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How Looking for a New Job Feels Like Looking for Love

Or; The Anxiety and Heartbreak of the Job Search

Getting dressed-up for an interview or a fancy date? The manila folder is the only clue.

Looking for a new job is like dating. For some people, dating and searching for jobs is an exciting enterprise. For me, both are tedious and soul-crushing. Whichever kind of person you are, it’s easy to see the parallels between searching for a new job or a new partner.

In my case, I found myself at a job that, while it was comfortable and familiar, I just wasn’t happy and it was time to move on. So I started looking at listings on Indeed and ZipRecruiter to see what was out there, which is essentially the job search equivalent of downloading OKCupid and Plenty of Fish. Meanwhile, checking for job opportunities and filling-out applications in person is equivalent to going to a bar or club.

I spruced-up my resume and my LinkedIn profile with the same goals I had in mind when I was dating: make myself look interesting and appealing in an honest yet polished way. I even made sure to use a more recent headshot for my LinkedIn page, since I wasn’t interested in catfishing prospective employers. 

Then, it was time to do the professional version of sending awkward direct messages and using finger guns while flirting at the bar – the dreaded sending of cover letters, resumes, and filling out applications.

Now, similar to when I sent flirty messages or conversation-starting questions on OKCupid, I didn’t honestly expect anyone to message me back. So I was similarly surprised when I started getting requests for phone interviews. 

“Oh, me? Little old me?” I wondered to myself, bashful and hopeful. The hour leading up to every phone interview filled me with panic and hope, especially when the initial calls led to other subsequent calls. Maybe it was getting serious enough for them to ask me out! I mean, ask me for an on-site interview.

When I was asked to interview on-site, I was nervous and ecstatic. I did my hair differently, groomed myself with more care, wore nicer clothes and dusted off my fancier shoes. With a stomach full of butterflies, I looked in the mirror before each interview and told myself to be calm. 

“Don’t be awkward,” I said to myself, “Don’t talk about yourself too much. Ask them questions that’ll keep the conversation going.” These are eerily similar to the things I said to myself while dressing-up to meet my future spouse for the first time.

Every interview was like a first date, minus the wine (though I really wanted a glass). We’d talk, we’d occasionally laugh, we’d size each other up, and we’d avoid the topic of whether or not we’d ever see each other again. After an interview where I stammered and spoke too quickly, I lamented, “They’re never going to call me back.” After another interview that felt like it went particularly well, I mused to my friends, “Maybe this is The One!”

While I know that not every job lasts forever, and sometimes employers change, I do still experience a little optimism each time that there’s a chance that I can settle down with this job. That maybe this one will last, I’ll grow old with this job, and retire with a decently vested 401k. 

The wistful feeling I have while pondering this is the same as when I daydream after a good date, often foolishly, about growing old with someone in a house with a white picket fence.

Then, it was time to write “thank you” e-mails. Should I send it right away, or will that make me look desperate? Should I wait a little bit, or would that seem rude? I did internet searches for the proper etiquette of following-up on these interviews, much like desperately looking up how long anyone should wait after a date to text or call someone back. And now, I’m in what currently feels like the worst part of this whole process, which is waiting for an offer letter or a rejection letter.

Getting a rejection letter after an interview that seemingly went well leaves me with the same insecurities and questions I have when I get a text from a date telling me, “You’re nice, but there’s just no chemistry.” 

I certainly felt there was chemistry, so this is clearly a polite way to turn me down so I stop pursuing them. Is this that I’m not well-versed in multiple ERP systems? Did I use too much data analysis jargon? Not enough? Am I not attractive enough? Did I accidentally laugh in an annoying way? What is it about me that isn’t good enough?

The words “we’ve decided to pursue other candidates” demoralizes me with the same intensity of “I’m just not that into you.” I keep refreshing my e-mail in the hopes that, instead of the dreaded rejection form letter from a prospective employer’s HR, that I will receive an offer letter that I can accept without much negotiating. Then, maybe, just maybe, I can end my search for love – I mean, a new job.

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