There is time in life when you suddenly discover an amazing analogy between two totally unrelated things. And that inspires you to look at the same thing from a whole new different perspective. I've found it very entertaining that job-hunting and dating actually share a lot in common.
In fact, this is not my first time being amused by finding the dating analogy useful for job-hunting - four years ago I had a blog entry in Chinese regarding to the similar topic. But I abandoned that blog when Microsoft ended the life of MSN Space. Blogging was quite trendy in my social circle back then - silly me used that to advance my social standing. Good thing was I soon realized I was not Carrie Bradshaw and people's attention was scarce.
There are probably already tons of blog entries or articles written on the same topic, but I write this for my own good - preserving what I've learned from my prior daunting yet exciting experience. If anyone happens to read this through and find it useful, thank you and it's my pleasure. I only hope the mindset and attitudes stand the test of time, and will come in handy when I embark on a new fight in the battle field next time.
Networking, Networking, Networking
Besides dusting off your resume and LinkedIn profile (and portfolio being a designer), putting yourself out there by letting friends and professional connections know is the first thing to do. It may feel horrifying because people all hate being vulnerable. But screw your ego. Stop fidgeting, get off your lazy ass and talk to someone. Email, LinkedIn, phone calls, meeting in person and going to professional events. All you need is just 20 minutes with each person. It's okay to ask for help. People actually all want to help and are very receptive when they understand what you need. You'll be in their thoughts when they know of someone or something that might be of help. A little good social pressure will also urge you to stay at the top of your game.
Don't wait till you feel you're 100% ready to reach out - because you never will. Instead of waiting till everything feels perfect, ship it out when it feels good enough. You're not building state-of-the-art. As long as there is no life-threatening flaws in your job-hunting package, you can always tweak things later. Once you put yourself out there and keep doing that, sooner or later you will find yourself talking to the right team - isn't it nice when keep meeting new people then at some point someone you just feel a click?
However, on the other hand, opportunities are for people who are prepared - so always be ready for what's up next. No one likes to be caught off guard - showing up in tainted shirt, tangled hair, food on your teeth, or can't keep a simple conversation on what you do is definitely not a first impression you want to leave for your potential date, or your crush (oops worse!).
Always networking even when not looking. And do it often - getting back in touch with someone already in the network, and keeping expanding.(Er, um, this only parallels in dating when being single because loyalty is essential for couples.) It takes time to build a relationship. You never know who might be able to help, or who you might be able to offer some help to help you back in return. Those Hollywood fall-in-love-at-first-sight romantic stereotypes don't work here. A wonderful long-term romantic relationship usually requires a solid foundation of well-developed friendship, which takes months or even years for two to get to know each other. You want someone to help you connect with someone else or even better become your evangelist? You need to invest time in letting them get to know you well. People's rooting for you never happen over night.
As growing within a specific professional field, knowing what you want and what you need become more and more important. Instead of spreading zombie voice resumes and feeling good about throwing X number of resumes per day into the recruiting black hole, focus on being specific because it's the quality not quantity of your applications/inquiries that matters. Sifting through the actual industries/companies you'd like to work for, tracking down (not stalking or spying!) who the hiring manager is through personal connections and LinkedIn, writing up a personalized direct message (premium LinkedIn account or email) to him/her. It may sound time-consuming (because it is!) but it's totally worth it. That's all about the experience - show them you care, you pay attention, you know them well and you see them as a special one. People like to feel they are important, and are more likely to be willing to respond to those who make them feel important. Ask yourself this: would you like to date someone who is excited to be with you, spend time to learn about you, and express his/her sincere interest in you? Hell yeah!
Sometimes you end up being in between jobs. Don't show your desperation even if you are truly badly in need of a job because due dates of your bills are pressing. It will lead you to settle for for less becasuse you don't see the true value in yourself so you undersell. One of the most popular dating advice out there is "You attract who you are". If you're anxious and low in self-confidence, you're likely to say yes to anything, some tolerable temp job but not good for the long term. It's the right attitude and energy that attract the right people in the end.
I don't mean that you should wear pajamas and flip flops and sit laid back as being around your best buddies. I mean showing your genuine self, and charm the team organically with your personality and strategic responses to the interview questions to show you are a good fit for the job. Just like in dating, the best way to impress someone is you don't - being intense up or overthinking is likely to happen when you try too hard and you lose yourself.
IMHO chemistry that happens organically is the key for a healthy relationship. If culture fit is not there, no matter how sweet the benefit package they offer, or how fancy the office space looks, if they don't seem to be the right people you'd like to work with on a regular basis, then you will get stuck unhappily - if not right away then definitely somewhere down the road, you might wanna choke yourself and can't wait to jump the ship.
Some people trap themselves in a miserable job as an exchange for financial or legal status. Being an immigrant who moved here from another country for grad school, I've been (and I still am!) through CPT/OPT/STEM OPT/H1/Green Card all that craps, so I can totally relate to those out there job-hunting while struggling with stupid employment visa and legal status, and sometimes time pressure could be pretty serious like In Time. It's stressful and annoying I get it. But still, if not wanting your life a living hell, choose a place where you have people to work with pleasantly.
Once you land it in somewhere you're happy with, stop fishing around and take yourself off the market. Even if you're not planning to stay there for long term, at least sticking around for a reasonable period of time is necessary to build your network and reputation with whom you are with now. After all, they are the people who help you grow into a better self so you are ready for the next best thing (hopefully the one!).
Sometimes things just don't do your way. And you have zero control over it. Position sounds positively challenging - Great. People like each other as one big happy family - Sweet. Money talk goes well - Creamy. But all of a sudden they have a re-org, budge cut, or hiring freeze. For whatever political or strategic reason, they sincerely love you but just can't have you.
Think about the great guy you just met - you are amazingly compatible with each other in many ways and share unbelievable mutual attraction, but he's emotionally unavailable for you just yet. It could take days or months or forever (hopefully not) for him to pine over his ex, clear his career road block, resolve his family issue, or whatsoever. What are you gonna do? Don’t put your life on hold for unrequited longing. Show your genuine continuous interest with a smile on your face (don't fake it as people can tell and you know it), maintain the connection as in friendship if the other party is interested, and then freaking move on. Don't fret, "If it’s meant to be, it will be."
In the end, all is just life experience, including kissing some frogs along the way. Enjoy the game and have some fun with it. Something good will pan out. Eventually.