How going on a lot of bad dates can make you a more successful job hunter
I didn’t get the Marketing Consultant job I interviewed for in Boston. The kind recruiter sent me a personalized email, before I received the nauseating system-generated rejection email, to give me a heads up about the “not so good news.” Maybe she liked me. Maybe she felt sorry for me. Maybe she felt she should feed the Good Karma machine that currently keeps her employed. Who the fuck knows. One thing’s for sure, I’ll never find out.
Of course, this made the over-anxious, neurotic Keebler Elves in my brain start over-thinking as they sifted flour and beat eggs while making their Pecan Sandies and Chips Deluxe, which no doubt contained Xanax and a shitload of sugar.
And here is the point at which I arrived after all the thinking and when the Elves went into sugary Xanax shock: Job-hunting is a lot like dating, just without all the fun, booze and (sometimes) good sex. But there are similarities (both can be torturous and frustrating, for one), and valuable lessons can be learned from dating, which translate into being a more realistic, creative and resilient job seeker.
DATING CAN HELP YOU DETERMINE YOUR TRANSFERABLE (OR SOFT) JOB SKILLS
It’s a crying shame that my career counselor strongly urged me (actually, forced is more like it) to remove “More than 20 years of dating experience” from my resume’s career summary. Pshaw. That should count for something, right? They talk about transferable skills in these resume workshops, and over the years, copious amounts of dating have left me with many soft skills of which naive early-marriage-adoptors should be jealous:
- Works well under stress: (Tampa, 1997) After I was invited into his apartment for a drink post-first-date, my date came out of the kitchen with gin & tonics, but without pants or underwear (yet, oddly, he was still wearing his shirt). I told him to put his pants on, calmly grabbed my purse, left his apartment (while screaming, “Hey there’s a crazy naked man in #301” throughout his apartment complex courtyard) and took a cab home.
- Creative problem solver: (Gainesville, 2000) One boy-man took me out for Chinese, proceeded to order the entire menu and then said, “Oops, I forgot my wallet can you cover me?” when the bill came. Prior to settling up the tab, I excused myself to use the restroom and covertly walked out the front door. Maybe he is still there, 12 years later, washing greasy Chicken Chow Mein off of plates.
- Strong communication skills*: (Providence, 2006) The first guy I dated in this city (for three insufferable months) was angry because he thought I loved my dog more than him (of course I did) and gave me the silent treatment during dinner at a local Thai restaurant. I left as soon as the bill came and waited outside in the fresh air for him to take me home. He came out, got into his car and drove off. W I T H O U T me. After I got home, thanks to a kind friend, I had a message waiting on my land-line phone (not the cell phone I was carrying) that said “I hope you had a nice fucking walk home alone in the dark.” He showed up at my apartment the next day, CRYING and apologetic, and I said “Why don’t you go tell your mommy what you did to me and if she thinks it’s okay and respectable for you to make a woman walk 2 miles home alone in the dark, I might take you back. Oh wait, I won’t. Have a nice fucking life.” I shut the door. (*He is now married – who marries these assholes?)
- Experience with social media: (Various locations and years) I can defriend a recent ex on Facebook within 2 seconds of the break-up and deflect – in hockey-goalie fashion – ex-boyfriends who message me “wanting to be your friend now” or who are looking for a booty call. Booty call? Really dipshit? Did you notice that I live in New England now and you are still living in the same lame-ass town I grew up in 1,200 miles away. (I used to only date the moody poets, obviously not the mathematicians who still have possession of their frontal lobes.)
- Works well as a member of a team: (Tampa, 1996-2000, various bars and clubs) During my 20s I often went out with a gaggle of singletons (who have since happily moved on to Smug Marrieds-land and lots of diapers). We attracted a broad spectrum of single guys, ranging from recent parolees and crack-heads, to UT grads who did mind-eraser shots until they puked into our laps and Hugh Hefners who thought the size of their paycheck could make up for the fact that they were quite simply gross old men hitting on 26-year-olds. We protected each other from the scumbags and made sure we were visible to the “good” ones (even though we were wearing beer goggles most of the time). But the thing is this: We never left anyone behind and we kept each other safe. We were a team, a drunken, slightly slutty team, but a team nonetheless.
