How to Navigate Career Questions During Family Gatherings

December 16, 2019 The Washington Center

How to Navigate Career Questions During Family Gatherings

Here's how to prepare for tough questions about your major, career path and future plans before you head to your next party or family gathering.

The holiday season is known for many things – gift-giving, feasting, relaxing and, of course, navigating awkward conversations about your future with friends and relatives. One of these things is not like the others.

Answering questions about your career plans is probably not how you want to be spending the holidays, but it’s almost an inevitability. Whether you’re a liberal arts student, pursuing an unusual career path, or just have particularly nosy family and friends, you’re no stranger to fielding lots of questions every time you’re in a room full of people. While we can’t stop the questions from coming, we can help you plan for them and give you one less thing to worry about. 

Here are some ways to prepare for tough questions about your major, career path and future plans before you head to your next party or family gathering.

Do Your Research

Your major isn’t tied to your career, but some people still think of certain majors as having fewer career prospects than others. If you’re any kind of liberal arts major, you’re likely no stranger to the “what kind of career can you have with your major?” questions. 

This can be a major confidence suck, so prep some talking points to defend your choice. The fact is, no matter what anyone says, there are people who had the same major as you who are happy and successful. Check your school’s career center or department website to see examples of what kinds of careers people with your major have gone into and what they’re doing now.

It’s also helpful to think of your major in terms of the skills it teaches. Often, the things you learn in your major can apply to a wide variety of careers. 

So, ask yourself these two questions: 

  • What am I good at?
  • What career does that apply to?

For example, a history major might put their skill with research towards a job with a marketing firm. A psychology major might use their people skills towards a career in advising. An English major might put their writing ability to use crafting web content about navigating awkward holiday conversations.

Boast and Brag!

“What’s new?” is a favorite catch-all question that can be really hard to answer when you’re a college student. It’s easy to just write it off and say “eh, not much,” which we all know often just leads to more awkward questions. Now is not the time to be humble. Show up prepared to brag a little.

Talking about your success is a huge confidence booster and allows you to take control of the conversation. The future may not be certain, but what is certain is that you are chock full of skills, talents and accomplishments.

Make a list of things you’ve achieved in the past semester and some valuable skills you’ve developed. After all, it’s often these things, not your major or school, that lead to job offers.

Talking about your success is a huge confidence booster and allows you to take control of the conversation. The future may not be certain, but what is certain is that you are chock full of skills, talents and accomplishments.

Know Your Goals

Ultimately, you can only deflect from the question at hand for so long. Family and friends will want to know what your plans are for after graduation. Talking in terms of goals means you don’t need to agonize over specifics you may not know yet. Plus, it’s almost always more exciting to talk about what you want, as opposed to what you already have. 

Come prepared with two goals to share: a short-term and a long-term goal. Your short-term goal should be something you’re hoping to accomplish in the next six months. It doesn’t need to be impressive, just think of what you want to focus on: school, job searching, social life, etc. For your long-term goal, name something you’re hoping for in the next few years. This can be tricky, especially if you’re in the midst of a job search and things are up in the air. Remember that goals are not binding and are subject to change – so push yourself to be a little more specific, even if you’re not totally sure. 

You can string these two goals into one compact sentence that answers almost any future related question. 

For example:

Short-Term Goal: Get good grades and finish my senior year strong. 
Long-Term Goal: Land a job in the financial industry.
Say: "I’m just focusing on school right now, but after graduation, I’m hoping to get a job in finance."

All of these tips are great for helping you field questions from friends and family, but they’re also good tips for doing some critical thinking about your goals.The truth is, the more confident you are in your plans for the future, the easier it is to answer questions about it. So, don’t aim to avoid the barrage of questions -- take them as an opportunity to parse out your thoughts and vocalize your goals.

About the Author

The Washington Center

The Washington Center is the largest and most established student internship program in Washington, D.C. Since our founding, we've helped more than 60,000 young people translate their college majors into career paths. We use our scale and expertise to customize each student’s experience to be truly transformative.

Follow on Twitter Visit Website More Content by The Washington Center
Previous Article
Acing the Interview: What You Need to Know
Acing the Interview: What You Need to Know

After empowering over 60,000 students with the experience, skills and network they need to land the right c...

Next Article
The Washington Center Partners with UW-Milwaukee and UNC Charlotte as Campus Hosts at National Political Conventions
The Washington Center Partners with UW-Milwaukee and UNC Charlotte as Campus Hosts at National Political Conventions

Campuses in the DNC and RNC host cities to welcome students and faculty, provide learning facilities for tw...