3 steps to surviving career scrutiny during the holidays

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Here it comes. The time of year when we get together for the holidays. For some of us, it's a fun time to connect and enjoy the company of family and friends. For others, it's a time when your blood pressure rises and stress level increases as you endure scrutiny from the people in your life who claim to know what's best for you.

If you are:

  • Between jobs right now. (a/k/a unemployed)
  • Under-employed and everyone knows it.
  • Building a start-up and living on cereal.
  • Working for a company that represents something others don't understand or appreciate.
  • Not using your college degree.
  • Not in the profession your parents wished you'd pursued.
  • In any other situation not covered above, that gets scrutinized by family.

Here are three steps you can take to re-direct the conversation so you can enjoy the party.

NOTE: To get the best results, this requires a little advanced thought on your part. In particular, try to anticipate which individuals you know will attempt to scrutinize you so you can tailor your approach.

Step 1: Shut the conversation down with a surprise response. As soon as they start asking about your situation, in just a tad overly-enthusiastic voice tone, say this:

"I'm so glad you asked! Things are good. Really good. I'm working on a new career move right now and don't want to jinx it by talking about it. But, I appreciate you being so kind to ask. I'll be sure to let you know when the time is right."

Next, do this...

Step 2: Re-direct them to another subject they can advise you on. This kind of person wants to feel like they have some kind of impact on your life. Thus, you need to give them something different to coach you on. This is where the anticipation of the conversation can help you prepare. You should be able to say something like this,

"However, I really would love to talk to you about your car. I remember you bought one last year and did a lot of research. I'm thinking of getting a new car soon. Can you share with me how you approached it?"

The key is to pick something that will let them monopolize the conversation while simultaneously taking them in a total different direction than the career discussion. However, if they don't take the bait, or try to circle back, then you need to do this...

Step 3: Politely remind them they aren't your career coach. If they bring up your career again, keep a smile on your face, look them directly in the eye, and with a slightly lower tone of voice so they know you are trying not to embarrass them, simply say,

"Your concern means the world to me. Thank you for caring. But, we are different people with different career goals. And, I have some great mentors and co-workers in my life who I prefer to work with on my career. You are part of my family, not my career coach. I think it's better if we don't talk about this together. We have so much else we can catch up on."

This enables you to stand up for yourself without creating a lot of conflict. I know for some folks reading this, it's very hard to speak up to overbearing loved-ones, that's why this works so well. This approach lets you stay calm, kind, and collected. [And, if necessary, I encourage you to get additional support and coaching so you are confident you can take control of the situation.]

Remember, People Treat You The Way You Let Them Treat You

If you don't stand up to the career scrutiny, it won't stop. You need to let the people in your life know holiday celebrations aren't the time or place to talk about your career. Using the strategy above will help you politely remind them the point of getting together is to enjoy each other's company by talking about things that make both of you happy. It's up to you to make it clear your career isn't on the conversation agenda!

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