Soon to be college students and those in college, here are a few thoughts on how to handle the questions of “What are you studying/going to study? What kind of job are going to get?” during your holiday gatherings.
If you are unsure of which college you will choose to go to, or the major you plan to select, I suggest turning the question back on the person asking it. “How did you decide to go to the college you went to? What college was it? Where was it? What was your major the first day you were there? What major did you graduate with?” etc. Like in current times, people who were in college 10-30 years ago, often changed their majors, struggled with an academic obstacle, and have a story or two to share. Get these people talking about their college experience! If the person asking the question did not go to college, ask her/him what they would have studied if they had gone, and why they are selecting that major/field of study now.
If you are nearing the end of your college career, of course people are asking you what career or job you are headed toward. In these cases, I again suggest asking this person questions rather than replying right away. “What did you do the day after you graduated? How long did it take you to find a career related position? How long did you stay in that job? When did you realize you were on the path to the position you have now? What advice do you have for me? What are the top two traits you are looking for when you hire an entry-level employee?” It is extremely unlikely the person you are speaking with is doing the same job s/he did when they graduated, and soliciting advice from her/him is wise. You can thank the person for all their insights and never answer the question they asked you!
When you answer questions about your major/field of study, I suggest you speak passionately! Demonstrate your enthusiasm for YOUR choice by talking smartly about your classes, the research you are doing, the faculty you are learning from, and the opportunities you have engaged in on your campus. Share fun-facts about your program and/or college, and be proud of what you are accomplishing.
When answering questions about your intended career, be positive in your responses, showing confidence in YOUR decision to get a Bachelor’s degree in this field. Talk about the career workshops you have attended, the guest lectures you have seen (that have inspired you), and the resume you have already drafted. Ask if s/he would like to see it, and a sample cover letter you have written, and ask for feedback and edits. Also, make sure to ask this person if they know anyone in this field, or a similar field with whom I could do an informational interview. Informational interviews are a great way to learn more about an actual position and a company – take advantage of these connections.
Now you are ready to embrace these loaded question gatherings!