Talking About Your Career ‘Round the Holiday Table

Posted December 24, 2012 by Marcy Twete in Life After Five

If you’re spending any time with your family these next few days of holidays, you’ll no doubt be subjected to a question like this: “So, Susie, how are things going with your job?” Then, some strange uncle will say something like, “What is it you do, exactly?” If you’re anything like me, these questions often freeze you in your seat and you say something like, “Oh, fine” or “I work in….uhhh….public relations.” You change the subject and avoid talking about yourself or your job at all costs.

I think, though, that is a huge mistake for Career Girls everywhere. Don’t diminish yourself or your accomplishments to get out of talking to Uncle #1 and Grandparent #2 about your job. You can answer these questions successfully in a way that shows who you are, allows your relatives to get to know you better, and doesn’t make you seem boastful or annoying. Try these tips:

  • Explain clearly and succinctly what you do. This is a skill you need to have both during holidays and throughout your career. Can you truly explain what you do in a sentence or two? If not, there’s a problem. There’s a joke in the tech sector about companies who can’t tell you what they do without saying they’re the “Ebay of Etsy sort of like Pinterest.” Practice practice practice. Write down the two to three sentence description of what you do, and practice saying it until it’s comfortable. This will make it easier to avoid saying “It’s hard to describe.”
  • Don’t dumb it down. I run a tech company. It’s easy for me to assume that some family member or older friend won’t understand what I do or how I do it. But it’s important not to dumb down the description of what you do for anyone, even your grandmother! Go ahead and tell someone what you do, for real, and allow them to ask questions. Otherwise, you run the risk of being belittling or appearing pompous.
  • What happened this year? The great thing about the end of the year is that you’ve probably already taken an inventory of your successes and failures. So go ahead, talk about your successes and what happened this year. What were the highlights? Did you get a promotion or complete a big project? Talk those up!
  • Don’t get defensive. When family members ask questions about your career, it’s easy to get defensive and angry when it’s clear someone doesn’t understand and continues to ask questions about your career. Don’t. Someone asking questions of you is almost always doing it because he or she cares about what you’re doing and how you’re doing. Assume good intentions and you’ll never go wrong.

Have fun with talking about your career, even if your weird Aunt Ethel doesn’t understand the difference between a loan officer and a bank teller.


About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."