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Home For The Holidays: Tips For Navigating Painful Conversations About Your Job Search


by Ben Holder of GradStaff


If you’re a college senior or recent graduate about to head back home for the holidays, you’ll likely be forced to engage in soul-crushing conversation about your job search and future plans. Believe me, we’ve all been there. Even seemingly innocent grandmas can be completely relentless.

These family members obviously have the best intentions at heart, but the last thing you want is for them to shake your confidence. So, when they start firing off invasive questions before you’ve even had a chance to pop the champagne, don’t sprint in the opposite direction. Be prepared, and use it as an opportunity to practice your communication and personal branding skills.

Below are some potential conversation topics and example questions to be ready for:

When they expect you to have your plans for your 40-year career finalized.

Question: What are you going to do with your life? (Grandma! Right out of the gate?!)

Answer: Here’s the thing, Grandma. I don’t have it figured out yet, but it’s okay that I don’t have it figured out. A lot of my friends and professionals I’ve talked to don’t have it all figured out. There’s not a magic formula to deal with the inevitable twists, turns, road blocks, and unknowns – and I’m okay with that. I’m really just trying to focus on the short-term and not put too much pressure on myself. I’m working on getting to know by best skills and finding a great entry-level position that allows me to utilize those skills, learn as much as possible, and start building a foundation. I can always figure out what I like best in a career and go from there.

When they compare you to siblings, relatives, and family friends.

Question: Why didn’t you follow in your brother’s footsteps and be an engineer? I told you that I didn’t think philosophy was the most practical major.

Answer: If I had picked a major merely based off of the idea that I’d potentially have plenty of job opportunities, I would not have maximized my college experience. I would have just gone through the motions and been bored. Instead, I chose to study something that I’m genuinely curious about, and I took advantage of every opportunity that came my way. I learned how to study, how to think, and how to lead, which has set an extremely strong foundation for me, no matter what I decide to do. In fact, a recent survey found that 93% of employers agree that ability to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve problems is more important than undergraduate major. My philosophy major won’t define my job search or my career. It has endless application.

When they guilt trip you.

Question: I helped you pay for 4 years of college, and you still don’t have a job?

Answer: College is about so much more than just getting a job. It’s about becoming a better citizen, exploring subjects, ideas and extracurriculars that you’re passionate about, learning to manage your time across said subjects, ideas, and extracurriculars, and developing a network of peers and mentors. I’ve been able to do all of this, and I’m more career-ready as a result, which will pay for itself by the time I retire. Just because I haven’t yet landed a job doesn’t mean that I didn’t maximize the value of my college experience.

When they discount your non-professional work experience.

Question: Why are you still working at that restaurant when you could be getting a real job?

Answer: Although it’s not what I plan to do for my career, my current job IS a real job. I’m developing important skills and demonstrating my ability to lead people, solve problems, and provide awesome customer service. Employers crave highly-developed skills like these, whether they’ve been honed in a restaurant or office environment. These skills will be super helpful when I do eventually begin my career.

When they don’t think you’re taking the job search seriously enough.

Question: Why aren’t you spending more time at home applying to jobs?

Answer: The job search has changed dramatically, so it doesn’t make sense for me to spend all my time hiding behind the computer screen and firing off resumes. There’s certainly a time and place for that, but I want to be strategic about it. Each corporate job attracts 250 resumes on average, so competition is stiff. Further, up to 80% of open positions aren’t posted online, so it’s extremely important that I’m growing my network strategically. For example, I’m really interested in non-profits, but my network isn’t as strong in that area. To close the gap, I’m getting involved in local meet-ups and organizations that will help to expand my connections in that space. This is time that is extremely well spent.


Ben Holder

Ben Holder manages candidate marketing and college recruiting for GradStaff – a national career matchmaking service. GradStaff helps recent college graduates discover how their transferrable skills translate into the workforce and then matches them with great entry-level jobs. 


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