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Job hunting is like dating

Job-hunting is like dating. You have two people looking at each other, thinking: ‘Do I want to see you again?

There will always be love at first sight, but some people you date may not want to see you again. Just as there will be people that you don’t want to see a second time. And then there are people who you are willing to develop a relationship with over time, and they with you.

Job-hunting is not reserved for those who are between jobs or careers.  Whether you are entering the job market for the first time, are well established and wanting a more challenging or senior role, or as a business want more people to buy what you do, you are in the dating business. A key competency within the corporate workplace is building relationships and marketing what you do to those who have the power to provide new career opportunities.

Whether you met online, through a mutual connection or through a professional connector, you are going to need a real conversation, or marriage is out of the question. Despite our sophisticated recruitment systems, we hire people we like and trust. Provided of course they have the knowledge and skill to do the job. And sometimes, even with the best will in the world, we get it wrong. Their attitude in the workplace sucks. They have over-rated their own abilities. The way they do things is just not the way ‘we do things around here’.

Finding work is a job on its own. And job dating can be tough, particularly after many rejections. No one wants your ring! And the thought of yet another date seems an overwhelming task.

If you are job hunting right now, here are some things that are helpful.

1.     Decide what you want

Now this seems obvious, yet many people who are job hunting are looking for a job with only a vague idea of what they want, or no idea at all. ‘Something in finance…’ ‘A strategic role…’ ‘I want to add value…’, or even ‘A job in Cape Town’. Either way you leave it up the other person to work out what would suit you best.

Other people talk about their qualifications, hoping that the other person can work out what they want to do with what they know.

Your qualifications explain what you know and what you can do, but not necessarily what you want to do.

You may be hunting for a single employer, or as an entrepreneur or small business owner you are looking for more than one employer. As a representative for a business, you are looking for new employers every day. Every sales call is a date. With regular customers you end up doing serial dating I guess.

Can you describe clearly what you want? Can you describe how you can create value?

2.     Access you network.

They say we all know 1000 people, and maybe that’s true. The people in your network can help you connect with people, who may know people who need someone like you.

Just because you have many thousands of people on your database or on social media doesn’t mean you have a network, they may just be names.

So, work out where you want to go and who may be able to help you get the date you want.

The job you want may not be advertised. And even if it is, it may not be what you are looking for. As a business your network is invaluable, since most of your work may well come from referrals.

How visible are you to your network and the people who need someone like you? And who do you know that could help you set up a date?

3.     Thank people who help you.

It is often sufficient to press ‘Thanks’ on your LinkedIn profile.

But often when someone has gone out of their way to help you, you may want to do a little more than that. Maybe a phone-call? Or an email that is more than a one-liner? Or a hand-written note that you put in the mail. Remember stamps? Saying thank you is good for you and for other people.

Networking is not about using people and collecting business cards; it’s a way of helping each other as far as you can.

So, if you do want a second date, treat the first one with gratitude.

Who in your network do you need to thank?

4.     Identify where you want to work, specifically.

That too may seem obvious. Yet many people are not clear about where they want to work and therefore don’t know where to job hunt. Where geographically do you want to live and work? How much travel are you willing to do? What parts of the industry that interests you do you want to be involved in? What organisations do you want to work for? 

The more specifically you can identify organisations that you are interested to work with, the more your network can help you and the more focused your dating process can become.

What industry do you want to work in, and how will you make an impact there?

Where in the world, geographically, do you want to work?

Which organisations do you specially want to work with or for?

If someone could set up your best date, who would you like to meet?

5.     No may be the right answer.

Just because someone offers you a job doesn’t mean it’s right for you. They may want to see you again, but do you want to see them? If you fall for every date you go on, you could end up with a few disastrous relationships and even end up in dead-end and toxic environments.

That doesn’t mean you should be so fussy that you miss good prospects. Sometimes any work is good work, and that’s OK. Not every role has to blow your hair back. But if it’s not ideal, don’t stay for fifteen years bitching about how work sucks and how you always get the rough end of the stick.

Just as you can say no, so can they! Perhaps the fear of other people saying no puts you off. The reality is that not everyone needs what you do. Or doesn’t need what you do now. And just because they don’t need what you do doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask.

After all, if you don’t ask, how will you know? And if people decide to be rude, it tells you more about them than it does about you.

Who do you need to propose to, even if they say no?

6.     Get up every day and treat job dating as your new job.

Looking for work can be hard work. Jobs aren’t always available because you are ready for them, and it often takes time to find someone who needs someone like you. You may be very good at what you do, but you may be invisible.

Even if you are connected with an agency or talent scout to set up some dates for you, that could take some time. 

Waiting for ads to appear may take a long time since many jobs are filled internally or through networks. 

And if you only date once a month, it could take a long time to find the people who need you.

Getting up every day to job hunt can be tough when your hope and your energy is low.

It may take some extraordinary effort some days. You can easily become despondent and tired, even depressed and sick.

This is not the time to run yourself into the ground, but rather to do one day at a time. And be kind to yourself as you do.

Find someone who can encourage you without making it their responsibility. You could try a few visits together. You’ll know when you are ready to go alone.

Who can help you set up your next date? Who will you date next?

From literally thousands hundreds of tips for dating, here are some of my favorites:

  • Ask to meet, otherwise they won’t know. Then arrive on time, look good and smell good.
  • Don’t do all the talking. Ask questions and be interested to hear the answers.
  • Be present and don’t share your ‘date’ with your mobile or open laptop.
  • Don’t pull out an engagement ring before dessert, and even then only if there are good signals to proceed. (Like ‘When can you start?’)
  • Send a thank you note afterwards by whatever means is appropriate.
  • If you want to meet again, say so. (There is no point sitting alone in your room waiting for the phone to ring…)
  • Just because someone doesn’t want or need you, doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you. It may not be a good fit. Or maybe they just don’t need what you do, now.
  • Don’t accept dates only at the Ritz Carlton, sometimes the best meetings are at the local Diner. Sometimes the most ordinary meetings blossom into spectacular jobs, so ‘stay loose’ and be curious.
  • Avoid overdoing the qualifications bit. We know you have an MBA (because you already told us) but that doesn’t make you invincible or the right person for the job.
  • Say what you think, not only what you think they want to hear. And don’t make anything up. The truth will come out anyway.

If you have lost your job and out of work, read our blog on ‘When the rug gets pulled’ since this provides a more comprehensive text on job hunting. 

©Andrew Bramley, Career Warriors. All Rights Reserved. 2018

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