theofficeIgnore the media meme of the past few years about the bountiful employment opportunities available. Today, though the official unemployment rate remains low, nearly every job opening is receiving tens of applicants (if not more), and being hired requires a lot of effort and often luck.

Which is why in 2017, if you have a family member who is looking for a job, don’t sit on the sidelines. Instead, do all you can to be of assistance. In the late 1970s, when I started in the job training field, a job seeker could send out a cover letter and résumé and expect to get several interviews, if not a position. Today, the job market is so much more competitive that most job inquiries, by internet or other means, go unanswered, and employers have a wide choice among applicants.

“It is those we live with and love and we should know who elude us,” explains the father, a Scottish Presbyterian minister, near the end of A River Runs Through It (Norman Maclean’s novella of a family in Montana in the early part of the 20th century). Helping a family member find a job involves some of the same techniques as helping a stranger, but often with greater emotional intricacies. Here are five guidelines I’d put forward for job search today, with particular attention to helping a family member.

1– First, reach out and offer assistance: You can never be too involved as a family member in job search. There’s a lot of sanctimonious criticism of “helicopter parents,” who are said to be too connected to their children. But this is misdirected criticism in most areas of life, and certainly for job search. We all can benefit from the assistance of family members.

Often the most difficult part of providing assistance, is offering it in the first place. You may think the offer will be taken the wrong way as suggesting you don’t think your family member can get a job on his or her own. There are several ways of offering assistance, and one is to lead by noting the competition in the job market. You might start with, “It’s so tough out there today in trying to find a job,” or , “I read an article in Forbes that details the job competition and urges family members to do everything possible to help.”

Two further points I have found about offering assistance to family members — even if it is not accepted immediately, it may well be over time and even if the job seeker does not say so, the offer is almost always appreciated.

2– Use your contacts (and the contacts of your contacts): Even as the internet plays a greater role in job search, most job placement is through contacts. The best avenue to a job placement is a referral within a company. You want to reach out to any contacts you have who might be a referral. You cannot be too proud to ask.

Few of us have contacts in fields outside of our immediate occupations and sectors. So in these outside fields, you will want to think about second -level contacts. These are usually not as helpful, but much of job search is a numbers game. You want to try to help with as many contacts as possible, and you never know who might come through.

Our contacts also help us tap what is known as “the hidden job market,” the large number of jobs (estimated at 50 percent or more) that are not advertised through job boards or widely publicized.

3– Focus on getting them in the door: As the job market has shifted from full-time employment into greater roles of contingent employment, so too job search techniques must shift. A premium is placed on getting in the door. This means a willingness to take opportunities that might be part-time or project-based or independent contracting. These opportunities enable a worker to demonstrate her or his abilities, and become known by staff. So leads for a family member in getting project-based work or independent contracting can be almost as valuable as leads in full-time employment. Even volunteering can be a good strategy for getting in the door — though only if it is closely structured with clear responsibilities and oversight.

4– Use the job boards, but don’t rely on them: Over the past decade, thousands of major online job boards have come to dominate job listings. But the ease of application, along with the surplus of applicants, means job board applications by themselves rarely result in interviews, much less job hires. The online job boards should not be ignored; they can be a starting point in identifying job openings and who is hiring. But as a human resources official recently told a job club I’m part of, receives so many applications for each job, that referrals from current employees are more important than ever. Again, the importance of job networks for family members is clear.

5– Be patient, as job placements can take time and can come at any time: Even undertaking all of the right job search techniques may not result in a job placement, at least not right away.

Professionals in the job placement world who are parents know this. One of the best job counselors I know, with the California Department of Rehabilitation, has been filling out job applications with her 20-something son for some time. Like all of us who fill out applications with family members, she is frustrated, but also knows that job placements can occur (and often do occur) without warning, at any time.

And like relationships, you don’t need to convince a lot of companies, only one company.