For people looking for work, casual, social gatherings might be a welcome break from the daily grind, or a source of turmoil and fear. It helps to remember that well-meaning family members or friends are not trying to make you anxious by asking about employment. Be prepared for these situations and look forward to a more relaxing time with those you love.
While the below questions are common around the holidays, they won’t end on Dec. 31st! Share your tips in the comments for more ways to answer these sometimes troubling questions.
Dreaded Question #1 (from a new contact): “What do you do?”
Here’s one way to answer. “I’m in the midst of a job transition, and am working with a job coach at JVS. It’s been a great experience so far.” Then ask them where they work and if they feel comfortable connecting on LinkedIn.
Dreaded Question #2 (from a relative or friend): “How’s it going with your job search?”
One reasonable answer is: “Things are going great. Thanks for asking.” They may press with: “But what are you actually doing?”
You might say: “Yes! Oh my gosh, let me tell you! I’m getting great support from JVS (a place downtown that offers free professional job coaching.”
How to deal with unwelcome suggestions: For example: “Have you tried putting your resume on Monster.com? I did that…”
Your well intentioned friend/family member/nemesis may keep pushing or making suggestions. You might say in response…“I’m so glad that worked for you and you want to share your strategies for success. I appreciate your support; I don’t really want to talk about my job search right now. I feel really good about my progress. When I am celebrating my new job, I’ll let you know.”
If they don’t get the hint, it is time to get them talking about themselves. Be curious about what’s up with them. Ask something about the immediate situation, “Are you enjoying this party?” Or ask about their plans for the future, “What are you looking forward to in 2015? Any tropical vacations? New babies in your family?” Again, if you know this person, ask about a relevant topic that will divert the conversation. If you want to stay on the topic of work and employment, but you are finished talking about your own search, you might ask. “How’s work going for you these days? Any exciting projects?” It may help to hear what they’re working on and give you a chance to find helpful information.
One of my favorite bloggers (Shari Harley of candidculture.com) gives great advice for answering almost any personal question. Try: “I don’t have anything to report on this front, but I’ll let you know when I do.”
Holiday parties are for celebrating and connecting with your loved ones. So have fun, meet new people, learn new things. It may not feel like it, but, SHHHH… you are networking! Being comfortable at parties, and being comfortable talking about yourself is all good practice for later when you are intentionally networking or in the active tasks of your job search.
Stay safe, and above all, enjoy yourself this season.