Blogmas Day 23: How to respond when people ask, “What are you going to do with that?”

The holiday season usually means spending time with family, and sometimes spending time with family means defending what you’ve chosen to study. Well meaning relatives often ask, “What are you going to do with that?” when you tell them what you’re going to be getting a degree in. In this post, I’m going to give you some tips for how to respond to that kind of question without causing a fight at Christmas dinner.

 

The holidays mean seeing family ... and sometimes defending your degree. Here's how to respond to the "What are you going to do with that?" question. | BLOGMAS DAY 23: HOW TO RESPOND WHEN PEOPLE ASK, "WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH THAT?" | HONEYBEE JOYOUS

 

I want to start by saying that my family has always been wonderfully supportive and I’ve never experienced anything but love and confidence from them. Nevertheless, I’ve definitely had to respond to this type of question from others.

In the spring, I’m going to be getting my B.A. with a double major in English and Gender, Sexuality, Women’s Studies. As you can imagine, those are both majors lots of people can’t conceptualize as leading to “real jobs.” It didn’t help that for a while, I really had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. That meant that when people asked, “Well what are you going to do with that?” I just kind of stuttered and said, “I don’t know, I’m thinking about communications … or journalism … or something?”

I’m sure some of you have had that experience, because talking to my friends, a ton of them have too. (Leave a comment below if you can relate!)

I’ve since settled on getting my M.A.Ed. in Elementary Education and becoming an elementary school teacher, but when I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, it was always so stressful to be asked about my future plans.

People can tell you til the cows come home that you don’t have to have your life figured out and you still have time, but that doesn’t make it any easier to respond when people start asking you about your future plans. Here are my tips so you don’t mumble through an incoherent answer when someone asks you about your future this holiday season. I’ve included some examples based on my own past experience responding to these types of questions!

 

Prep an elevator speech

My best tip is to know that people will ask you this question and prepare accordingly. More than likely, the people who ask about your future are well meaning and don’t realize that they’re causing you stress or coming across as condescending toward your choice of major. I think it’s best to be realistic and have some talking points prepared for when someone (well meaning or not) asks you what you’re going to do.

For example:

“What are you studying?”

“English and Gender, Sexuality, Women’s Studies!”

“Oh. What are you going to do with that?”

“I’m not entirely sure yet, but I’ve been looking into careers in journalism or communications. Since I work for our school newspaper, I’ve been able to meet a lot of alumni in those fields and talk to them about all the different jobs that are out there for people who love writing. I’m currently working on my own blog and submitting applications to communications internships to get the kind of experience I’d need for those types of jobs.”

Think about some of the things you’re interested in, some of the things you’ve accomplished in your field, what friends in your program are planning on, and pull together a concise sentence or two. Preparing an elevator speech about your options and your goals will help you feel less stressed about the inevitability of this conversation and help you keep a level head as you respond.

 

Talk short-term plans

If you’re super unsure what your post-grad plans are, that’s totally fine — especially if you’re not even a senior! I find that this is a great opportunity to bring up your short-term plans or recent accomplishments.

For example:

“What are you studying?”

“English and Gender, Sexuality, Women’s Studies!”

“Oh. What are you going to do with that?”

“I haven’t really settled on a post-grad goal, but this summer I’m going to be interning in DC in the communications department of a nonprofit and I’m super excited about that!”

If you’ve nailed an internship, won an award, or even just took a really cool class in your field, this is the perfect opportunity to bring that up. Usually, a relative asking what you’re going to do with your degree is either just trying to make conversation or they’re genuinely unaware of what you can do with a B.A. in English. Talking about your accomplishments, your part-time job, or *ahem* your blog’s email newsletter can open their eyes to all the opportunities out there for you.

 

Ask about them

It’s a fact: people love talking about themselves. If you can ever redirect the conversation by asking a question about the person who asked about you, you’re almost guaranteed to not have to answer the initial question. Bonus points if you get some free advice.

For example:

“What are you studying?”

“English and Gender, Sexuality, Women’s Studies!”

“Oh. What are you going to do with that?”

“I’m still figuring out what I want to do, but I’ve still got lots of time. How did you decide what kind of job you wanted to have?”

You can ask about their life lately, their family, or even better, their career! They’ll probably be flattered that you want to hear about how they got to where they are and who knows, you might learn something that will help you in your own decisions.

 

{What are you studying? Have you experienced people doubting your dreams? How have you responded? Tell me in the comments!}