The holidays. A time for reflection. A time for renewal of spirit.
And a time for clichéd, awkward conversations.
“Why aren’t you married?…You should have children…Did you ever find a new job?”
At JEVS Career Strategies, our clients often talk about the anxieties that can arise at this time of year. Chief among the stressors include answering uncomfortable questions about a career search from friends, relatives and acquaintances. Some questions about employment can feel downright intrusive and nosy; but the holiday season also provides a great opportunity to network. So how to balance the two? And if you’re trying to help a job seeker, what is appropriate to ask?
Picture a lovely family dinner. And then Uncle Bob speaks up:
“When are you getting a job? How’s the job search coming?”
Here are some things to remember if confronted by this line of questioning:
- The motivation of the asker is important. Most people act out of genuine care and concern for our well-being. It could be an attempt to make sure that you are simply “okay.” Your decision to engage in conversation, then, is situational – trust your judgment.
- In many cases, you don’t need to justify yourself. It’s easy to feel defensive, but it should never feel necessary to detail each application completed, networking event attended, or give interview updates.
- For occasions where you may be asked about your job or occupational status, you could proactively create a mental list of talking points – what you would be willing to discuss – and tailor it to your audience (for example, having a quick overview of your skills for a possible business contact at a holiday party, if asked).
- Politeness works. Genuinely thanking someone for their concern, keeping the answer short, and then moving to another topic will tip off an unsavvy questioner that perhaps another time or setting is best to discuss the matter.
But what if you are the family member of someone who is unemployed or underemployed, and you care about the situation – but don’t know how to ask?
When in doubt, remember tact and class. Class has been defined as “good manners and consideration for others.” A personal inquiry should never be made in front of others, and depending on your relationship with the job seeker, you may want to wait for him or her to bring up the topic before pursuing conversation.
You should also never assume anyone’s financial status, based off job status. However, recognize that splitting the cost of a large New Year’s Eve bash is something that should be discussed long before any actual expenditure is made!
Finally, if your relationship is close enough and you are certain that your assistance would be welcomed, consider ahead of time any business introductions that you might be able to make. After all, the holiday season naturally lends itself to reconnection and networking – so if you have the approval of your job seeker, perhaps you could give the wonderful gift of opportunity this year! Maybe you have 3 friends they should meet? Or perhaps a resume writing or computer course that you could take together?
The magic of the holiday season can be felt in the warmth, camaraderie and consideration that we give – both to others and even to ourselves. At JEVS Career Strategies, we wish you not a season of excess – but a season of reflection, renewal and peace.
—Samara Fritzsche, Career Counselor, JEVS Human Services