How to deflect those pesky questions about your future

February 05, 2016
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Whoever said that death and taxes are the only certainties in life forgot something that applies to students everywhere: people asking about the future. But with indecisiveness and uncertainty surrounding future employment opportunities, it’s not necessarily a simple question to answer. So what’s a person to do? Whether you’ve got a vague sense of the direction you’d like to go in or you’re lost entirely, here are a couple of ways to approach the situation.

Change the topic

The key to this strategy is speed. If you’re too slow, the person might reiterate their question. Too fast, and you might come across as suspicious. To make it work, try to keep a seemingly relevant (yet entirely unrelated) topic of discussion in mind. For example, if you’re studying advertising, go ahead and wax lyrical about Mad Men. If you’re working towards anything in the medical field, be ready to discuss Grey's Anatomy. Or just brush up on your knowledge of those shows anyway - people love reminiscing about them. In summary, learn a lot about quasi-related TV shows and you'll be fine.

Name one possibility

If your ‘shortlist’ of potential future occupations is five pages long, it might be easier to just run with one of your favourite options when explaining your aspirations to people. While it’s important to mention you haven’t made a decision, you’ll find that naming something will help the person understand what kind of area you’re drawn to. And, if nothing else, the process will prompt you to think about where you see yourself after graduation.

Ask your own questions

This technique may be well-worn, but that's because it’s effective. It's long been established that people love to talk about themselves, so next time you want a break from giving the same explanation again, question that person about their passions. Even if it's wildly different from the life you see for yourself, it can be inspiring to hear a person speak truthfully about what they want to pursue. You might even find some common ground.

Explain, but keep it general

If you’re interested in too many areas to elaborate on, try to group possibilities together and go from there. If you know you could see yourself writing (but would be as happy producing copy for an advertising agency as you would articles for a literary journal), keep it simple and say you’d like to write. For entirely different fields - say, science and law - just mention them both rather than going into detail that you don’t want to.

Be honest

Alright, so this last one isn’t a means of deflection - but it’s what you’re bound to do eventually. It's understandable that people will want to know where you see yourself in the future, and you may find that thinking about it will get easier over time too. Just be real with people: tell them you want to take that time to find something you love, because it’s likely you’ll spend a lot of time devoted to it. You want to make sure you’re heading in the right direction, and that’s OK.

Nicole Wedding

Nicole Wedding is a law and media student at The University of Adelaide. Find more of her writing here

Image: Hanna Sorensson, Flickr Creative Commons license