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Tips for Surviving the “What do you do?” Question

Ah the Holidays!   Evenings and weekends are filled with gatherings with friends and family.  Joyous events where we can catch up and see what’s new with people we haven’t seen in a year or so.  Unfortunately for many people I know these joyous events strike fear in their hearts.  Time to answer the inevitable question “So what do you do?” over and over again.  These joyous events can leave us feeling lost and bitter that we have to ‘justify’ our lives to other people in a 30 second window.  Maybe you haven’t found a career that makes your heart sing yet, but you are looking and trying and facing up to all your fear mongers.  Or maybe you have and it just doesn’t live up to expectations of those around you.  

Don’t get me started on the unfairness of the ‘values’ of society. In many circles, it doesn’t matter if you enjoy your job or if it is on purpose with your value system, all that matters is  that you are using your education (or have gotten a lot of it) and making lots of money.  But that is another blog for another day.

Today I am writing to those of you who aren’t quite where you want to be in your career journey. Who find yourself dreading the idea of reconnecting with old friends and facing the justification and comparisons that will inevitably occur.

To you I offer some tips:

1.  You are what you believe you are.  For most of the people I know who are unhappy in their career, their first instinct is to complain, sell themselves short and belittle their jobs.  I know we are what we believe we are and when we answer the question with a negative, we take on that negativity, we become the loser who has an unfulfilling job.  Versus the guy who while trying to figure it out also needs to pay some bills.  Let’s say you are a guy who makes minimum wage working retail while you work on getting your writing career off the ground. You can sell that two ways.  “I work a minimum wage retail job that I hate”  OR “I am writing a book that I am really excited about and to support myself I work retail and get a pretty cool discount”  Both are true, one just has a better ‘spin’ factor on it.  I am not saying to LIE, I am saying to tell the truth.  Let’s say you are a woman who works a desk job that you hate you have no idea what you want to do next and you are struggling with figuring it out.  You can say “I work a crappy desk job that I hate” or “I am really trying to figure out what my purpose is but I am stuck, so in the mean time I am working a desk job to help pay the bills”

2.  People are trying to help.  I know it doesn’t feel like it but when someone asks “what do you do?”. But I promise, they aren’t wanting to belittle you (and if they are –why are you standing there talking to them!) they are merely making conversation.  Most of the time they want to help, they want to provide tips and job search advice.  And this too can be annoying.  So I want to remind you to keep repeating to yourself when person #582 offers you yet another tip on how to figure out the perfect job that they are not trying to annoy you they are trying to help you.  Unfortunately for most people, help means advice.  Look to the next tip for how to redirect this misdirected ‘helping’.

3.  People who knew you ‘back then’ might have some insight.  Sometimes we get so stuck on the fact that we hate our jobs, and trying to figure out what we want to DO with out lives, we forget what we use to like to do.  Frequently our interests as a child, or teenager can provide insights into what we want to do now.  So when someone starts giving you advice on what you should do ask them to remind you of who you were when they knew you.  What did they think you would be doing?  Who did they see you becoming?  What do they remember you enjoying? And then just listen.  Some of their ideas might be DEAD WRONG but some of them might provide a new idea or spark an old interest.  Regardless of what they say it will probably be more helpful then the random advice from tip #2.  Most importantly remember to take in what is useful and disregard the rest!!

4.  Remember this is a journey.  Ok so maybe you hate your job, maybe finding a positive spin is just impossible and you absolutely hate every piece of advice, insight, or idea that people offer to you.  Take a breath, and remind yourself this is a journey. This is a one step at a time journey.  Right now you might be lost, confused, hating life but next year you might have the most fabulous career known to man.  But if you get stuck in the negativity, depression and angst you won’t take the baby steps to make it better.  I know, answering the question “what do you do” when you don’t love what you do, sucks.  AND figuring out what makes your heart sing is a priceless gift you can give yourself.  So don’t give up.  Remind yourself why you enjoy the holidays (even if it is just the fact you get to eat christmas cookies) and savor every one of those moments.

For those of you who have figured out what makes your heart sing–congratulations!  As you go through your holiday merriment remember the struggle it use to be to answer the question “what do you do?” and have some generosity of sprit for those who are struggling.

Have any other tips? Feel free to share how you have survived the “what do you do?” question in the comment section!!

Happy Holidays!

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Just in time for the holidays-Do you know someone who is struggling to work happier and find a career that makes their heart sing?  Gift certificates are a great way to give that special someone the gift of living and working happier.  Check out the shop on my website for more information!!

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