I've learned over the last 15+ years as a career therapist that during the holidays, there are a lot of people who don't want to sing, "It's the most wonderful time of the year." The thought of talking to family, friends, or ex-coworkers makes them silently scream, "Bah humbug!" Nobody likes being quizzed about their job prospects when they're unemployed or hate their work. Even worse is all the well-meaning, self-proclaimed job search experts who unload their career wisdom on you. It's enough to make you want to stay home. But, that's not the answer either. Why? Holiday events where people are feeling festive are good for your job search. You need to feel the cheer and gratitude to help you stay motivated. Plus, you never know who you'll meet. Someone who works at, or knows someone who works at your dream employer could be attending! So, how do you shut down the conversation about your career without coming across as the Grinch? Here's the solution...
Prepare (And Rehearse!) A Response In Advance
The mistake most people make is not thinking about the right answer to questions like:
- How's your job search going?
- Why are you having such a hard time finding a new job?
- What are you doing to find a job?
Having a universal response that ends the discussion politely is key! You also need to practice the delivery of this response so that it sounds upbeat, positive and clear that the topic isn't up for further conversation. All it takes is a four-step answer that:
A) Thanks them for their concern.
B) Explains you've got a source for career advice already.
C) Makes it clear you came to discuss other things.
D) Redirects the conversation with a different question.
An example might be something like this:
"Thanks so much for asking! My job search is going quite well. I've been working hard and I'm excited about my progress. In fact, I was looking forward to tonight as a well-earned break from it. It's nice to be in the company of people like you and talking about something else. So, tell me about the most exciting thing that happened to you this past year?"
When you have a response like this ready to go, you'll find it much easier to stay positive because you'll feel in control of the conversation.
P.S. - When They Don't Give Up, You Earn The Right To Say This
If you find annoying Aunt Millie just won't let the topic go, here's what to say,
"I know you mean well and care about me, that's why I'm hoping we can talk about something else. This event is supposed to be fun for both of us, right? I'd love to chat about a topic we both feel like discussing."
Sometimes, that nudge of a person needs you to spell it out more clearly. And of course, if Aunt Millie doesn't stop after this response? Well then, you've earned your right to smile and walk away. Find folks at the party who share your passions and interests and beeline to them instead. If she can't take the hint after two tries, then it's okay to end the conversation altogether! As Oprah Winfrey says, "We teach people how to treat us." Politely standing up for yourself is a skill worth developing in life. Especially, for situations like this one.