Dating for Jobs

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Having spent the last six months of my life on a fairly concentrated job search - I'm looking for a position as a financial writer or communications professional - it's become obvious to me there are parallels between finding the perfect job and finding the perfect date or future mate.

Both are sales games of a sort. Both are challenging right now, with the job scene an employer's market, and the singles scene a bachelor's market. And, both ask a lot of us: We're expected to be at our best, physically, mentally and intellectually. We've got to approach life with a smile and positive attitude. We've got to keep looking (at least for a job unless there's a million bucks in the bank). And we need to take care of ourselves so we can get up again tomorrow and do it all over again.

Oh goodie joy.

Well. In an effort to bolster my own emotions, and help those who may benefit from some words from a sister in the trenches, I'm sharing a few lessons I've learned.

Button Your Lip When You're Feeling Desperate

We all say stupid things when the pressure is on. It may be asking your professional contacts, "So, do you have any jobs there?" when all you were supposed to be doing is asking for general advice, or asking your crush when he doesn't call, "Are you mad at me or am I being paranoid?" Unemployment happens. You're human. Be kind to yourself.

Don't Defend Yourself Too Much

After the interview is over, the resume explained, your writing samples e-mailed and your success stories belabored, there's only so much you can do. Similarly, your moral character, values and the way you treat baby animals and children should be clear after a few dates. Let who you are stand on its own. Don't grovel. It's unprofessional and it might just smudge your makeup.

Don't Be a Pest

In the job search, as in dating, you want to show you're interested without being annoying. Keep in touch every now and then, at least until the deal is closed or the rejection letter has arrived. But don't become a stalker. Companies and dates have their own lives. You should, too.

Don't Take It So Personally

Rejection (by the company or date) of your dreams hurts. However, in an employer's market, the fact no one called for an interview is probably not personal. Likewise, the fact your crush didn't call for a few days (weeks/months/fill in the blank) is probably not personal, either. After all, this isn't junior high or Survivor, where everyone overreacts to unintended slights. At our age, life gets in the way sometimes. Everyone's busy and sometimes that's all looming silence means.

Don't Let the Quest Define Your Life

Get some perspective. Whether your search is for a job or a love, you can't focus on it 24/7 without losing your mind and all of your self-confidence. Get involved in other activities, whether it's vacuuming the entire house in 15 minutes flat or organizing all your tools in alphabetical order. Get a little angry (in a controlled way) and turn the volume up past "11" as you channel Joan Jett on I Hate Myself for Loving You. Smash a guitar if you have to - your laptop, if you must - but resist the temptation to define yourself exclusively as a job seeker or a single. You're more than the sum of your frustrations.

Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask Before Helping Others

What's true on an airplane is true off the plane, too. As my therapist has said, three inches from my face: "Focus! Focus! Focus!" He means I should stop obsessing about the glacial pace of my life, get in touch with my own interests and skills, and take good care of myself while indulging in a little wine and chocolate.

Recognize this too shall pass. You'll eventually get work. If you don't, you'll figure out something else to do with your time, like writing slightly sarcastic articles that could bring you some small fame. Likewise, you may eventually get a date or find love. If you don't, you can always buy a pet and start your new life as the crazy cat lady.

Next installment: Why I spend late Saturday nights sitting in the garage listening to the 13-minute version of Boz Skaggs moaning Somebody Loan Me A Dime, backed by the late, great Duane Allman on guitar. Sad, but true.

Jenny L. Herring, APR, is a financial writer and public relations professional with experience in both institutional and retail asset management.

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