"It's going wonderfully! When are you getting married/having kids/retiring?"
January 12, 2012 5:32 PM   Subscribe

What do I say to well-meaning but nosy people when they ask me how the job hunt in my boyfriend's city is coming along?

My boyfriend moved to a city 6 hours away for work, and to cut a long explanation short, it could be up to another year and a half before we're back together in the same city again. The long-distance thing is working out ok for now, relationship is great, really hoping things come together sooner for us but we're managing to see eachother every weekend for the time being, and we have some nice vacations planned.

Unfortunately friends, family, acquaintances, etc. will invariably come up to me and ask me how my job hunt's going. This leads to explaining why I'm not looking very hard, because prospects suck for me and he might end up back in my city anyway. I'm literally avoiding giving any more details right now about our current situation because the logistics are complicated and it was incredibly stressful to sort out our options. I hate rehashing it, it just brings up that stressed feeling, and I wish they just wouldn't ask.

What do I say? I suppose politely it could just be "Oh, just fine!" and not elaborate... but I wouldn't mind some better answers than just Ms. Manners' response
posted by lizbunny to Human Relations (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
-[big smile] Got some stuff in the works, don't want to jinx it!

-you know, thank you for asking, but it's a big source of stress and I'd prefer not to talk about it right now. How is your XYZ?
posted by liketitanic at 5:35 PM on January 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

Back when my husband's job was much less secure than it is now, and everyone thought he should be looking hard for a new job, he started replying to well meaning questions about it with a big smile and, "Talking about anything to do with job security and job searches makes me want to kill myself. So thanks for asking."

People stopped asking.
posted by lollusc at 5:37 PM on January 12, 2012 [21 favorites]

"Getting there! Thanks for asking!" and if they pry, "Hey, you know how the economy is. Don't want to jinx anything. How are you?"

On preview, what liketitanic said. :)
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 5:37 PM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Tell them the truth. They might have connections or know someone who knows someone who can help. Say, "Still looking. Do you know anybody that can help?"
posted by anniecat at 5:38 PM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am in a not entirely dissimilar situation and I think that "still looking" is the way to go. It's hard to have to give that answer repeatedly, but once people notice that it's not changing and you're not offering that much information, they tend to move onto other topics.
posted by mlle valentine at 5:41 PM on January 12, 2012

Alternately, tell people it's very stressful. Be like "blah blah the economy" and "keep your fingers crossed." Actually let them see you look distressed and they won't bring it up again. They'll empathize with you because no one forgets how scary and nerve-wracking it can be to look for a job. Sometimes it really just helps to say, "It's really scary," and look uncomfortable. That will get them to change the topic.

If you smile and pretend everything is okay, they'll just be more curious. The former way will get them to talk about themselves.
posted by anniecat at 5:42 PM on January 12, 2012

The key, as others have noted, is that whatever one- or two-liner you settle on, punctuate it with a cheerful question about the questioner, which serves to redirect the conversation. This is a tactic that will serve you well in countless other situations of well-meaning-but-nosy-people wondering about when you're getting married/getting pregnant/going to finish writing your novel/whatever.
posted by scody at 5:58 PM on January 12, 2012

Take a page from the extremely reserved and introverted: "Fine." (no elaboration). People take the hint and it's quick.
posted by supercres at 6:04 PM on January 12, 2012

"Oh, it's going..." Then change the subject.
posted by Sara C. at 6:04 PM on January 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

"You know me -- I'll let you know if there's anything you should know!"
posted by runningwithscissors at 6:05 PM on January 12, 2012

I love lollusc's answer, and I will have to stop myself from using it at a wedding we're going to this weekend... my new year's resolution is to be more polite whenever I can help it. So it will instead be reserved for special occasions when I feel like the person deserves a punch in the face for asking.
posted by lizbunny at 6:52 PM on January 12, 2012

posted by Slinga at 7:18 PM on January 12, 2012

Take a deep breath; as you say, they're well-meaning. They just don't realize how stressful it is.

