Part Three: The Future You
Searching for a job, especially your first job, is a lot like online dating. It begins as a time commitment, gets nerve-wracking towards the middle, but ends in success and happiness if you follow the right process.
Like many single people with access to current technology, I ventured into the world of online dating. I went for coffee with potential mates who were instant no ways, some who left me scratching my head, and a few who I found a connection with.
But hang on. We are here to talk about professional development, not my love life.
Being on the job hunt is not easy. Many spend hours preparing résumés, looking at open positions, and thinking about what career path to travel. Occasionally, it is overwhelming and intimidating, but when taken one step at a time, it can be a manageable and an exciting process.
Your Dating Profile—The Résumé
The first step of online dating is the most important: create your dating profile. Your profile is where you put your best foot forward and show off all of your attractive qualities through visuals and text. Online daters find their most flattering photos and then season the “about me” section of their profile with captivating and descriptive words to better display who they are and why other online daters should give them a shot.
Résumés follow this same logic. Your résumé should be clean, polished, and present you in your best light for future employers. Like dating profiles, they are detailed and should paint a picture for other prospective dates (or future employers) supporting why you deserve a chance at their love—an interview.
The unspoken rules of online dating profiles are very similar to the rules for writing a résumé. Whether you like it or not, your online dating profile and résumé both serve as a first impression. Profiles and résumés that are short, filled with spelling errors, or vague are usually passed over. Unless you are a supermodel and all you need is an enticing photo, your written description is very important to display who you are.
Your résumé should capture who you are, your skill set, education, past experiences, and anything else that is relevant to the job you hope to obtain. Knowing your audience is a key factor in crafting the perfect résumé. Logically, if my online dating profile presented studious and quiet personality traits, I would likely start receiving messages from potential mates who are looking for someone who is seeking those traits. By taking a similar approach while writing a résumé, you can easily determine the tone, language, and highlighted skills and experiences you should feature. The tone of your résumé is dictated by the nature of the position you hope to obtain in the future. For example, hospitality jobs or positions that require you to interact with many people on a daily basis should be warm and welcoming while analytical jobs, such as accounting or research positions, should reflect an astute attention to detail. Your choice in language follows similar logic—use appropriate terms for the position you are seeking.
Unlike online dating profiles, your résumé should include your important contact information, including email address, telephone number, and mailing address. Some advise refraining from listing a mailing address, as this could create a bias due to some organizations that are looking for a new employee who is already in the area. Unfortunately, this bias cannot be foreseen, which means you should use your best judgment when listing your contact information. If you include this contact information on your dating profile, you may have some very interesting text messages in the morning.
Finding Love—The Job Hunt
Simply crafting an online dating profile doesn’t necessarily mean you will find your one true love, and the same applies to your career. Once your résumé is crafted, it is equally as important to search the job market to find what you think would be a good fit based on your skills and preferences.
An important part of online dating is setting the appropriate search filters. Sites allow users to search by gender, location, age, religious beliefs, or social practices. All these are small pieces that affect the overall compatibility between two people, with some factors being more important than others. By carefully choosing which filters are most important, you’re sure to have better luck finding a perfect match that will make you happy and excited.
As you begin the job hunt, it is important to determine your filters when it comes to a career or first job. Some of these filters, like dating, may hold more weight to you than others. Many job search sites allow users to find job listings as defined by these filters, and they can include: location, type of organization, starting salary, potential for promotion, job responsibilities, etc.
Always establish filters. You may say, “I don’t care what I find, as long as I find something.” All of us have a preference in our love lives as well as our careers, and being honest with yourself about these filters will increase the likelihood for happiness in the end. These filters also allow you to more quickly read through job postings, because you will be focusing on positions with the qualities that you already determined are the most important to you.
When you are searching for a posted position using an online service, enter your filters and try a variety of search phrases to find as many postings as possible. Even changing “school counselor” to “guidance counselor” or only “counseling” may produce a different set of job postings, depending on the website.
