How to Explain Your Tech Job to Your Family?

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By Julia Haleniuk, in

With new positions popping up all over the place on the IT job market, it might not be a piece of cake to explain what your tech job is about to your parents – people who aren’t necessarily die-hard fans of new technologies. Unless, of course, your mom or dad are avid tech geeks, chances are they have just, much to their excitement, discovered Facebook. Occassionally and unfortunately, they also happily take to social media to comment their children’s pictures.

So How Do You Explain What You Do?

„No one knows what I really do.”, or „It’s actually pretty complicated.” are probably the worst explanations you can come up with. First, by saying that you come across as nonchalant. Second of all, you’re wasting a great chance to practice explainig it to a person that doesn’t have the slightest clue about it.

Try to Understand Them

If they usually don’t understand what you do, maybe it’s because you expect them to understand too much. Luckily, there is a way to explain almost anything to anyone, but before you do so, make sure to know your listener.

Some people may simply ask about your job to be polite, for example an uncle who’s just trying to break the awkward silence in between meals. However, who also work in IT may be genuinely interested in your position. Treat it as an elevator pitch. Once you know it, you will be able to adapt the pitch to the listener’s level of interest. And before you know it, you will have mastered a 1-minute description of your skills. Whether it’s going to be an extended description of your day at work with all your responsiblities, or a simple, one-sentence explanation of what you do in general.

For instance: I develop software for international companies.

This sentence doesn’t really say it all, but for some it might be just good enough. Good enough for those who want to make sure that you’re clearly doing SOMETHING and making ends meet and footing your bill at the end of the month.

Try Not To Sound Condescending

If you don’t really know how much someone else is into technology and how well-informed they are, it can be easy to cross the line between smart and awfully patronizing. The whole point here is not to make the other person feel any less intelligent.

It’s best to take into consideration your relative’s education and age. A good idea is to start off by sparking an interest in them by asking if they use a certain type of app or be it a website which perfectly relates to your professional field. You can also mention a story that recently went viral. Chances are they have heard of it. Either way, it’s a good starting point.

If by any chance you need to fully explain your field of expertise, try to do it as simple as possible.

Just like that:

You: Think of the news website that you visit every day…
Your relative: What about it?
You: I make sure that every piece of content on it is always up to date.

But don’t narrow it down to only one thing such as:

You: I spend ALL DAY coding like a madman.
Your relative: All day? Every day?
You: Correct.

Reality check – developers don’t spend eight hours a day producing lines of code. They fix bugs, go to meetings, and learn new things too.

Keep it Simple and Tell Stories

The KISS method, also known as Keep It Stupid Simple is all about getting your message across as if you were talking to a five year old. Believe it or not, but some kindergartners are more savvy than adults. I mean, who hasn’t seen a child use an iPad? Let’s say you’re a marketing specialist. Instead of reducing it all to „I do marketing. Global marketing.” like the example above, go for something that’s fully-fledged:

„I am the person responsible for marketing, branding and all activities around it. I write social media posts – on Facebook and Twitter. I organize events which my company attends in order to advertise or hire new employees. I also come up with new ideas on how to advertise our services and offer, and make sure that everything is in line with our business goals.”

This is no rocket science!

The key to success is to really just keep it simple. First of, your relatives aren’t your co-workers at your daily stand-ups. Your mom, dad, aunt, grandma… they might still use a flip phone and be strictly against upgrading it and avoid anything that has to do with a smartphone like the plague.

I hope those simple strategies work for you and make conversations with your family a tiny bit less awkward. After all, nobody is an expert on everything and even the most highly analytical minds need something explained if it’s not their cup of tea.

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