With Thanksgiving around the corner, many of us are going to be seeing family and friends after some time apart. In just a few days, the undergraduates I teach at the University of Delaware will be heading home. Planes, trains and cars will bring us back to loved ones, with the attendant family get-togethers, the holiday parties, and the expectation of good cheer.
But what if you don’t feel cheery at all?
Whether you are looking for that first job out of college, 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.
Part of the reason it’s so hard is that in our culture, there is nothing that goes more to the core of who we are and how we see ourselves than our work. And, of course, asking about work, or whether your niece or nephew, soon to graduate, has a job lined up, is natural!
But I want to suggest you resist the urge. Let them bring it up. If you haven’t personally looked for work in a while you may not realize that there are few things as emotionally exhausting as trying to find a new job, or going for a promotion, or making a career change.
When you ask someone how a job search is going, or what their plans are, it’s like saying “I know we haven’t seen each other in a year, but I’m going to ask a question that brings out the deepest, darkest fears in your life right now.”
What You Can Say To Someone Who Is Looking For Work
Do me a favor, do my clients a favor, do my university students a favor and try something different this year. Here are some ideas for things you can ask about instead:
- What’s one of your favorite memories from 2019?
- What are you doing for fun these days?
- Do you remember that time when we…”What a blast!”
- I was just thinking about you. I really value how (sincere compliment here).
- 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. They will appreciate it and you!