On the Similarities between Applying for Jobs and Dating

The process of picking a new job or a career often resembles speed dating. A closer look at these stages.

Priming for the Hunt:
You spend several hours marketing yourself for the opportunity; you gather knowledge about the requirements and interests of your intended target. This typically includes dropping hints to your contacts to let you know of your interests in a transition while trying not to be too obvious to some (i.e. "nosy" people or--in the professional world--your current employer).

Putting Yourself in the Game:
Based on your research, you present yourself with your best foot forward: In the job application process, this generally takes place through a resume and a cover letter). In the dating process, it depends on how you intend to meet your interests...i.e. in person, through an introduction--or increasingly--online.

Making Your Presence Known: Knowing that competition can be fierce, you look for ways to follow-up without being too obvious.

Primping for the Interview: If offered a meeting time and place, you prepare accordingly. You do your homework on who you'll be meeting, prepare your list of questions to ask (based on your requirement) and dress accordingly.

The Interview or Date: Your eyes meet, you shake hands, and you make a quick assessment in two minutes or less (as per the research of most experts in both business and personal relationships). You spend the rest of your time together gathering information to either support or discount your initial impression.

Many questions are asked of you, and at the end--you have a chance to ask a few of your own and to assess your own opinion.

Here's where the comparison ends: with dating, most individuals approach the initial meeting as equals (i.e. the stakes are the same). With the job search, the stakes are much higher: i.e. the employer is deciding whether to financially support you on the basis of your work, and you are deciding whether you want to spend the majority of your working hours from this day forward spending time with this new group of people. The timeline for making decisions can be relatively short: just a few interviews before a full-time offer is extended.

The process of interviewing for positions and making career decisions is, in my opinion, the dating equivalent of going out twice--and deciding to move in together with a lease. It is about making a personal commitment. It is about making a financial commitment. And yet, unfortunately, it's commonly not a process that feels at the time like a decision among equals. Why not? Because as job seekers, we often feel like the employer has more of the cards than we do--if we don't have multiple interviews, we may feel like we have less options. And so, all too frequently, we approach our interviews with all the anxiety of adolescents or as if we are trying out for . We spend a great deal of time primping and not enough time asking ourselves all the right questions. It's as if we are trying out for A Chorus Line: we think to ourselves "I hope I get it, I hope I get it" and we pray quietly "I really need this job. Please God, I need this job. I've got to get this job." And when it doesn't go right, we turn to self doubt "God, I really blew it!
I really blew it! How could I do a thing like that?"

And yet, if we step outside of our situation: we should realize that the process of looking for jobs is one of mutual selection. My goal in my work is to help clients prepare for the process, so that they can gather information and present their own credentials in the best light possible--while also having enough room to honestly access whether a given position is right for them (irrespective of whether the position is offered or not).

I welcome your own observations and feedback.


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