Job Hunting Is Kind of Like Dating

Working from home.

A lot of people ask me, ‘How did you have the courage to walk up to record labels when you were 12 or 13 and jump right into the music industry?’ It’s because I knew I could never feel the kind of rejection that I felt in middle school. Because in the music industry, if they’re gonna say no to you, at least they’re gonna be polite about it.         

                                                                                                             -Taylor Swift

“You just can’t take it personally,” Tom said.


“I know,” I groaned. It had been three days after I’d gotten my first “Thanks, but no,” from a recruiter and despite having sent my resume and carefully tailored cover letters to a dozen or so other employers, I had (or have) yet to hear back.
“It’s kind of like dating,” Tom said, then paused to think. “Except when it came to dating, I always took it personally.

From across the room – however far across I could be in my small studio – I gave him a curious look.

“Why?”

“Well, looking for a job is like dating because you’re trying to find the best possible match with all these variables. I always think, if the employer has hundreds of other resumes in front of him, it’s entirely possible that even just on his desk there’s someone who’s got more skills, more experience, and is better for the job. So I say, ‘Okay, fair,’ and move on.

I nodded, thinking about a conversation I had last year with my cousin, who was house hunting and online dating at the same time. She had put in offer after offer only to be turned down for buyers with more cash. Her dating life wasn’t going that swimmingly either.

“Let me tell you, Betty,” she said, exasperation dripping from her words, “Don’t ever try online dating and house hunting at the same time. It’s not good for morale.”

I had laughed and told her not to take either type of rejection personally.

Easier said than done, she had grumbled.

“But, when it came to dating,” Tom said now, “and the girl wasn’t interested I’d be like, ‘Well screw you!'” He threw up his middle finger at the back of an imagined girl’s disinterested head.

I smiled, on the brink of agreeing, but stopped myself. When it came to dating – at least in the beginning first few dates – I never took it personally*.

“Really?” Tom was surprised.

“Yeah, I figured if we meet and our personalities don’t click, then why should I take it personally? It’s a matter of taste.”

“Then why would you take job hunting personally?”

I reviewed the interviews I had before last summer, remembering the two I did take personally.

“Well, I only really feel that way when they meet me for an in-person interview and then they reject me.”

“So isn’t that sort of being rejected for your personality?”

Hm. Yes and no.

On some level, being rejected after someone meets you does have something to do with your personality, but for jobs, it probably has more to do with your ability.

“Or how they perceive my ability,” I said, “Since I don’t have very much work experience, that’s something I’m already sensitive about. So when I get rejected from a job I only applied to because I though I was qualified, that not only means they don’t think I’m qualified, it also means they don’t think I can gain the ability to be qualified. Ability is something I can gain or control, unlike most aspects of personality.”

…And a hundred other factors. But we agreed that both job hunting and dating, involved too many other things out of our control. Timing. Nepotism. Maybe the recruiter was having a bad day. Maybe the person you were dating was having a bad year. The list goes on. But the best policy is to try and take neither personally. I know, I know, easier said than done. So, if you can’t help it, maybe these pages can ease the pain:

1. How To Deal With Job Rejection (about 49 million results)

2. How To Deal With Relationship Rejection (about 62 million results).

*Granted, I never dated anyone long enough for rejection to sting, but (cough: with certain professors and such) I don’t think you necessarily have to date to take that kind of rejection personally. 

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