How the Job Search and Your Love Life Are the Same

Rose left behind on a cobblestone road
Photo: Tristan Nitot
This is a post I originally did for Brazen Careerist, a great social network for Generation Y professionals. The post is now available in its entirety below.

Okay, comparing a job search to dating is not exactly new. I Googled the phrase “job hunting is like dating” and found more than 9,500 results. So, yeah, I realize I’m not breaking new ground here. But I thought it might be fun to explore some new similarities, hopefully moving beyond parallels like “play it cool, don’t be desperate” and “most of it is done online these days.”

It’s easy to fall in love
When out at a bar or party, you’ll probably encounter a mix of good looking and average looking people (depending on where you live). When a really good looking one catches your eye, it’s easy to become enamored, for the night or even for days.

Job hunting is the same way – you sift through the lame or average jobs and then, every once in a while, you happen upon one that gets you excited. You start to picture yourself with that job and how it would make your life better. You think how much better that job would be than your last job, or how much better you’d look with this new job and all its prestige. Finding a good one is important, and I’m all for giving it a shot, even if it’s a long shot. Just don’t let it paralyze or distract you from all the other options. I know I’ve gotten hung up on “dream jobs” in the past, and sometimes you let it get the better of you. Stay ambitious but level headed.

It’s easy to get shot down
Sadly, most job applications don’t work out the way you plan, much like most romantic overtures don’t all work out (at least they didn’t for me :)). And the worst part is, no matter how badly you want a certain job, or a certain person, sometimes it’s just not a good fit. They might already have their eye on another candidate, they might not be hiring, or they might just not be interested in working with you (all parallels intended). When that happens, you need to pick up the pieces and move on.

The most important aspect of getting shot down (in love or jobs) is to keep looking. Just having something to work toward, some project to keep you excited, will give you purpose. And as we learned from “The Matrix,” purpose is everything.

What to consider before committing
After a while, dating and the job search get old, and we just get tired of looking. The urge to get on with your life, contribute to a team, and make some money becomes too strong (all parallels except the last one intended). When that happens, it’s easy to accept the first offer you get (and maybe do something you regret). So keep these things in mind before committing.

  1. Where you work says something about you. Say you’ve been out of work for a while, a long while. You might even call it a drought. Then you get an opportunity at a less-than-reputable company, one you never thought you’d consider but that you’re suddenly weighing. Sure, signing on with that company might get you through the dry spell, but the reputation will follow you longer than you think.The place where you work says something about you, and you could have difficulty explaining that stint to a future prospective employer. The parallel here is pretty obvious, if you go home with sketchy people, you’re going to become “that” guy or girl. Yeah, settling might satisfy your short term needs, but you’ll probably regret it, and you’ll have to explain it for years.
  2. Remember that expectations are important. You might think, “Oh, I’ll just work here until something better comes along,” the same way you might think you’ll date a person until someone better comes along. But there’s a problem: the company or person might not have the same idea. What if they are hiring you with the expectation that you’ll be with them for a long time? You’ll burn bridges rapidly if you give them the impression you’ll be long term, only to bail for the next best offer. Yup, same with relationships – don’t be a phony because eventually you’ll get burned.
  3.  Settling can be dangerous. How many people do you know who have been at a job they hate for years? How many people have been talking about quitting their crappy jobforever? I know plenty of people like that! All the stories start the same way:  the person takes a job they don’t want because they have to (or think they have to), then they stop looking for jobs because looking for jobs usually sucks (though it could be better). Complacency sets in, usually followed by laziness, and suddenly they are 10 years into a job that was never a great fit.We’ve all seen these relationships too. Someone is in a relationship that just isn’t very good. It’s not bad, but it’s clearly not a good fit. But, the person doesn’t want to be alone anymore, all their friends have significant others, and dating is exhausting. So rather than facing the dating scene, they just stay in the same unfulfilling relationship for years. And it all started because they settled at the beginning. The take away here is, be careful about settling because the intended short-term easily becomes the unintended long-term before you know it.

The job search/dating parallels are meant to provide another way of looking at both endeavors. Think about how you approach your dating life, what you’ve learned, and maybe look at your job search through that lens. Then do the same with your job search and examine your love life through that lens. Hopefully, considering both experiences will lead you to a fulfilling relationship with a solid partner.

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Tim Murphy is the founder of - the first free web app to help you track school and job applications.

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