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How to Talk with Family About Your Job Search During the Holidays

It's not as hard as you think...

by Janna Kefalas in Job Search, Networking

This holiday season, many people are probably feeling a little trepidatious about the current political climate — and the possible conflicts that could arise over the dinner table.

But if you’re doing a job search or going through a career transition, there may be an added layer of dread when you think about dealing with inquiring family members.

Of course you don’t want awkward or uncomfortable conversations to get in the way of holiday merrymaking — so here are 3 tips for smooth sailing:

#1 – Be Prepared to Give an Update

When you spend concentrated time with extended family, especially those who you only see once or twice a year, it’s natural to get those broad questions — “How’s your job search going?” Or, “Are you still thinking about changing careers?”

While you might be tempted to make a beeline for the bathroom, or, conversely, give a detailed description of every job you’ve applied for the last three months, know that a concise, balanced response is probably best. Family members who’ve know you your whole life can see through an overly chipper or somber answer.

So you might want to say something along the lines of, “Of course with any job search there are some serious ups and downs, but I’ve been building connections at some great companies and am pursuing several interesting opportunities. Fingers crossed!”

Obviously your relationship with each family member will dictate how in-depth you go, but that’s a solid start.

#2 – Expect to Hear Lots of Unsolicited Advice

Even the most well-meaning loved ones are bound to make your eyes roll this holiday.

Aunt Shirley might pipe in, “Have you checked out that LinkedIn site?” (Duh!)

And there’s Cousin Tim: “You really want to go into advertising?? My friend Mike works in advertising and HATES it.”

Relatives you haven’t seen in eons will have all sorts of advice on how to fix your resume or what the “hot” industries are. What’s important to keep in mind is that, at the heart of it, they care about you and want to help in any way they can.

So instead of getting defensive, perfect your polite smiling and nodding routine. And once everyone parts ways, remind yourself you know what’s right for you.

Though this brings up one last point…

#3 – Help Them Help You

Fortunately, not every family member is going to interrogate you or give you useless pointers. Some might actually be in the position to help you in your job search or career transition. As I’ve written about previously, any social gathering can be a potential networking opportunity. The difference is how you go about it.

When someone’s looking for a job or making a career change, it’s common for them to tell their friends and family to let them know if they “hear of anything.” Your loved ones want to help, but they don’t really know how.

A better approach is to tell them specific roles you’re looking for as well as 10-15 companies you’re targeting, and ask if they know anyone who works at those companies. If you’re changing careers, the more people you can talk to who work in that career, the better.

If your extended family is on LinkedIn, don’t be shy about connecting with them. They might not even realize there’s someone in their network who could be helpful to you. The key is to give relatives as much specific information as possible so they know what steps they can take.

And whether or not your family is able to give you job leads, remember the real meaning of family — a support system during those hard times. Their kind words of encouragement can really make a difference, so don’t be afraid to lean on them.

You will no doubt return the favor sometime soon.