Valentine’s Day Career Advice: How Job Hunting is Like Dating

February 14, 2013

It’s February 14th and you are sitting across from your beloved at a romantic, dimly lit restaurant. Your significant other pulls out a small box, wrapped in gold paper and a bright red ribbon. You slowly unwrap the box, and inside you find the gift you’ve always wanted…your dream job!

Okay, maybe that’s a little fantastical, but dating and job hunting aren’t as unrelated as you might think. In fact, many of the “rules” of successful dating can prove helpful in your career planning and job hunting:

1. “There are plenty of fish in the sea.”
We’ve all become smitten with a person or job opportunity that seemed to be absolutely perfect for us. Well, as a job seeker in a challenging job market, it’s actually quite dangerous to set your sights on one absolutely perfect position. You’re likely to be disappointed, and you’ll be ignoring all of the good positions that might have great potential. Smart job seekers cast a wide (but focused) net. Here’s how:

  • Start by searching LinkedIn Jobs for what you consider to be your “perfect” position, let’s say Communications Manager for ABC Technologies.
  • If that job is actually available, apply for it immediately and then scroll down on that job posting to the section called “People Who Viewed This Job Also Viewed.” In that section, check out all of the jobs that appeal to you, even a little bit. Then apply for each of these “almost perfect” positions, and scroll down on those job postings to the “People Who Viewed This Job Also Viewed” section to find additional possibilities.
  • Next, go to the LinkedIn Company Page for your dream employer, in this case ABC Technologies. Click the Insights tab and check the sections “People Also Viewed” and “Where Employees Came From.” Then go back to LinkedIn Jobs and search for your dream title (in this case Communications Manager) at each of the companies you discovered, which are likely to be similar in some way to your dream employer.
  • If you are offered a position that is not-quite-perfect, or even just okay, think long and hard about ways you could turn that opportunity into your dream job (e.g., by proposing additional tasks or special projects that appeal to you) or how that position could be a great stepping stone to your ultimate career goal. Remember, lots of mediocre first dates turn into happy marriages!

2. “Opposites attract.”
We all know couples with totally different personalities, and yet somehow those two very different parts make one terrific whole. When it comes to job hunting, opposites attract as well. What they attract are opportunities. If you’re feeling stuck in a career rut or your job search has stalled, perhaps the problem is that your professional connections are too similar to you.

To refresh your job search and uncover new prospects, you need to diversify the people who are referring opportunities to you. I recommend joining a few LinkedIn groups that appeal to you but are outside your “normal” interest areas. For instance, if you are an engineer but lately you’re intrigued by all of the changes happening in the media industry, visit the LinkedIn Groups Directory and join a media-related group or two.

Once inside the group, pay attention to the issues people are discussing, the companies that group members work for and any ways you can help fellow group members by sharing your different perspective. As you come across people you’d like to network with, perhaps fellow job seekers, send a brief message that reads something like this:

Hi Miguel,
Thanks for posting such an interesting discussion topic. I'm an engineer by trade, but I’m really fascinated by the way traditional print newspapers are trying to evolve in the digital age. I noticed in your profile headline that, like me, you are job hunting in the Houston area. Since we are looking in totally different industries, perhaps we can help each other. Would you be open to a phone chat sometime soon?
Thanks and best of luck,

3. “Love is patient, love is kind.”
This is a Biblical quotation that has crossed over into the secular world, spoken at many weddings and anniversary celebrations. It is a simple and powerful statement that absolutely applies to job hunting as well.

Because the web makes it so easy to reach out to people without a lot of thought or planning, recruiters frequently tell me how much they appreciate job applicants who are prepared, polite and thoughtful in their communications. Here are some good rules of etiquette to follow:

  • Remember that recruiters are, first and foremost, human beings. When contacting them on LinkedIn, always customize your message with their name (spelled correctly!), use courteous language (“please” and “thank you” go a long way) and allow a week or two for them to respond to a job application, connection request or InMail.
  • Never badmouth a previous employer or a company that does not hire you. Any recruiter who sees such negativity on your LinkedIn profile, in a group discussion or while talking to you one-on-one will worry that one day you’ll badmouth his or her company as well. Always take the high road.
  • In general, be as positive, helpful and caring in your professional interactions as you are with your loved ones. As Mark McCormack famously wrote in What They Don’t Teach at Harvard Business School, “All things being equal, people will do business with a friend; all things being unequal, people will still do business with a friend.”

Good luck and Happy Valentine’s Day!