When a relative asks you ‘is that a real job?’ : Evewoman - The Standard

Career Tips

Is that a real job? Answering relatives’ awkward questions

The holidays can be a fun time, but they can also be stressful especially when family members are in the picture. From questions about when you’re going to settle down and get married to why you never visit, it can get uncomfortable real fast. But even worse is when you are completely misunderstood regarding what you do day-to-day. I once heard my aunt ask one of my cousins, ‘Is that a real job?’ And while he has never forgiven her, she just does not understand how work can be around being online all day chatting with people around the world.

Be patient
Our parents’ generation comes from a different place and time – you kept one job for decades or until retirement. They do not understand that leaving a place of employment every few years is not that you cannot hold down a job or that you’re fired often but a sign of ambition and growth.

So be patient when they ask you questions that offend your sensibilities, and above all, try not to get defensive. It will not only save you a lot of stress, but it will reduce potential conflict and uncomfortable situations. If there is no way to explain, laugh off the questions and say, ‘I will explain it another time when we don’t have to bore everyone with my job history.’

Pre-empt the conversation
Say that you have been out of work, and you know the question around this will come up. Prepare a short response by saying you are pursuing a couple of leads and hope that they will mature. Someone, however, is bound to tell you to ask some well-off relative who runs an empire for help in giving you a job. Remember they are well-meaning before you retort that you aren’t in the market for handouts. Just simply say you will think about it and move on to another topic. Unless you want help from your family in job hunting, keep the conversation as brief as possible.

Is that a real job?
There will be times when a comment made with respect to what you do leaves you seething. From ‘is that a real job’ to ‘what do you really do’, it can get frustrating to explain certain roles, especially with much older people. If you try, you will just get frustrated. Instead, smile and move on. Don’t take offense and don’t be rude in return.

If it keeps coming up, be firm but blunt. Say that you understand not everyone knows exactly what you do and that’s OK. If anyone is really interested, you would love to talk more about it but at some later date. Today, you just want to relax and take a break from work. 


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