Ahhh, Thanksgiving. It’s a time for turkey, stuffing — and loads of questions from family about what you’re actually doing with your life now, in between bites of all the fixings.
But whether you’re a recent graduate or are gearing up for a big career change, queries like this can be especially challenging to handle on the spot.
Use these these tips when it’s your turn to explain what you do at the dinner table.
Don’t beat around the bush
Writing at Monster, career expert Vicki Salemi advises people to “be blunt.”
“Around the dinner table, proclaim, ‘I realize some of you have no idea what I do. And that’s okay, I probably haven’t taken time to fully explain it. In case you’re wondering, I work in the accounting department for a startup that creates apps for foodies.’ … Sure, it may not feel like the most organic conversation you’ve ever had but, at least one of your relatives is bound to be grateful. (You’ve saved them from asking the question that they probably hate as much as you do.),” Salemi writes.
Lay off the jargon, please
It’s best to leave out all the corporate speak while under the watchful gazes of your closest relatives and friends, who have likely pursued different paths.
Writer and marketer Rikki Rogers writes about how to tell “your grandparents or an elderly relative” about what you do in The Muse.
“When you’re speaking to folks who have been out of the workforce for a while, it’s important to avoid jargon and simplify your everyday responsibilities,” Robers writes. “Instead of focusing on your day-to-day tasks, explain the end result of your hard work. For example, a UI designer might say, ‘I make websites more organized so it’s easier for people to find what they need.’ Highlight how your job contributes to the organization’s overall mission, emphasize long-term stability, and downplay technical skills (to avoid becoming the ad hoc help desk).”
Put the ‘pain points’ in context
Author and speaker Maria Ross writes in HuffPost that you should “describe the pain points you remove” during this discussion.
“Everything we do is designed to increase pleasure or decrease pain. So instead of leading with benefits as stated above, you could share what pain your work takes away. Based on your audience, you’ll have to decide which way is more compelling for people,” Ross writes.
One of the sample lines Ross provided was, “‘I coach corporate teams on how to end communication snafus, power grabs and bureaucratic red tape so they can be productive, motivated and energized at work.’”
When things go off the rails, bridge the gap
Everyone has their own definition of success. But with the inevitability of having a complicated position — or one that didn’t exist a decade ago — you’re bound to lose someone during your explanation.
After mentioning that you shouldn’t “misinterpret someone’s confusion about what you to do for a living with disapproval,” Melody J. Wilding, writes in a Forbes article about how to answer a question about the idea that you should be raking in more cash.
She says to think about the idea that they may really mean well.
“Then carefully respond, acknowledging and empathizing, while standing up for a lifestyle you’ve chosen,” she writes. “An example of this would be, ‘Entrepreneurship comes with a lot of risks, and I certainly understand why that might be scary to you.’ You could go on to explain how you’ve accounted for financial uncertainties or even get vulnerable about your hopes, dreams and fears.”