IT HELPS YOU BUILD A TOUGH SKIN FOR THE SEEMINGLY ENDLESS REJECTION OF THE JOB HUNT…
I have been actively dating for 20 years, never lived with anyone, been married, nor even engaged. This not only makes me a freak of nature, it makes me fluent in the language of rejection. And yes, I did sniffle a bit when I got the recruiter’s email yesterday, which was followed by the warm and fuzzy system-generated one: “Thank you for taking the time to interview with us. At the present time there are other candidates whose qualifications more closely match the requirements of this position and we will be moving forward with them.” (Wouldn’t it be simpler if we could send auto-emails to people we don’t want to date again after the first or second date? Interview, date: it’s all the same damn thing.)
But back to the shock of rejection and the subsequent sniffling: I quickly sucked it up and tried to move on yesterday afternoon. And how did I learn this? My first lesson occurred at a young age. Danny Barnes rejected me in the third grade – through a note passed to me during our afternoon math lesson – and I blubbered like a fool on my walk home from school. I didn’t want to go back the next day, but I did. Danny had moved on to Zandra, and I suddenly had eyes for Jamie. Had our then grade-school embers of love grown into a full-blown forest fire, I would’ve missed out on a lot of interesting, nice guys and hilarious stories. So good-bye bank recruiter. There will be others after you, more fish in the sea (probably not cod or tuna, but I know those damn tilapia will never go away).
…AND IT ALSO TEACHES YOU HOW TO NOT SETTLE FOR STUPID JOBS YOU DON’T REALLY WANT
Old-timer dating girl (me) who has lived through many rejections, has also played the painful rejecter role. It’s not always fun. In fact, it blows.
In a job-related rejecter vein, a dear friend who shall remain nameless was recently offered a “writing” job that required her to write and keep track of 17,000 different letter templates, and make changes every time someone in another area of the company decided they wanted to change a word or comma placement. She actually wrote the word nonononono across the page of her notebook as she was interviewing for the position. She followed her gut, withdrew her name from the running, and I am confident this smart woman will find something worthy of HER skills and passions. I know that waiting for the next nibble or bite is terrifying, especially while dealing with the reality of no regular paycheck, but I refuse to settle.
Settling for a job, even in “this economy,” is like marrying the first guy who ever proposes to you, and you say yes just because you’re about to turn 30 and you desperately want babies. “This may be it! My eggs are shriveling up!! I sort of like him – even though he’s missing most of his front teeth, he still lives at home with mom and he is a big fat bigot – so why not? I’ll get to have babies!!” Seventeen-thousand letter job, marrying a toothless, card-carrying member of the KKK? It’s all the same thing. Don’t settle for whatever nasty bone is tossed your way. Leave it for someone who truly wants it (or him).
In addition to my friend’s tough choice, I too may have to exercise my non-settling skills in the near future. I am nervous, as I am interviewing for two jobs, both of which would require me to move: one to a large, far-off U.S. city that is fun, but where I know not a soul; the other in the second-to-last place I would ever live (the last on the list being Iran). I may have to say NO to what looks like a sure thing on the surface – an attractive surface the reads “PAYCHECK, GUARANTEED!”– but which would require me to move away from a city I have grown to like a lot and an irreplaceable support system. Tough, tough choices, but dating has taught me to follow my instincts instead of saying YES “just because.”
IT TEACHES YOU THAT “I’LL CALL YOU” IS BULLSHIT
If I had a dollar for every time I had heard the words “I’ll call you” and it never came to fruition, I wouldn’t be sitting here sweating my balls off looking for work – I’d have enough money to retire on.
So when the recruiter basically told me that I was a shoo-in and asked me for my availability for an interview with the hiring manager the following week, my little Cinderella ears pricked up. Of course, she’ll call me. Just like 2000, when the adorable Aaron Mitchell promised he would call me after we played an all-night game of drunken Scrabble. When the calls never came through, I used to think these men had been smacked over the head by a brick-wielding mugger and had amnesia, had keeled over from a heart attack or had been kidnapped by Somali pirates. I would will the phone to ring, while scouring the obituaries and calling hospitals.
Now that I’m older and more sensible (ha!), I know they just didn’t want to go out with me again. And when the recruiter says they’ll call and they don’t, they just don’t want to go out with me again, either. The years of no calls have taught me this: it’s okay because it HAS to be okay. I have no control sometimes.
Hmmm. I sound so reasonable. Maybe I should add Flexibility to my soft skills list… although I’m not sure if that pertains to, er, dating or employment.