It is also important to remember, like online dating sites, not every job posting will be on every employment site. Experiment with different search techniques and websites, and seek the advice of others for the best resource for recent postings. It’s easy to save these filters and search results on most job search websites, allowing you to check back on a constant basis without resetting your filters. Most sites also allow you to create a free account, providing you a way to receive email alerts any time a new job is posted and fits in with your filters.
After the filters are set, it is time to start the exciting and nerve-wracking part: scrolling through profiles.
Scrolling through Profiles—The Job Postings
You will find attractive potentials with no description provided, others who exclusively take selfies, and a whole list of people who simply are not right for you based on their description. But then, it happens. You find someone who may be a match, and your heart starts to flutter.
Reading through a job description is equally as exciting. A good job posting provides a robust description of responsibilities, minimum qualifications, and desired qualifications for candidates. Knowing your own skill set, you can determine if you’re a match or not. By having honest filters set before searching, it’s likely that you are.
Sometimes, online dating simply doesn’t work. Many will then turn to speed dating to meet new people in the area. This method allows for daters to quickly determine whether or not there’s any chemistry, without spending time searching through online profiles. Similarly, job fairs provide this quick face-to-face advantage. If you’re attending a job fair, be sure dress appropriately and have copies of your résumé or business cards on hand. Through job fairs, you’ll be building your first impression right away, and may even be offered an interview on the spot.
Sending a Message—The Cover Letter
After searching through dozens of profiles, online daters generally find a handful of people they can picture themselves with. There’s only one way to find out more about the person, and that’s by sending the first message.
My personal rule for online dating is to always send a thoughtful first message to those I want to meet. It’s easy enough to send a short, impersonal “hey,” but it’s important to make a good impression. It’s obvious that the message I send, combined with my well-written profile, is going to continue to form a first impression of me. First impressions are very important in dating, job-hunting, and life overall.
The challenging part of the first message I send through online dating sites is determining what to say. I’ve never met these people before, but I do have access to their dating profiles filled with their hobbies, hometowns, and more. This is a perfect starting point for my message, especially if we both root for the same football team or if the other person likes to run as much as I do.
Your cover letter serves as an introduction to your future employer and should compliment your résumé to create a shining first impression. It is incredibly challenging to sit in front of a blank screen trying to find a good starting point, which means you should look at the job posting and organization’s website for ideas about what to include.
Generally, these job postings provide a set of hard skills (such as proficiency with certain technology) and soft skills (such as public speaking, teamwork, or working in a flexible environment) required and desired for the posted position. This information provides you a list of what should be explained in your cover letter. Demonstrating your hard skills is a simple enough task by using examples or stating certifications, but describing your soft skills may require a little more thought. These soft skills can be exhibited by discussing specific examples of past experiences in previous jobs you’ve held, volunteer work, or work you’ve done in college classes.
After you have crafted your cover letter, you should send it to a few people you trust for their opinion and overall proofreading along with the job posting for their reference. It’s obvious that your cover letter should be free of spelling and grammar errors, but these trustworthy individuals will also be able to provide helpful insight about the examples you’ve used to display your soft skills.
The Hard Part—Waiting
You just sent your first message to the love of your life, but now what? You wait. You will undoubtedly feel anxious, especially if you sit refreshing your inbox for hours at a time, but if you made a good first impression and they like you as much as you like them, you will hear back.
While you wait, take the time to do a little research. Search for the organization online and view what information they provide. You will be storing up some good facts about your future partner, which is something you can bring up when you’re on your first date. This research will also allow you to understand the company better. The organization displays their values, work ethic, and personality through online and print resources, which allows you to see if their values match with yours.
Unlike online dating, it is helpful to follow up with an organization you’ve applied to. Generally, the Human Resources department of an organization is the best place to start if you are unsure whom to call. This phone call is another piece of your first impression, which means you should be prepared to talk. Have any materials that you need ready, and be sure you are in a quiet place.
The First Date—The Job Interview
After what may feel like forever, you hear back from the love of your life. Congratulations! In the online dating world, you may chat about common interests (because you wrote a stunning first message), but in the world of work, you’ll be asked to visit the organization for an interview.
