Answering Awkward Job Search Questions at Social Gatherings

night outBy Candace Waller

“How’s your job search going?”

Long-term job seekers often cringe when they hear that question for two main reasons. First, they may feel inadequate when things aren’t going very well. Second, they may hesitate to speak too soon even if they’re going on lots of interviews and getting lots of call backs.

Whatever the reason, their anxieties about the job search is often heightened, no matter what the situation, and can increase substantially during holiday, family gatherings, or social outings, when pushy, well-meaning relatives, or friends, ask lots of questions or offer unwanted or outdated advice.

So, how do you deal with sensitive job search questions and unsolicited advice?

Two job counselors shared a few thoughts on the subject during a recent job hunters’ presentation at the Scotch Plains Public Library. Here’s some useful advice from Fran McTernan, president of the International Coaching Associations, and Nathalie Centinartoa, a Social Worker & Executive Coach.

Be prepared for “the job” conversation

When attending holiday, family, or social gatherings always expect that, eventually, someone will ask you about your job search. So, decide what your response will be before the event. Keep your answer short. Be mindful, though, people usually just want to help you and are asking out of concern, so, use the opportunity to practice your 30-second elevator pitch on them.

Remember, too, that family and friends can be extremely helpful with your job search — if they know exactly what kind of job you want, so, don’t be shy about sharing information. Make sure you mention specific job titles, names of companies you are interested in, how far you are willing to commute, etc. Providing specifics makes it easier to jog their memories if they hear of a position that might match your qualifications.

Be proactive when talking about your job search

Instead of waiting for someone to ask you about your job search, start the conversation yourself. You never know, it may lead to a job. You could wind up talking with a family member, or friend, that you haven’t seen for a while, and find out that he or she is already working for a company you are interested in or has personal contacts there.

Be tactful when talking to a neighbor, or lesser-known associate, who asks about your search. You never know how such casual relationships may help you. Again, mention the types of positions and companies you are interested in — you may be surprised to find a certain folks have contacts they are willing to share with you. This is also a great time to hand out your business cards. Ask the person you are talking with to contact you if they know of certain jobs, or contacts, in a particular company. Many job seekers often use this tactic to land a position.

Be open to suggestions, but firm about the job you want

A lot of the job search advice you get from other people may be outdated. For example, just because you have a college degree it doesn’t mean you’re qualified for an entry-level administrative position, or, that a company will even consider giving you an interview, much less hire you. These days, companies can afford to be picky about the candidates they bring in for interviews.

If a well-meaning family member, friend, or acquaintance persists in offering job search advice, try this response. “You sound very concerned about me and I thank you for it. But, I ask you to trust that I am already doing all that I can do when it comes to my job search.” This response avoids offending the concerned person, thus, enabling you to ask him or her follow-up questions about positions, companies you are interested in pursuing.

Always have your business cards & résumés handy

Having your business cards, and copies of your résumé, with you at all times is an important part of your job search. It shows friends, family, and associates that you are serious and have put a lot of research into finding the right job. Always carry business cards even when doing errands. Sometimes you can meet people who can help with your job search while: walking the dog, attending church, or just going to the grocery store.

It’s important to remember that friends, family, acquaintances, associates, and neighbors can all help with your search. Instead of dreading family get-togethers, or social outings, develop a plan that can get those who attend these gatherings to help you land your next position.

Finally, develop a marketing plan

A marketing plan contains: your name, contact information, core skills, and the positions and companies you are looking for in your next employment opportunity. It differs from a résumé because it’s a document you use to get people to help you with your entire job search, while a résumé is used to obtain a specific position. Friends and associates are less intimidated by a marketing plan because you’re asking for advice, contacts, or leads for particular industries — not just a job.



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