It’s good to be home for the holidays, but if you’re in your 20s or 30s, it may be far better to be far, far away.
Think Tahiti. Think Mozambique. Think St. Paul, Minnesota.
Yes, St. Paul, Minnesota.
St. Paul is not only an exotic destination, but it is also where Amy Lindgren, the owner of a local career consulting firm, writes the “Working Strategies” column in the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
“Millennials, here’s how to handle career advice at holiday dinner” is the title of a timely, recent post, and though you may be decades away from being in that dreaded demographic, Lingren’s advice still holds. As long as you’ve got relatives who are even one day older, they will feel perfectly free to turn a festive holiday dinner into a no-holds barred career coaching session.
Am I right, or am I right? Before the cap is twisted off that bottle of Trader Joe’s Spatburgunder or the marshmallows in Granny’s sweet potato souffle are set afire, your relatives will turn into professional life coaches, committed to straightening out your miserable life before the pumpecapple piecake is served.
If you expect to find yourself in this uncomfortable position this holiday season, Amy Lingren has some good advice for you (Not as good as a pumpecapple piecake, but pretty good, all the same).
“Drop any illusions of privacy that you may be holding,” she cautions. “In these days of texting, tweeting, Skyping, Facebooking and LinkedIn connecting … it’s likely that everyone at the table will already know more about each other’s lives than previous families would have learned in a decade of holiday visits.”
Sad, but true. And totally your fault. By constantly using anti-social media to complain about the pathetic state of your working life, you will not be able to rewrite history with a cheery, “Work is going great; thanks for asking!”
You know what this means: No more waving away a history of lost jobs by announcing that you have just been accepted for astronaut training. No more derailing extra helpings of unsolicited advice by claiming you are working undercover for the CIA and can say nothing about your prospects until Granny gets her security clearance.
“Forget the idea that you can win any dispute” is the next bit of advice. True that. Your elders know what they know and they have zero interest in changing their most deeply held opinions. If it is the wisdom of the dinner table that Kelly Ripa’s new partner, Ryan Seacrest, is a nice enough boy, but he’ll never be another Regis, go with the flow.
In this case, they might be right.
“Don’t imagine you can avoid the conversational spotlight” are Lingren’s famous last words on the subject. While you’ve been out in the world, hobnobbing with the beautiful people, the family has been stuck at home, picking and nipping on each others’ cases for last 12 months. They’re sick and tired of on trying to change people who are close at hand. You, on the other hand, are what columnist Lingren calls “fresh meat.”
And for all you fresh meat, she recommends that before you go home, you do your homework.
“Review the lineup of guests,” she advises. Your relatives have likely been texting and tweeting themselves. Look back through the year of family emails you have ignored. If you can’t find anything warm and wonderful about each guest, maybe you can dredge up some dark and shameful gossip you can launch as a deterrent over the nacho cat cheese balls.
“Think about other people’s careers.” If you don’t want to go negative, make positive comments that can shift the focus when the table full of vultures looks ready to strike. “Tell us about the time when you and Samuel Morse invented the telegraph, Uncle Morty,” you might say. “Do you feel that your business got the support it needed from President Lincoln?”
Don’t be deterred by the fact that Uncle Morty is in his 40s. Old-timers love it when you remind them that they’re decrepit and out of touch.
“Figure out something positive to say about your work life.” Share your triumphs with all the guests, like all the time you screwed up big time and were sure you were going to be fired, but managed to wriggle out of it by blaming a completely innocent co-worker for your blunder, and she got fired, instead.
Life-affirming stories with happy endings perfectly fit the holiday season, don’t you agree?
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He now works out of Bellingham, Washington. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at email@example.com.