When I think back to graduating from college, I remember how painful that summer was for me from a career perspective. I had a shiny new degree from NYU, a vague idea of what I wanted to do, and no job. Somehow when you don’t have your life figured out, that’s precisely when you are bound to get a million questions about what you’re up to.
I don’t think I handled those questions particularly gracefully but probably stumbled through them and got out alive. By October, I had a job and was relieved to have an easy answer for that question leading into Thanksgiving and the holiday season (when everyone would be asking again).
Whether it’s “Are you dating anyone?”, “Have you found a job yet?” or “Did you decide on a major”, there are just some questions that add anxiety to any holiday get-together. I’ve been chatting with a few of my clients about this recently and I have a suggestion:
Turn that awkward encounter into a productive one by enlisting that person to help you network.
Here’s what I mean. Instead of stumbling through a “I’ve been looking and spending time at home” type of answer try one like this:
“As you know, I spent the last 4 years studying communications so I’m really excited to land my first full time role in that field.
I’m looking for an opportunity in the Editorial or Public Relations area and I’d love to work for a fashion or consumer company. I’ve made a lot of traction in my search but if you happen to know anyone who might me able to help me out or who works in that industry, that would be so helpful.”
Basically, put that encounter to work for you! The holidays are a time when you run into so many different people who aren’t up to speed on your day to day life. Instead of shying away, enlist this army of people to help you meet your job search goals.
Assuming you think this is a good idea… here are some tips on creating a response of your own:
- Be positive – I get that a frustrating or long job search may have you down, but people (unless they are your closest friends or family) will be more likely to engage in a conversation that’s upbeat and hopeful. Especially if you’re at a party or festive event, it’s not the time to vent.
- Show that you’re working hard too – People like to do favors when they see that someone is really putting in the work on their own versus feeling entitled and waiting for someone to make things happen for them. Work ethic and tenacity are great qualities… and you may even come across someone hiring for their own company or team. If that’s the case, you can bet they’re going to want someone hard working.
- Be somewhat focused, so they know how to help – I always say this, but there’s a big problem with the I’ll do anything” mentality when it comes to the job search. Even if you have a few different areas of interest, name them specifically. That will give the person on the other end the ability to think through the right people in their network, and be the most helpful. If you don’t give people direction, they’re not as likely to make things happen. Help them help you!
- Be on your game, but genuine – No one simply wants to feel used so don’t go right in for the hard sell. It’s a conversation (potentially at a festive event) and people aren’t looking to talk shop. However, it’s also a time when people want to give and be helpful… so no need to pretend everything’s going exactly as you wanted. Be impressive, but authentic.
Hope this little networking tip helps you turn awkward conversations into productive ones. Would love to hear in the comments about your experiences putting this advice into action.
beautiful image above via Stroke of Luxe