Holidays or Horrible Days? Don’t Let Talk About Your


If you’re headed home for Thanksgiving, then your post-college plans will be the second most emotionally charged topic over the holidays -- after reacting to President Trump's latest Twitter tantrum. This is especially true if you’re a junior, senior, or an underemployed recent college grad. Here are three things that can keep that dreaded “job search conversation” from turning Thanksgiving into an emotional battlefield.

1. Be proactive about that "future plans" talk.

Unless you’ve been talking regularly with your family about your future, I promise you it’s definitely on their minds. And they’re anxiously looking for ways to bring it up. So make a pre-emptive strike! Bring it up first. They’ll be impressed – and relieved. Try something like:

“I don’t want to discuss it all weekend, but could we set aside some time to talk about my plans after graduation. I’d like to tell you what I’ve been doing and get your ideas.”

It’s okay to admit that the topic is stressful, and you don’t want it to dominate your visit. Just agree on a specific time to talk about your plans for next summer, or whenever you’ll be out of school. Set some boundaries on the conversation, but make it clear you’re not avoiding the subject.


2. Show some focus in your search, even if you have to fake it!

One of the biggest barriers to a successful post-college plan is the lack of clarity about what you want to do. Employers aren’t interested in recent grads who “just want to work hard and learn.” But the dilemma is you probably don’t know what you want to do yet! That’s okay. Research for my book Graduate to a Great Job shows a majority of liberal arts students don’t know what kind of job they want.

But to get traction on your future, you’re going to have to put some stakes in the ground and start researching fields that look like possibilities. If you haven’t already done so, plan to visit your school’s career center after the holidays to make use of their career planning resources. Better yet, schedule an appointment before heading home for the holiday. At least, that gives you some progress to report!

In the meantime, be prepared to describe two or three areas you want to explore, or at least that you haven’t ruled out. For example:

--“I’m looking at careers in the whaling industry.”
--“Seriously, I’m trying to identify what kinds of entry level jobs my English degree will qualify me for in advertising (or arts non-profits, banking, healthcare, etc.)
--“Also, with my minor in environmental science, I’m looking into government jobs in environmental agencies."
--“And, a fraternity brother of mine went to work for Taco Bell last year. He can help me get an interview.” (Just kidding!)

Don’t worry. None of these job search options are cast in stone. Your interests, priorities and focus will change as you learn more about particular types of jobs and industries. But your family will react a lot more positively if you sound like you’ve given it some thought, and staked out directions to start looking.

3. Talk about “networking” and ask your family for help.

Nothing will be more critical to your job search than your ability to connect with people who decide they want to help you succeed in landing work. This means lots of face-to-face conversations, or at least meetings via Skype or on the phone. These are not job interviews. Often called “informational interviews,” they’re discussions with people who can share their own career experiences and insights into particular jobs or industries you want to learn about. Getting educated about different types of jobs you might be qualified for, the skills needed, challenges in the work, etc., will make you a much stronger candidate when a relevant job opening comes along.

So tell your family what you’ve done for informational interviews, who you’re planning to talk to, or best of all – ask for their help. “Who do you know in the whaling industry I could talk to?” Or “Didn’t Uncle Louie work in advertising? He might know people I could talk to.”

Your family will love this! They really want to help, and identifying people you can talk to about particular careers or types of jobs feels like progress.

Although the market is definitely better, a search for a "good job" today can still take many months, and your family is rightly concerned about your future after school. But it’s your life! And ultimately your decisions and actions will determine how fast your career takes off. 

In the meantime, you’re going to have to answer questions from family members about your future. Whether you’re ready to pursue a major job search or just want to calm down your parents, follow these steps and the holidays will be a lot less stressful.