“So, How’s School Going?”

Two Christmas cards lying on a bed
Reflecting on another stressful holiday season
“So, how’s school going?” “What are you studying?” “And what do you plan to do with that degree?” The only thing scarier than homemade fruitcake and the song “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause” during the holidays is the bombardment of questions from relatives and family friends pertaining to my career during holiday get-togethers. However, I could easily be persuaded that their responses to my answers are even scarier.   “Seems like a waste of tuition money.” “I don’t think there are very many jobs in that field.” “PRINT IS DEAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Regardless of program or year of study, I think it’s safe to say none of us like divulging our career progresses to relatives we barely know when, as students, we’re still trying to figure out what we want to do after university. Luckily, after going through another round of interrogations at various holiday parties, I’ve come up with some helpful steps to handle dreaded career questions:
  1. Laugh—preferably as nervously as possible. Show your relatives how uncomfortable you are, and maybe they’ll leave you alone.
  2. Next step: hide! Dive under the coffee table for a quick escape (but be careful not to tip over the ubiquitous miniature angel statue or bowl of dried flowers). For those of us with more stamina from eating a whole plate of nothing but cranberry sauce, run as far as you can to avoid a second barrage of questions. Run to the bathroom. Run to Paris and change your name. It doesn’t matter: just hide!
  3. Now that you’ve made the entire party awkward and disappeared across the country, you can relax until next year.
In all honesty, I still haven’t perfected how to answer career-related questions from estranged relatives without having a miniature existential crisis. I still feel self-conscious—and sometimes embarrassed, depending on the level of judgement from the questioner—and a little stressed out. However, all the Career Centre workshops and events I attended last semester definitely helped build my confidence when I was asked about my career over the holidays. It wasn’t so much the content of the workshops or events; it was the growing habit of talking about my career with strangers almost every week. With my new-found desensitization and career-exploration-insight, I learned to let the stress I feel from career questions motivate me. If I feel self-conscious answering—admittedly—normal questions, perhaps I need to gain more confidence by trying new things, meeting new people, and attending more Career Centre events. If I feel stressed out about it, perhaps I need to take up yoga or eat more lettuce (okay, I’m still working on this part). And, although sometimes brash, comments and criticism from relatives can actually be insightful. Maybe I should consider other career options, especially if the ones I’m interested in don’t pay well or don’t have a lot of jobs available. If relatives don’t think I can accomplish what I want to, I should work harder until I prove them wrong. This year, I was less close-minded when it came to critiques from relatives; I just viewed their comments as another part of career exploration. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed or stressed out by a slew of mildly invasive career questions. Rather than dwell on career anxiety or come up with elaborate schemes to avoid it, I turned holiday criticisms into New Year resolutions.  

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