Your love life and your job search aren’t so different after all.
The job search process is remarkably similar to dating. Your heart races and you spend hours obsessing over what to wear. You want to be well-liked and in control. There’s a ton of uncertainty, huge potential for missteps and the need to come across as interested but not desperate. Curiously, some of the best advice around dating can be applied to an effective job search – with good results!
Here are 10 ways in which dating and the job search process are the same. I hope that reflecting on these will make you smile, give you some new job search techniques and set you well on your way to the next professional opportunity that you love!
1. You have to get out there to get results.
You do not meet new people or learn about professional opportunities by sitting on your couch with a bowl of ice-cream binge-watching Netflix! Yes, the same advice you get for finding that special someone applies to an effective job search. If you want options, you have to get out there and be open to possibilities.
This advice is easier to give than to receive, especially in the dead of winter when the weather is miserable and all you want to do is hibernate. However, that’s also what makes it a great time to be out there starting your job search! The start of the new year means new budgets, new projects and new opportunities.
2. You dress to impress.
We all know that the world does not revolve around looks – and yet the way you present yourself does begin with your choice of attire. On first dates and first interviews, your goal is to make a favorable impression as a great candidate. When choosing your attire, remember that clothes should be the least interesting thing about you. You want to stand out for the right reasons, so in most professional circumstances a classic suit and minimal jewelry make for a safe choice.
3. You agonize over whether you should make the first move.
A position at your dream company is just like that good-looking guy (or girl) at the gym. You would love to move beyond wistful glances and have an actual conversation, but what’s the best way to do it? Do you make the first move, or wait for the other side?
The trick to solving this professional (and personal) puzzle is getting clear on how much control you want over timing and circumstances. If you choose to make the first move in the job search process, you get to pick when and how you reach out. Done well, a first move can communicate your strength and interest without making the interaction uncomfortable. Have a positive attitude, be prepared, professional and take care not to put undue pressure on the other person. A patient approach that is structured to add value works best over the long term.
4. You want to be yourself, yet choose your words carefully.
Oh, the balance between letting your personality and preferences show – and being cautious about what you say. Advice on dating and interviewing comes down to being aware of how you come across and managing it – to a point. Putting on a fake personality won’t serve you. After all, you can only stand on your head for so long!
5. You watch for clues and patterns.
During the job search process and in dating, the other side is also carefully watching what’s being said, you have to look for clues and patterns to complete your understanding of what’s happening. Do they like you? Do they have reservations? Will you get the next call?
As in dating, it’s a good idea to be present and pay attention to your surroundings, the other person’s demeanor and attitude and any other signs you might pick up along the way. However, it’s decidedly not a good idea to overthink them. It’s easy to focus on the fact that your interview was very short or that the interviewer seemed distracted. Those signs might mean that they were not interested – or perhaps that they were dealing with an urgent client demand that had to be addressed immediately. You don’t really know what’s happening inside of someone else’s head, so look for big patterns and try not to jump to conclusions.
6. You’re careful not to move too fast.
On dates and interviews, you want to be smart about your choice of topics and words. Showing your cards too early or being too open in the first interview can set you at a disadvantage. There will be time to discuss your salary expectations when the prospective employer is confident you’re the right person for the job. Bringing up money or other sensitive topics up front is like telling your date that you plan to be married in a year and have kids in two: too much pressure at the wrong time.
7. You try to come across as interested but not desperate.
The interview went well, you walked out of the office building buzzing with excitement about the next steps – just to encounter radio silence for two days afterwards. You thought they loved you! The manager said he would be in touch soon! Have you been professionally ghosted? How do you follow up after an interview without seeming desperate? What should you do if you get no response after the interview?
In a world of dating, ghosting is about disappearing without giving the other person the benefit of a clear “yes” or “no” answer. On the receiving end, it can be exceptionally frustrating – especially if you find yourself consumed with waiting by the phone or obsessing over what you might have said or done to deserve the silent treatment.
Professional ghosting is just as frustrating. After all, a clear “no” is often better than weeks of uncertainty. My best advice is not to let it consume your days. Keep on keeping on with the job search process. It’s a good idea to reach out to your contact after the company’s stated decision-making deadline has passed, but if you find yourself refreshing your inbox every 10 minutes it’s probably time to focus on other opportunities.
8. You’re not sure how to answer “What are you looking for?”
Describing your perfect partner can be a frustrating exercise, especially if you believe that you’ll know your true love when you see them. Same goes for professional opportunities. It can be difficult to start your job search process and describe your ideal job while keeping the description realistic, grounded and clear.
Of course you want to work at a company that contributes to improving the world and report to a boss who appreciates your efforts. In a dating world, that’s the reason so many online personal profiles include statements about enjoying walks on the beach, nights out with friends, quiet evenings at home and enjoying life to the fullest. If you’re describing everyone, you’re also describing no one in particular – and that trap is just as true for the professional job search as it is for Tinder.
My best advice is to get clear on what you want professionally. Go beyond the obvious and dig deep into what’s important to you. I’m not asking you to name the company and the position with 100 percent accuracy, but you should be able to verbalize your choice criteria. How will you know when the fit is right? Answering that question will shape a more effective job search.
9. You shouldn’t settle.
Oh, the thin line of realistic expectations. Many professionals believe that “grounded expectations” means they must set their bar low and curb their drive for excellence. In reality, that’s far from what serves you best. Your desire to work in a place that will make the most out of your talents, appreciate you and reward your hard work is not wrong. You just want to steer clear of false ideas around “your perfect job”. There is no job that is 100 percent fun and enjoyable. Everyone experiences challenges and setbacks, whether in getting funding for a project, communicating with team members or managing tight deadlines. By all means, do not settle – that breeds resentment and creates bad outcomes. Instead, be clear-eyed and honest about what you need and want.
10. You’re looking for chemistry.
Sometimes, your senses pick up patterns and clues faster than your logical brain can register them. We may think of it as “chemistry” – when a conversation feels good and right, and when you have a sense of excitement and comfort. Those feelings are worth paying attention to! It’s best not to let these feelings be your only decision-making metric. However, ignoring your instincts means shutting off a valuable stream of information.
In closing, finding the right match is not easy – whether on the dating scene or in an interview. In your job search process, as in your search for that special someone, be present to opportunities, realistic and smart. Above all, honor what is true for you and love yourself first. That may sound like odd advice to give in regards to your professional life, but clear decision guidelines can make your choices simple, and help you shape a career you love.
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