How to answer tough questions about work
Inevitably, at our family Christmas party every year someone asks a question to the job seeker or the new grad that triggers all the feelings of job-shame What is it that you want to do? Or maybe it's the other well-intentioned question Who are you working for these days? No questions provoke existential crisis over the mulled wine and Yule log quite like the work-related ones, and as people grapple for their perfect answers, what emerges instead tend to be feelings of shame, frustration and embarrassment.
There need be no shame in not knowing what we want to do for work for the rest of our lives or for being unhappy in our current work situations. Not knowing what we want to do and/or passing through periods of unemployment can certainly be a vulnerable time, a time we would rather not have to talk about, but it is unfortunately an experience much more common than we might think. Communicating from a place of vulnerability and curiosity with our answers invites others to participate in the process of finding our way through this vulnerable time, and in the process we may even discover something new about the person asking the question.
Here are some helpful examples of how we can re-frame our responses to these kinds of questions that can help build confidence and connection with others in times of uncertainty. Note: the key is to turn this question into a chance to connect with others that could potentially support you.
Question: So, what is it you want to do for work?
The answer you want to use: Like… for the rest of my life? (cue, shame and doubt, possibly tears.)
The answer you are likely to use: I have no idea(but thanks for making me feel like poo, Uncle Larry)
The answer you want to use next: Well, I really like working with people so I’m thinking about going into social work. How did you decide what you wanted to do, Uncle Larry?
Question: Where are you working these days?
The answer you want to use: Oh I’ve been steadily employed in the same exciting job for 5 years already, fresh out of university with my liberal arts degree!
The answer you are likely to use: I’m still working for the same company at an entry-level position– I’m definitely miserable and worried I will never move out of my parent’s house
The answer you want to use next: Currently I’m working in the (tech industry/social services/medical sciences/engineering field/whatever field), and I’m actively reaching out to people in the x field to find out more about how I can get into it. Do you know anyone in that field?
If you would like some additional support with how to navigate these kinds of questions and build your confidence to weather the storm of uncertainty or unemployment, please reach out to me to book a session. I would be honoured to be a part of your support system.