helpful in clarifying the message.

    Another point is to keep their eyes and ears open for things within that field which may mean having to explain what kind of work are you wanting,e.g. what sector or roles do you want. If someone wants to find someone to mow their lawn, would you be interested in that? Some may and some may not.

    Lastly, the spouse can help with some minor aspects like what clothes to wear, what attitude to have going into the interview, quiz on what key points to have and communicate, which may be easily overlooked by others in the world. How many people do you know can get that free second opinion of, “Do I have something in my teeth?” or “How do these clothes make me look?” kind of questions? It can be quite valuable and yet I doubt how many people know how to take advantage of the gold mine right next to him or her.

  5. Good ideas here about how a spouse can be helpful without being intrusive!

  6. Wow… I’ve been hoping for *more than 2 years* to find the article referenced here (Acute Spousal Interference).

    About 2 years ago, when my job was really stressing me out, and I decided to search for greener pastures, my wife inserted herself very much into the search & interview process. Not contacting an employer, but definitely offering lots of input on where I should look, how much I’m worth, what other benefits I should be offered, etc…

    Under the right circumstances, that can sound helpful, but she doesn’t understand my (technical) job or industry well enough to offer value in that area. For example, when I tried to explain why working at Microsoft just wasn’t an option, she became miffed, and it started impacting our relationship.

    Fast forward, everything’s fine now, happy with my job, etc… but really it goes to show that not all involvement is useful or constructive.

    It’s possible for someone’s heart to be in the right place, and simultaneously for their involvement to be counter-productive.

    Thank you for this article, and posting back to the 2007 article! I will guarantee you there are a LOT of people (men *and* women) in situations like this….