I have been on many first dates, and whether it’s in a coffee shop or over dinner, the first face-to-face meeting is tremendously important. If someone I am meeting for the first time looks like they just came from the gym or rolled out of bed, my impression instantly changes. This same theory can be directly applied to your first date with your future employer. You have worked hard on your cover letter and résumé, and you should not taint the sparkling first impression you have created with the wrong choice in dress.
What you wear to a job interview may change based on the position you have applied for, but there are a set of basic rules that everyone should follow. Similar to meeting someone on a first date for coffee, you want to be comfortable. Some interviews may take place with multiple people in an organization, meaning you will be walking to different locations, sitting down, and potentially sweating from a broken air conditioning unit. Consider these factors when choosing your outfit for your interview, and if you’re concerned about being underdressed, remember to always dress a bit nicer than how you’d dress for the job itself.
There is nothing worse than sitting alone at a coffee shop waiting for a mystery date to show up. It’s uncomfortable and affects my overall first impression of whom I’m about to meet. Avoid making your mystery employer annoyed and waiting for you by leaving at least ten minutes earlier than you need to, just in case you get stuck in traffic. Arrive at least ten minutes early. The interview will start out much better if you are early rather than nervous and running late. Arriving early also gives you the time to have some coffee and review materials you may need for the interview. Coming on time to an interview or a first date shows you respect the time of the person you plan to meet.
On a first date, it is all about communication. Sometimes, there may be silences that cannot be filled or the person I have just met discloses their entire life story to me in less than an hour. If we cannot achieve a proper balance, there will not be a second date. Communicating effectively in a job interview is equally as important, especially if you want a job offer!
All of the rules of dating apply to how you should behave in a job interview. The interviewer will ask you questions, which means that you should look at them and focus on what is being asked. Your phone should be on silent (not even on vibrate), and hidden, to show that you are fully attentive and engaged in the conversation you are having. Much like having a conversation on a date, the answers to your questions should be clear and concise and stay on topic. The stories I tell on my first dates are more personal than what would be disclosed in a job interview, but the mindset is the same. You are building the impression that the organization has of you, so put your best foot forward through the comments you make.
To make that great impression, it is really important to heavily prepare and practice, even before you have an interview scheduled. By brainstorming answers to typical interview questions in a typed document or out loud, later during the interview you will easily remember the examples of your past experiences that demonstrate why you are best for the job. You can continue to update this list as you move through different jobs, finding better examples to each question to accurately describe your hard and soft skills.
This interview is as much a date for your future employer as it is for you. Come prepared with questions that you have about the company, the position, and anything else you are curious about. This is an opportunity for you to show off the research you’ve done on the organization and establish a better understanding of company culture, values, and work ethic. Without knowing these basics of the company or organization, what you thought was a match might only end in a tense breakup.
After your interview is over, you continue to have an opportunity to build on the positive impression that you’ve worked hard to form. Sending a follow up thank you note to each person you interviewed with will show your respect for the time the organization spent with you. These notes can be written and sent by mail or emailed, but either way should have a personal touch, commenting on a topic that was discussed in the interview. While sending a thank you note after a first date may sound a little strange, you might not get asked to a second interview without one!
It’s Official—The Job Offer
In the online dating world, it takes a few dates to determine if two people are a match. In the corporate world, you may have a one or two interviews to build a relationship. If your impression was positive and the organization believes you’re a match for the open position, you’ll be offered a job.
With a job offer also comes the salary for the position. It is important to know what a reasonable salary is for the position and location, which can be answered with a bit of research. One good place to look is the Bureau of Labor Statistics website: . At this point, it is not uncommon to discuss your salary with your future employer, but be sure to do so in a polite way.
Online dating sites provide the means for millions of people to meet future partners, and the number of people who use online dating is so large that there are sure to be disappointments along the way. I have met people who I thought were compatible with me, but they did not feel the same, and vice versa. This happens frequently while searching for a job, which can be discouraging, but should not hinder you from continuing to search! There are a great number of opportunities, and sometimes all it takes is adjusting your filters or revising your résumé and cover letter. The cliché “there’s plenty of fish in the sea” may be true, but there is definitely a way for each person to start their career off right.