Especially in the U.S., where so much focus is on your job (think social gathering and the typical opening question – “how’s the job search?” or “how’s work (or school)?”), handling career questions or opinions about your choices from those close to you can be awkward.
- Identify any pressure you feel from family or friends – positive or negative – about your career plans. To help you, download a free “Decision Balance Sheet” and complete it for the job or career options you’re considering. Check out this list of Career Choice Consequences to help you “see” what issues may be weighing on you. Your choice may be so welcomed by your friends or family that you feel uncomfortable pressure to be successful or “perfect.” Expectations may need to be lowered.
- Make a plan for how you will handle each person’s concerns or reactions to your career choice or career indecision. That way you’re not left unprepared (and maybe anxious).
For example, if you’ve been laid off and you haven’t decided if you will go back to school, then prepare and practice a script for how you will answer your mother’s well-meaning but loaded question at the holiday dinner table, “how ARE you?” Instead of saying “things are fine,” which you know will result in cool or hurt silence, wouldn’t it be better to say:
“I’m deciding on whether to go to grad school. I had two informational interviews last month with graduates of the ___ school I’m considering and I’ve got two more scheduled for after Christmas. It’s pretty interesting what’s I’ve learned about _______(the post-graduation job market, financial aid, interesting classes)."Imagine how your mom will brighten at hearing about what you are doing. With mothers, sometimes giving them more information is better than less, right? (I hope my mother is not reading this post.)
Or if you are seriously considering a career change from a more secure (if such a thing exists anymore) career like a civil-service government position to starting a business – how have you planned for the risks or consequences and your significant others’ reaction to it?
Take advantage of family and friends well-meaning interest in you to make sure your career plans and research are as organized and “on track” as you would like. It may have the side benefit of forcing you to set goals for yourself – short-term, realistic and achievable – to get things moving in a positive direction.