How to Handle the Inevitable Unsolicited Career Advice During the Holidays

By: Lauren Mineau

This time of year can be a very joyful one. Spending time with family and friends, celebrating, and reflecting on what we are thankful for.

It can also be a stressful time though, especially with the prospect of parents and relatives pressing you about your career. Often,  that also means unsolicited and sometimes invasive advice or questions.

Your Wallet, Your Business

It may come from a place of genuine concern, but relatives prying to know your salary or details about a benefits package can create some uncomfortable situations. Money can be a touchy subject, like if you turned down an offer because the salary would mean you’d live in a box – be honest, but try and keep the actual numbers under wraps. Try saying “I’m living comfortably with the job I took; the other one would have made things tough.”

Change the subject by talking about how cool the vending machine in your office is or how funny your coworker at the next desk is. Your finances are your business and certainly a topic a little too heavy for the dinner table.

Swaying You to Look at Jobs near Home

No one wants to hurt their family’s feelings, but sometimes relatives may pressure you to look at employment opportunities in your hometown. Know that it’s likely coming from a place of love, because they miss you and only see you on holidays. If it’s not something in your plan, kindly suggest they visit you in your new city so they can see how well you’re doing.

The suggestion is likely made with good intentions; acknowledge it with kindness rather than being accusatory. Try “I know it’s hard when I’m not here often, how about we plan a trip for you to come visit?” instead of “You’re always telling me what I should do.”

Judgmental Statements about Your Career Choice

In most industries, there are jobs that didn’t exist years ago and others that are now obsolete because of new technology. Some of your more old-school relatives may think your title is fluff or that you don’t have a “real” job, especially if you work in a creative industry or at a startup.

Explaining how you fit into the company could be a start, if someone understands what your company does overall, they may see how your role is crucial. Don’t sell yourself short either, just because someone’s downplaying what you do, doesn’t mean you should feel down about your choices.

Still in School or Interviewing

If you’re home for the holidays on break from school, you’ll probably get questions about what you’ll be doing when you’re done. People are often looking ahead, but if you aren’t sure, try and keep it in the present. Talk about how much you like some of your classes or bring up your involvement in a campus club or other organization. If you’re looking for work for any reason, advice may come about how to act on an interview or where to look. This may actually be helpful, but it may be things you’ve heard before. It can be difficult especially if you’re frustrated with your search or have faced rejection.

A few other thoughts:

  • If you do want advice, be sure to ask. Comments may come far and wide without your inquiry, but perhaps your family dynamic brings years of workplace knowledge. Ask those you know have insight into it.
  • Know who will be attending. If your Uncle Jim always makes snide comments, know that going in and prepare yourself.
  • The holidays are for giving thanks, be grateful for family that cares about how you are doing – even if they don’t always express it in the most sensible way.