“So how’s work going?” is a common question family, friends and acquaintances pose to one another when socializing during the holidays. Work is relatable and seems like a much safer topic than politics and religion, after all. And typically when people ask it, they’re using it as an amiable conversation starter that’s akin to “How’s it going?”
If you enjoy your work, yay! You’ve just been given the opportunity to share what you’ve been up to, why you like it and which big projects you’re excited about. You easily can return the favor and ask how their work is going. Your conversation is off and running.
However, “How’s work?” also has the power to stir up some pretty strong emotions in those who liken their job to a root canal sans Novocain. Fortunately, there are several ways to respond, from amusing and unproductive to powerful and effective. Let’s look at some options.
The Unproductive Ugh Response
When asked how work is going you might really want to say, “Ugh. It sucks.” Your boss is a total micro-manager. You’re not getting paid enough for your efforts. You work harder than your coworkers. The commute is wearing thin. You’re no longer challenged or inspired, or never were.
Now, honesty is a beautiful thing, but badmouthing your place of business never goes well. It can make you look bad; it has the chance of finding its way back to your boss or coworkers and it’s a big waste of (negative) energy. Your feelings and comments might be 1000 percent justified, but your listener won’t know that and now may associate you with having a bad attitude.
There are better ways to respond. Rather than grousing about how much you hate your boss, you can turn this question to your advantage by 1) sharing a new passion 2) learning about others’ work or 3) putting it out there that you are or soon will be looking for new work.
1: Share A New Passion: The Opportunity Re-Route
If you’re not exactly fond of your job but have no plans to make a change, find something positive to say about your work. Then, redirect to a topic that’s interesting, informative and lets you shine in other ways. For example: “Work’s fine, nothing really new. But hey, this summer I spoke to Congress about some important legislation that would protect horses, and I just started taking ballroom dancing lessons and it’s been so much fun. Let me tell you about it …” The point is that you don’t need to unburden yourself and your work woes in this setting. Find connection in other directions. Work schmerk.
2: Learn From Them: The Opportunity Turnaround
If you’re not ready to make a career leap but you’re in the pre-contemplation stage, here is another way to go. Respond, “Thanks for asking, work is fine,” then turn the question back to the askers. Maybe they do work they actually enjoy chatting about. Perhaps hearing about what they do and why they like doing it will inspire you to seek work you will relish more.
3: Put It Out There: The Connection Opportunity
If you are now or soon will be seeking a new job or career path and are comfortable letting it be known, say so. Since 70-80 percent of jobs are landed through networking, learn how to become excellent in these situations.
In other words, cue your elevator pitch! In this setting, it might go something like this:
“Thanks, yes work is fine. I’m proud to be part of a team that’s boosted sales by 27 percent over the past two years. At some point I’d like to find an opportunity to use my writing and creative story-telling skills to help a nonprofit increase its impact. I’ve been volunteering for a small agency that promotes lifelong learning. I manage its blog and not only do I love writing it but we’ve gained 750 new followers since I started. If you hear of any full-time job opportunities in this arena, I hope you’ll keep me in mind.”
“Work is fine, and as you know I’m a total people person so I really appreciate the variety of individuals I’ve been able to meet and help. In fact, I enjoy that part of my job so much that I’ve decided to explore what life coaching is all about. Last month I completed a great training program and actually have started working with a couple of clients after work. I’m really enjoying listening to others and helping them bring out the best in themselves. I’d love to give you my business card in case you hear of any coaching or mentoring opportunities within an organization or if you encounter anyone who might benefit from some coaching.”
Now, don’t those two options sound better and hold a lot more possibility than, “I hate my job, my coworkers are morons and I’m dying for something new”?
In The End, Keep It Festive
When the question is “How’s work going?” keep in mind that in social settings, where holiday music and merriment fill the air and the eggnog flows, you’re not looking to make any hard sells. Handing out a business card is fine if you’re hearing encouraging words and picking up on receptive body language. But you’re not asking anyone for a job and you’re definitely not handing out copies of your resume. Showing pushiness or neediness is a turnoff and counterproductive. And so darn un-festive.
And don’t write off Aunt Mary because she retired 5 years ago from a field totally unrelated to yours; you never know whom she might know. Consider each person you meet to be an individual with whom you potentially can establish or enhance an enjoyable and mutually beneficial connection that may be helpful now or in the future.
Your goal should be to be warm, friendly, interested and conversational while being optimistic and clear about what you’re seeking. If a professional connection does spark at a holiday gathering, follow up promptly and be sure you send a thank-you note to the connector. And of course, go easy on the eggnog.
For more information about how to craft an effective elevator pitch; how to maximize holiday networking opportunities; and how to manage holiday stress mindfully, stay tuned!
P.S. In the spirit of the holidays, I’ve just launched two Holiday Resume Specials! If you or a friend, family member or coworker are poised for a resume that will land you the interview for the job of your dreams, learn more! Talk about a gift that will keep on giving. 🙂