Q. All this socializing is not making me very happy. I see lots of people but the focus seems to be my unemployment. Everywhere I go, people want to know if I have a job yet. “Are you working? What are you doing? Still collecting? You are so lucky to have time off!” I am not feeling lucky, and I am tired of saying – no I am not working yet. Do you have any witty comebacks that will politely (or even not so politely) tell people to back off?
A. Holiday job searches do provide their own unique challenges, yet there are a few gems to be found among the cookies and eggnog too! Witty comebacks might feel good for a moment or two, and perhaps we should generate a list just for the stress relief. Instead let’s focus on what you gain by being social through the season, and really capitalizing on the hordes of fans and followers of your job search activity.
Networking is still the leading way to get a job. People focus on recruiters, and ads, and job boards, and sending cold letters and emails, but meeting people and talking about your skills, and the expertise you bring a company, is still the most effective way to turn job search activity into an offer of employment.
Preparing for all the activity, and the questions you anticipate will make the entire process easier to manage, and help you advance your job search. It may also provide just enough encouragement to ensure you accept the invitations!
Enlist the support of the host or hostess of the events you are invited to, and review the guest list. Whether the invitees are new to you, or people you know, review their professional background and connections on LinkedIn. Not only with you gain information on their current employer, you now have information about their employment history. Review contacts through their network at organizations of interest, and develop a list of people, or companies where they might be able to offer a supportive introduction.
Come to the event prepared to discuss your job search and the amazing people and organizations you have the opportunity to learn more about. Some of the people who ask about your search truly do want to help. Others may fear being in the same position you are in and are looking for confirmation that people do find work again. For those few people who may be just cranky enough to be throwing you a shot cloaked in good tidings, your sincere response of “Thanks so much for asking. I meant to connect with you about a few of your colleagues who I thought might be helpful. Let’s get together in the next week or so to talk in more detail. I’ll make sure to call you.” Diffusing any opportunity someone has to annoy you should give you a bit of smile, and a great reason to move on and circulate with other people.
Take a clue from effective politicians – regardless of the questions you are asked, you have your response ready, and it always starts with “Thanks so much for asking.” Still collecting? Thanks so much for asking. I meant to connect… There is no reason to address all concerns, but do take every opportunity to broaden your network.
At events do not forget the generations. Your contemporaries have parents and kids, and siblings who may be able to steer you towards people and organizations you would like to meet. Your goal at the events is to make a quick introduction, express interest in speaking with them in more depth at another time. You are at a social event, and don’t want to monopolize people with your topic. Make the connection, let the person know you’d like to follow up, and then socialize!
This strategy can work with family too! A few deep breaths preparing for the questions will help, but have the great answers ready, and a mental list of other topics you’d rather discuss can make any holiday gathering enjoyable.