Bust out the egg nog—it’s the holidays. Time for caroling, good cheer, and plenty of face time with family members, all of whom will want to know what you’re up to and when you’re going to finally land a job you truly love.
Good times. Good times.
While it all may feel a bit daunting (or dreadful) to consider the plethora of unsolicited advice you’re sure to receive while gathered, family members can actually be extremely supportive and useful when you’re navigating a job search or career transition. You’ve just got to know how to enlist them (and how not to).
Consider this your action plan.
1. Accept Their Offers for Introductions (But Don’t Expect Them)
My guess is you have at least a couple of relatives who just seem to know everyone, right? Or kinfolk who have climbed pretty far up the corporate ladder? If these family members offer to make introductions to others within their spheres of influence, for heaven’s sake, say yes. Why on Earth would you rely on your own method of submitting a resume through a company’s online application process (a.k.a. The Black Hole) when you’ve got an “in” staring you right in the face?
Graciously accept these offers for introductions, but here’s an important however: Don’t expect them to do everything for you. Don’t expect them to walk your resume over, don’t expect them to smooth it over if you interview poorly, and most assuredly don’t expect them to land you the job. That’s all on you.
Also important: If your family members don’t offer to make the introduction? Don’t pressure them. Just because you’re related doesn’t mean they will always feel comfortable vouching for you. I know, sucks.
2. Don’t Take Their Support for Granted
Family is just the worst when it comes to taking one another for granted. We all do it to some extent, especially with our closest relatives. This is kind of a subsection of #1 above: If and when a loved one volunteers any kind of support or guidance, be sure and show gratitude, even if it’s a simple (yet genuine), “Hey, thank you so much. That meant a lot to me.”
3. Ask Them to Conduct a Mock Interview
Relatives also make the perfect guinea pigs when it comes to practicing for a big interview. If you’re feeling nervous about an upcoming meeting with a potential employer, jot down a quick list of potential questions (here are some ideas) and bring it to the family gathering. If time permits, ask Aunt Sue to run through them with you.
Pick someone whose opinion you value and, when you’re done with the run-through, ask her for feedback on both how you answered the questions and, importantly, nonverbal cues like body language and eye contact. Many people nail or blow interviews based on things completely unrelated to the words coming out of their mouths.
4. Invite Them to a Networking Event With You
In many regions, hiring and all of the associated hoopla—like networking events—gets back into full swing shortly after the new year. Do you have a specific networking or career-related event on your radar? Ask one of your favorite sisters or cousins to join you for moral support. This can be especially helpful if you’re someone who flinches at the mere thought of walking into a room full of strangers and (gasp) being expected to talk to them.
Just be sure and challenge yourself to not use the family member as your crutch through the entire event. You are there to meet people, not stand in the corner with your mom all night long.
5. Don’t Get Annoyed if Their Help Isn’t Actually Helpful
Let’s be honest. Not all of your relatives have a clue about job searching. Worse, some may fancy themselves career “experts” and try to sway you toward strategies or tactics that your gut says are just all wrong. The universe is filled with arm chair counselors, and some of them are probably your kin.
If you feel like the advice is wrong—or that the deliverer is just not qualified to know what he’s talking about—try and be gracious and appreciative, and then don’t apply the advice. Know that everyone generally means well, and that they all just want you to be happy and fulfilled.
Holiday gatherings, without a doubt, can be stressful and intense when you’re already feeling anxious about your career. But if you limber up and go in with a positive mindset, an openness to support, and a commitment to digesting only the counsel that feels relevant? You may get more out of the occasion than three cranberry martinis and an iTunes gift card.
You may get the help that clinches it for you.