In the spirit of a certain romantic holiday that’s bearing down on us, I’m going to throw out a fun little question to contemplate. My question is, in general, what do you think is easier to find these days: a date or a job?
Now granted, I’m about 12 years removed from the dating scene myself, and hopefully won’t be back on the circuit anytime soon (unless my wife dumps me, deservedly, for constantly working on weekends) but I raise the issue, regardless, since I think there are some strong parallels between these two areas of life. What’s more, I’ve found that by comparing job hunting to the dating process, and studying the correlations, many people gain an even better handle on how to market themselves to employers in effective fashion.
Simply put, both situations involve trying to locate somebody out in the big wide world who wants to enter into a certain type of relationship with you. In the first instance, it’s a romantic partner. In the latter case, a hiring manager. But the challenge of finding your “other half” in either case is extremely similar. In both situations, if you’re normal, you’ll experience a certain amount of anxiety. You’ll also have to beat out your fair share of competition. And push through doubts and insecurities. You’ll be scared at times. Nervous at times. But also quite excited, at times, too, when you allow yourself to think about what the future might hold for you.
So again, there are more similarities than you’d think between the process of “finding that special someone” and finding your way to your next paycheck. And there are only four main ways to go about each process, too, when you stop and think about it. So let’s break down each of these four “channels” and see how they stack up…
Channel #1: Singles Ads. If you’re job hunting, the first method you’ll likely use for finding work is to comb through a bunch of Internet job websites, scouting for companies already on the lookout for potential candidates. The dating correlation? It’s pretty obvious. Whether you’re talking about newspaper singles ads or the new breed of dating sites like Match.com, eharmony.com, and the like, there are definitely places where one can “publish” their interest in meeting a significant other — or a talented new hire. While people can and do find jobs (and dates) through these types of sites, however, you’ve got to be a bit on your guard. Not only is the wish list of requirements people post on these kinds of sites pretty long, but there’s a healthy amount of posing you have to fight through, as well. For example, a number of jobs posted on the Internet either are sketchy positions in the first place or involve a company simply “going through the motions” to justify hiring an internal candidate. These same shenanigans, I’m told, exist on dating sites as people either 1) exaggerate things about themselves (e.g. post VERY old photos) or 2) fail to disclose that they’re married — and are just looking for some fun on the side.
The Takeaway? Manage your expectations, since gamesmanship abounds! While millions of people can and do still find both jobs and love through published ads, there are definitely some major pitfalls you’ll want to avoid. Make sure you don’t put all of your eggs in this single basket — or assume you’re dealing with a level playing field.
Channel #2: Matchmakers. In the job market, there are thousands of recruiting firms and staffing agencies now serving as “middlemen” (or women) and directly brokering job placements. Companies are finding that it’s easier, in many cases, to let a specialist go out and hunt high and low for a particularly hard-to-find candidate profile. Similarly, there have always been “matchmakers” in the dating world who will attempt to hook you up with your Prince (or Princess) Charming for a nominal fee. While I’m not privy to the exact names of the companies who do this, I hear about ads for services like “It’s Just Lunch” and “Events & Adventures” fairly often, and have also noted that a growing number of reality shows (e.g. The Million-Dollar Matchmaker) seem based on this model, suggesting this dating avenue is alive and well.
The Takeaway? While this channel does offer the promise of instant gratification in both worlds via the “outsourcing” of your problem, and I’m sure a certain number of people experience success through it, one can’t ignore two major drawbacks. First, you (or the hiring authority) have to pay a fee for the service. Secondly, there are some minimum qualifications that have to be in place for these intermediaries to be successful. In the hiring world, candidates usually need to have stable backgrounds and fairly specialized qualifications in order to be “placeable” at a company. And in the dating world, I suspect this is also true in a sense, and that professional matchmakers need to screen people on a least a few criteria before they can confidently make introductions. So it’s a workable channel for some, but only if you meet certain rigid requirements.
Channel #3: Networking. This is the biggie. If you were to ask a random cross-section of Americans how they met their significant other, or got their last job, chances are that at least 60-70% would tell you that it happened through some type of networking scenario. In general, most of us tend to meet people most easily through the normal routine of socializing with family and friends, since there’s a certain “safety” in knowing that a person shares a common interest with you (e.g. sports, church, a hobby group) or comes vouched for by people you trust. And just as many successful job hunters look back and are amazed by how some small social interaction (that didn’t seem like much at the time) led to a great new job, many of us can look back and laugh at how some chance encounter (in my case, sitting in the same class in college) led us to meet our future spouse or soul mate.
The Takeaway? This one’s pretty obvious. You not only need to concentrate most of your job hunting time in the area of networking, due to the all-important layer of trust embodied by this approach, but you also need avoid analyzing the process to death, since sometimes the most innocuous meeting, coffee, or phone call can turn out to be the key to a great opportunity!
Channel #4: The Pick-Up Line. Ah, the infamous pickup line — aka direct marketing. This is the forgotten channel that many people fail to include at all in either their job search or dating strategy. And while most people are too scared to try it, there are plenty of proven cases where the frontal assault method can work. For example, one of my best friends used the proverbial pick-up line in a bar (something about “space pants” if memory serves) and has been married to the wonderful woman in question ever since. And in terms of job hunting, I’ve witnessed many people get jobs through cold calling, mailing, or e-mailing specific companies that they have an above-average interest in working for. You just have to build your courage up enough to weather the number of rejections that will inevitably occur before you reach success. On the bright side, you get to “hit on” companies of your exact type, which increases the likelihood you’ll end up with a firm that fits your desired size, industry, culture, and location parameters.
The Takeaway? Again, while the direct marketing approach is not for everybody, there are those job hunters who get the guts to add a “direct” component to their arsenal of marketing activities. And it CAN work. The key is to recognize it from the outset as a numbers game, steel your ego accordingly, and be crystal-clear about the type of organizations you’re going to target. Oh, and yes. Also come up with a terrific, relevant pick-up line that they can’t easily ignore…
In closing, as you can see above, there are some eerie similarities between the process of finding a job — and finding a date. So if one of these challenges is more familiar to you than the other, think hard about the parallels, since I think there are some surprising insights to be gained. And while we’re at it, let’s end on a positive note. If you subscribe to the old notion that “there’s somebody out there for everybody” on the dating scene, let’s keep in mind that there’s probably “a job out there” for everyone, too, if they just position themselves to be talking with the right employer, at the right time!