Finding a life partner and a new career are hard goals to achieve.
I was travelling deep in the African bush an my 40th birthday, and I had a bit of a panic attack because I was lacking on both fronts. I thought that if I conquered one first, I’d gain the confidence to pursue the other.
It’s like the old saying about how it’s easier to find a job when you have a job: wouldn’t finding more success be easier once I had found the initial success?
In theory this all seemed like a good plan.
But there’s a big difference between theory and reality. Things started off well once I made the intentional decision to put a call out on a dating website for an authentic relationship. A year later, I was married. I had achieved the first success! Then it was time for that other piece of business: finding a new career.
Except there was a problem.
I knew exactly what I wanted when I took on the authentic life partner search. When I started the career work, I sorta, kinda knew what I was looking for, hoping to do, wanting to happen. As I write this, I’m only two months into my authentic career discovery work. Before that, I was just applying for jobs. What’s the difference?
Saying to myself that I guess I should apply for this open position because I could do it and it’s close to my house isn’t really embracing career development; It’s kind of like hooking up with someone from the local bar because it’s convenient.
Career development is taking much longer than I expected because there is much more work to do. As the organic discovery process takes shape, my path becomes clearer. However, clarity continues to be fluid and until it crystallizes, I remain in the discovery process.
As the journey unfolds, I do take lessons I’ve learned from online dating into this process.
1. Market yourself at every step.
I need to market myself in more ways then I realize. Recently, I attended a presentation hosted by a personal brand expert. It was amazing to learn how fast we form opinions about others when going through that first impression. It takes less than a second to form an opinion about someone new, but it takes a whole lot longer to change the opinion. I’m working on being completely present when meeting new people as I want their first impression of me to be positive.
My first job out of college was proofreading display ads for the Yellow Pages. While it wasn’t glamorous, or remotely interesting, it taught me the importance of error free printing! In my online dating profile and on my LinkedIn profile, I stay away from using text talk and I proofread before hitting the send button. A few months ago, I updated my LinkedIn profile without proofreading it because I was in a rush. The next time I logged in I realized I had a typo and I wondered who else had seen it—hopefully not a potential employer.
3. Google yourself.
I try to make a habit of doing a Google search of myself every so often. Friends will laugh at me when I tell them I do this, but I would much rather be the one to discover something unflattering about myself! Plus, if something negative does come up, I want to get to the source so I can request that it’s removed.
4. Set appropriate privacy settings.
As another way to ensure a positive online presence, I’ve set my privacy controls accordingly. I use LinkedIn and Twitter for professional purposes; however, my Facebook profile is for fun. Because of that, only friends can view it.
5. Don’t compare yourself to others.
I am very much a work in progress on this one. A few weeks ago, my husband presented me with flowers because I was so down over the fact that two of my friends landed new positions. This wasn’t any reflection on me or my deficiencies, but, it was easy to think that it was. I read a great Facebook post from Kelly Jennings—one of my former improv teachers who is now a life coach. Kelly says creative people have an office located in their mind. When their mind goes negative, their work doesn’t progress. So essentially I wasted a whole day even though I got a great bouquet of flowers!
6. Set up coffee dates as informal interviews.
I’m setting up coffee dates just like I did when I was online dating. It’s a great way to pick someone’s brain or have an informational interview. Plus, it’s so nice to make a personal connection instead of always relying on texts and instant messaging.
7. Don’t settle.
I’ve made a conscious decision that I won’t settle. Just like I wouldn’t settle on a partner, I’m not going to settle on a career. This is really a tough one for me as my tank of patience is usually on low. Every day I read a quote from Kelly’s Facebook page, “I will win—not immediately but definitely.”
8. Do something new.
I recently read an article about happiness and it highlighted the importance of experiences over possessions. I’ve found that by dabbling in a new hobby, having an out of the ordinary experience or travelling to a new place, I’m organically in self-discovery mode. This is so important as I want my next career to be a good fit for my personal brand!
9. Stay engaged in your own life.
When I was single I sought out productive and positive ways to spend date night Saturdays. Now, I’m trying hard to do the same during working hours. In doing so, I’ve become the busiest underemployed person I know! I read. I write. I take classes. I’ve made new friends. I’m volunteering. I’m networking. I’m brainstorming. I’m freelancing. I’m performing. I’m sharpening my social media skills. All of these things could be useful to a new career!
10. Stay authentic.
Sometimes I have to remind myself to be authentic in all areas of life. When I was online dating, I wouldn’t waste anyone’s time if I didn’t feel anything during the initial coffee date. Now, I don’t want to be a time zapper by setting up informational interviews about subjects that don’t get me really jazzed. Fewer authentic meetings are more valuable than a calendar full of fluff.
One thing I’ve learned through this ongoing process is that the person who is the hardest on me is myself. I impose my own random deadlines. I take it personally when a networking opportunity doesn’t blossom. I feel bad when I’m not constantly crossing things off of my career development “to do” list.
In the office of my own mind, I may be my own boss, but it doesn’t mean that I’m always a compassionate one. I’m working on it.
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Ed: Renee Picard