4 awkward Christmas dinner questions


The dreaded interrogation from relatives will be a little easier this year with our help.

Christmas is the time for getting the family together and sharing in the festive spirit over the best meal of the year. But with the festivities come catching up with relatives-and the inevitable questions from your family about "the future."

For graduates and students just trying to stay on top of studying and job hunting, these questions can be a source of stress and awkwardness. We at have been through it ourselves, and we won't let you enter this conversational minefield unarmed and unprepared.

Here are our tactics for answering these often innocent but difficult questions.

"What are you going to do with your life?"

This patronising little question is an extraordinarily frightening one to have to answer with a mouth full of roasties.

Many of you will know what you want to do with your life and career-which is great, go you! For those that don't, the implication that you've got your whole life ahead of you and no idea what to do with it is a little much to take around the holiday table. Don't let the thought ruin your Christmas dinner.

It's a tough question and while it may overwhelm you a little, it is something worth having a good think about in the days following Christmas. Whether you are in your final year or have already graduated and in stop-gap work, you should be asking yourself what it is you can see yourself enjoying for at least 40 hours a week.

The question will almost certainly come up before the sherries are out, so have something prepared to save yourself the awkward mumble about half-formed plans.

"What are you going to do with that degree?"

Christmas seems to be the time when relatives, grandparents and co. like to interrogate your choices, and your degree is a prime target. For graduates who studied "vocational" degrees, and by that we mean degrees with vocational purpose like Accounting or Marketing, the question can easily be swotted away, but what about the Humanities and Arts graduates?

Well, the response is relatively simple. No matter what you studied, you will have picked up a range of skills that can be applied to different job roles. It's a matter of framing your answer to show that the tens of thousands of pounds you've spent so far has not been wasted.

We've written about this on our Identifying Skills page in more detail, but you should not let yourself be made to feel unprepared or unrealistic for what you chose to study. No degrees are worthless.

"Why don't you do what your sibling/neighbour's daughter/golden grandchild did?"

This is the part of the meal when your unwitting grandparent suggests a dull career which you would despise, using the opportunity to sing the praises of their not-so-secret favourite grandchild. While their suggestions will not help you work out what to do, they might help you narrow your options. It's important to know what you don't want.

A word of warning, however. Don't be too quick to write off careers you hadn't thought about or even know that much about. Take the opportunity to get in contact with "the favourite" and find out what their job actually entails.

Firstly, it might be completely different than what you think. The day-to-day reality is usually miles away from standard stereotypes.

Secondly, "the favourite" might be able to help, perhaps pointing you in the right direction for starting a particular career, or even giving you a leg up. If you have a good idea of what you want to do, it's worth testing the water with them to see if there is someone they know. Families are an oft-neglected resource for careers advice and career help.

"Why don't you look for a job in [insert hometown here]?"

In general, your parents and family love you and they want you nearby. If you followed the traditional path, you left them three years ago without a care in the world and now they are glad to have you back.

Whichever far-flung corner of the UK you chose to study in, your parents will always be suspicious of your new home. But the reality is that your choice of career will dictate where you are looking to work-and the answer is pretty much always London.

Research shows the majority of graduate jobs are located in "that London". If you opt for the capital, you may need to explain to your parents why it is the best place for you to pursue your dream career.

While many of these questions can feel patronising, putting you on the spot and belittling your life choices, your relatives usually mean well. They have your best interests at heart and want to see you succeed-keep that in mind as you smile through your teeth and ask them to pass the parsnips.