When Job Hunting Feels Like Dating

I can't help it. Every time I try to liken this extended, heartbreaking job search to something, my comparison is always the same. Dating. 

I keep hearing the anguished cry of  Sex & the City's Charlotte York"I've been dating since I was 15! I'm exhausted! Where is he?" and want to echo it with my own frustrated variation: "I've been job hunting since August! I'm exhausted! Where is my new career?"

Not only are quests for love and employment both tedious, they can also make you slightly nuts. Lately I've been experiencing those irrational "My phone must not be working because surely he'd have called me by now, right??" feelings that plagued me decades ago.

But thanks to email, texts, and voicemail I can no longer delude myself that it is technology's fault no one is getting in touch to say they can't live without me. (I am checking my spam folder like a maniac only to discover my Russian bride awaits and I still can't afford burial insurance even though I've been pre-approved for a low, low rate.) The phrase "He/She's (recruiter, HR rep, potential boss) just not that into you," plays in a continuous post-interview loop in my head.

I've mentioned before that there's a whole lot of second guessing going on here and I think someone needs to write a new version of The Rules geared toward job interviews because I can't help but wonder if some common dating issues could be the reason I'm still jobless.

Let's take a look:

Too Much Too Soon?

Just like saying "I love you" too early in a relationship can be the kiss of death, does gushing about a position also spell doom?  Earlier this year, I was beyond enthusiastic about the possibility of working at this tech startup and really let it show during the interview. Two days later, after hearing they were "going to pass," I replayed the meeting in my head and flinched as I recalled myself using the words "transformational" and "revelatory" about their organization. Why hadn't I just played it cool and been all, "Yeah, I guess when my unemployment runs out I could consider working here..." while frowning as if I were actually interviewing for a position as an entry-level exterminator. Did my eagerness work against me even if it was genuine?

The Trade-Up

I have a friend who is a stunning, single mom. Recently, she shared that she'd set up a first date with a man through an online dating site at about 10:30 p.m. When she awoke seven hours later, she found an email from this buzzard saying during the night he'd found someone with whom he felt "more compatible" and he wanted to let her know before she wasted her time booking a babysitter.

Having been married almost 14 years (though lately it's been feeling a bit longer), mercifully, I've been spared the world of online dating. But her story reminded me of how I recently interviewed for a position only to find it reposted on a job board days later. They were still looking? How was that possible?? I thought it had gone so well. But I, too, wanted to see what else was out there so I suppose that makes us even. The constant search for someone or something better is equal parts human nature and soul-destroying.

I Shouldn't Have Worn This

Many times I'd be on a date and almost immediately, I'd hate what I was wearing. Because I grew up in a really preppy area, often I could've been mistaken for an off-duty nun. And let me tell you, nothing can kill your confidence and chance of making a good first impression faster than feeling super-dumpy.

A newly-single friend has been buying outfits for dates she doesn't have yet because just knowing she's prepared has made her feel better. Also, I think she believes all of the clothing from prior dates is somehow jinxed. I know what she means. I have an interview on Tuesday and even though I don't love shopping like I used to (my bank account is shrinking while my waistline keeps expanding) I can't bear to wear "the interview outfit" one more time. Is it inherently unlucky or is the fourth time the charm?

Read the Early Warning Signs

I received an email about a month ago regarding a job I'd applied for and in it the editor wrote, "Call me to discuss." When I tried to reach him, I ended up stuck in a vicious circle of hold music and an automated voice that demanded I re-enter his extension. After repeating this multiple times and getting nowhere, I hung up and emailed him to say his phone system wasn't working. He called me and asked me to describe the problem, which he then revealed was not a new one. Then he asked me to then walk him through my resume because he was also having computer problems and couldn't open any attachments. Red flags galore! This man didn't need an editor, he needed an assistant or an IT specialist.

It reminded me of a guy I once dated whose car was always running out of gas. (How you allow that to happen more than once is beyond me.) He constantly forgot his keys, his wallet, appointments and was always in a tsunami of self-created turmoil. That gets old fast. But because I young and had more patience, I overlooked these flaws for far longer than I should have.

Are You Gonna Make This Worth My While?

What feels like a million years ago, I was set up on a blind date. This fellow, a New York City cop, repeatedly asked me if I'd like to see his gun... insert lewd and maniacal laughter here...(I think between his ribbed tank top and Tasmanian Devil tattoo I'd already seen quite enough) while my friend and her boyfriend made out and I wondered how many vodka and cranberries I could consume before my date insisted I use my own money to pay for them.

At the end of the night, this charmer asked me if he "came all the way out to Jersey" would I make it worth his while? (This was when crossing the Hudson only cost $4, mind you.) Because, aside from knowing the ding-a-lings who'd made this ill-fated match and our mutual need for oxygen, we had nothing in common, I told him,"No, probably not" and that was that.

Over the past week I've heard back from two places where I'd applied and each gave me a lengthy "test" assignment to complete. Not even knowing the salary range for one, I'm reluctant to put in hours of work without knowing if it'll pay off and I find myself reminded of my blind date and his cut-to-the-chase "Are you gonna make this worth my while?"

It seems in both dating and job hunting you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince. I'm just hoping that at the end of my job search (it will end, won't it?) I can still tell the difference.

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