When you’re out of work, there’s no question harder than “What do you do for a living?” Its impact can be even worse when it’s coming from your date. And then there are the other pesky questions that follow.
To help you field these queries, we’ve compiled a handy guide.
Q: What do you do for a living?
Unless you’re changing careers, the best answer is the job you’ve been doing. “If you are an unemployed lawyer or plumber, for instance, you still have the credentials and experience, regardless of whether you currently have a job,” explains Carole Lieberman, a psychiatrist in Beverly Hills, CA, and the host of “Dr. Carole’s Couch,” a weekly Internet radio show on voiceamerica.com.
Scot McKay, a dating coach based in San Antonio, TX, offers another approach. “I’d answer in terms of what my ambitions, passions and goals are, rather than what my present job status is,” he says. Remember, it’s a date, not a job interview. “The point is to see if the two of you get along, rather than to divulge life stories”.
Q: Where do you work?
This one’s a little tougher to tap-dance around, so you might as well tell the truth. Lieberman suggests saying something like, “Right now my job is looking for a job. And it’s really interesting because I’m getting to meet a lot of new people and decide what new company I’d like to work for. The key is being upbeat about it. Nobody wants to date Danny Downer.
“Most people today understand the concept of downsizing and that it can happen to anyone,” says Michelle Hill of Huntington Beach, CA. She’s single and was recently downsized for the third time in nine years. “Be honest, communicate openly without telling every single detail.”
Q: How long have you been unemployed?
The best answer is a truthful but positive one, says Paulette Sherman, a psychologist and the author of Dating from the Inside Out. She suggests something like, “The truth is, I don’t know when I will find another job. I can only do my part to be active, remain compassionate with myself and have supportive people around me.”
“This sends the message that you are doing what you can, but it could be an ongoing situation,” she explains. “It implies that you are proactive and not lazy, but also that you don’t want to be judged or pressured by your dates.”
And while we’re on the subject of judgment, it’s out there in your dates, and maybe even in you. It’s important to remember that you can’t control what others think about you, but you can control your perception of yourself.
“There will always be judgment in our lives, so it’s our job to determine who we are and how we want to live and to honor that above those other voices,” Sherman counsels. “It helps to really determine what we think about ourselves and to return to that. For example, if you are a talented, responsible, successful investment banker with a great work history who is suddenly out of a job, return to the big picture. Remind yourself of your strengths and catch yourself when you start allowing others to determine your worth and bring you down.”
And if your date does ding you for being out of work, well, that’s a sure sign she or he is not the one for you. “If your date looks down on you or is condescending, say bye-bye,” Hill says.
With the right attitude about your situation and some good answers to tough questions, you’ll be ready to get out there and date.
Margot Carmichael Lester is the author of The Real Life Guide to Starting Your Career and is a frequent contributor to Happen, Monster.com and others.