We all know the holidays can be difficult.  I look around me and I know I’m not the only one struggling.  It’s an especially challenging time for my clients who are looking at a career change.

Whether you are looking for work, trying to break into a new career, or nearly desperate to get out of a miserable job, this can be an especially difficult time of year.  There are the family get-togethers, the holiday parties, and the expectation of good cheer.  Except I don’t feel cheery at all and I know I’m not the only one.

Sure, I can slap a smile on and answer “Great!” whenever someone asks how my business is going.  It is going fine, no lie.  I just don’t feel “great” about where it is as compared with where I think it should be.

Isn’t that true of our careers as well?  Because, if you’re alive and an adult then you measure yourself and everybody else by what they “do.”  The first question when you meet someone?  “What do you do?” After you’ve asked about children and spouses when you catch up with friends? “How’s work going?”  Or, in my case, “How’s the business?”

You know what?  Can we please just stop it? I can tell my clients that the holidays are great time to reconnect with old friends and family who could be helpful in their job search.  It’s true, except for one thing:  It’s the last thing they want to talk about.  Just as I think about and work on my business nearly every single frickin’ minute, my clients think about and work on making a career change all the time. 

You may not realize this but there are few things as emotionally exhausting as trying to find a job, or going for a promotion, or making a career change (e.g., becoming an entrepreneur).  There is nothing that goes more to the core of who we are and how we see ourselves than our work.  So, basically, what I’m saying is that when you ask someone how the job search is going, it’s like saying “I know we haven’t seen each other in a year, but I’m going to ask about the deepest, darkest fears in your life right now.  And, please, pretend and make it sound good so I won’t have to make a real emotional connection with what you’re going through right now.”

What You Can Say To Someone Who Is Looking For Work

Do me a favor, do my clients a favor and try something different this year.  Here are some ideas for things you can ask about instead:

  1. What’s your one of your favorite memories from 2016?
  2. What are you doing for fun these days?
  3. Do you remember that time when we…” What blast!
  4. I was just thinking about you. I really value how (sincere compliment here)
  5. I always enjoy seeing you – tell me something I don’t know (shout-out to my dear friend Al DiLeonardo for this one!)

Ask one of these questions and you might actually get beyond the usual small talk.  At the very least you’ll be taking someone off the spot and giving them a chance to breathe.

Happy Holidays!