Say something generic:
"Fine, it has its ups and downs"
"Oh, you know, fine, no real news"
"Going okay, no promising leads yet, but I've always got my ears open"
"Hanging in there"

And then introduce another subject, either giving them another factoid about YOU that they can focus their "well meaning conversation" rays on, or hitting the ball over to their court.
"These days I've been spending a lot of time on xyz" [xyz = project, hobby, book, church, family thing, ...]
"So how about you, how's your xyz?"
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:21 PM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

At the moment, I'm job hunting in an awful market (Los Angeles metro) with a BA in a social science, so obviously every well-intentioned inquiry makes me want to rip someone's head off, and not always my own.

Instead, I just smile and say, "Oh, it's going! Thanks for asking!" I think my tone properly conveys the message. Nobody presses me about it anymore except my mother, who has never left the upper Midwest and doesn't comprehend an unemployment rate greater than 3%. I've decided she's a lost cause.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 8:37 PM on January 12, 2012

Adding in "I promise I'll tell you if there's any news" would also get across the "please stop asking" message. Even if you don't actually tell them when there's any news.
posted by penguin pie at 11:46 PM on January 12, 2012

Say you're still looking for a kick-ass job in [your sector] and you're eager to talk to anyone they know who knows about that.

This, in my experience, is the one tactic that's most likely to get you what you want.
posted by tel3path at 2:57 AM on January 13, 2012

This really irritated me recently when I was looking for a job. Things weren't happening as fast as I originally hoped, but I knew things were going to work out the way they were going to work out and people asking me every time they talked to me was annoying. When it came down to it though, it was just a topic of conversation to them and they didn't really think about the emotional punch they were delivering.

So I would just be honest and say I felt good about the way things were going, knew things were going to work out with great timing and that I would let them know if/when there were any updates. Then if they asked again I would say "status quo" and change the subject. They all pretty much got the hint.
posted by Kimberly at 5:06 AM on January 13, 2012

Though it's a good suggestion, I'm not looking for "try networking!" answers - that's not an issue.

I think things more along the lines of "It sucks! Thanks for asking!" and change the conversation is what I'm looking for.
posted by lizbunny at 7:07 AM on January 13, 2012

(My opinion, you may not agree)
People now are generally in Facebook mode - they expect to have a constant low-level awareness of the minutiae of their friends' (and acquaintances') lives. Many or most of the people asking, sad as this may be, may not actually care as much as they just feel they don't know but maybe they should. It's also an easy mundane conversation topic for them, like sports or weather. So, ditto what others have said about a short and non-involved answer. Those who genuinely care may press further - and maybe you want to share further with them to help you process. Everyone else will be satisfied with "it's going".
posted by attercoppe at 9:43 AM on January 13, 2012

I have been getting the same question as of late. My response has been to tell them that I went on a job interview where they made me drive for an hour and a half, for five separate times for 2 hour interviews. Only to find out they they were looking in house and just needed to say that they looked outside (from an inside source). I follow that up with, "so good and bad." People ask less often after that.

Basically people have a hard time questioning my effort and still feel sympathetic without wanting to ask again. So, im sure you have a horror story in your belt by now, simplify it to a few sentences and give it a try.
posted by Felex at 10:40 AM on January 13, 2012

For me it statements like this seems to have a lot of judgement behind them.

Thus my favorite response to an annoying anyone who is concerned about what is going on in my world....

"Don't tell me how to die"

Usually shuts them up and cuts them off at the knees
posted by goalyeehah at 5:22 PM on January 13, 2012

OP can decide how people mean this kind of question in her world, but in my world, people ask questions like that out of friendly interest.

When I ask a question like that, I'm thinking "oh, let's see, what was going on with her the last time we spoke... she was looking for a job, and there was that tough situation about her partner being in a different place... I'd better ask and see how it's coming along, maybe she'll have good news, or at least we can commiserate about the job market or long distance relationships or whatever." I'm not trying to poke at a sore spot at all. If I get an indication that it's a sore subject, I will back off immediately, especially if she gives me a new topic to ask/talk about.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:02 PM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

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