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Advice / Job Search / Finding a Job

Why Your Job Search is Like Going to Prom

A typical job search has quite a bit in common with high school romance: emotion, uncertainty, and wavering boundaries and requirements. And when you're on the market, you may feel as if you're reverting to your 15-year-old self. The anxiety of the search and interview process is enough to drive any girl straight into a tub of Ben and Jerry's.

But if you remember the lessons of your youth and apply the same skills you used on the high school dating scene, you can successfully navigate the job search without losing your mind or damaging your reputation.

Lesson 1: As Long as You're Under Their Roof, You'll Obey Their Rules

Think of your current employer as your strict, overbearing parents. They demand that you follow their rules, which limits your ability to search for jobs during business hours (“But, boss, that's totally when all of my friends job search!”).

Don't worry—you used to be an expert at disarming the security system and shimmying down that maple tree with your cell phone in your mouth, right? You can apply those sneak-out skills to stealthily job searching. Duck into a hall or head to your car to answer phone calls from potential employers, resist the urge to print your resume from that nice color printer, and change out of your suit before you come back to the office after an interview (you know, just like you used to keep that tube top balled up in your backpack to change into once you got to the girls’ bathroom).

Finally, don’t assume that your private communication at work, like emails or phone calls, is off-limits to your employer. Did a respect for your privacy prevent your parents from digging through your drawers to find your diary? Probably not, and it won’t keep your company from doing so, either. Always use your personal email account and make sure to take home any incriminating evidence.

Lesson 2: Be Open-Minded

Looking back on high school, don't you wish you had given those nerdy guys more of a chance? Who knew that they would trade in those high-waisted khakis for skinny jeans and an up-and-coming software company?

Just like the small group of eligible bachelors in high school, the pool of appealing jobs may seem disproportionately tiny relevant to the number of people looking. But a 9% unemployment rate mandates that everyone on the job market be willing to make some compromises and consider jobs that they would normally overlook.

This means that you may need to take a job you're a bit overqualified for, that offers a little less money, or that has a longer commute—but just because you go with that job to the Homecoming dance doesn't mean that you have to date it for the next four years. You can always date around, keep your options open, and look for growth potential in what you have.

Lesson 3: They're Going to Call!

After the interview, the waiting begins. You may find yourself gazing longingly at the phone, wondering if perhaps the ringer is broken, or your voicemail malfunctioned, or your potential employer lost your number. Maybe you should call every few hours, just to make sure? Or maybe you should have your friend call and ask to apply for the position to see if it's still available? Or both?

Don't. Remember that the company of your affection has a number of HR and regulatory hoops to jump through before they can extend an offer to you. Gripping your phone and whispering call me, call me, call me into its speaker will not make the hiring manger call you any more than it would make Bobby check his texts during football practice.

Lesson 4: There are Plenty of Fish in the Sea

No one likes to be rejected. When you receive the obligatory “While we were impressed with your resume, we decided to select another candidate” message, it’s tempting to respond with emotion and give that donotreply email address a piece of your mind.

Instead of burning bridges, though, tell yourself what any high school girl would tell her best friend, “You didn’t get the job? I can’t believe that! That job sucks! I didn’t want to tell you this while you were still into that job, but I heard that job made out with a freshman under the bleachers. You’re just too good for that job.”

As you continue your job search, keep in mind that you’re looking for a good match—not the love of your life. Even if your next job isn't marriage material, you can still learn resume-building skills and gain valuable experience. And while you're at it, keep an eye on your job's best friends—one of them might be Mr. Right.

Photo courtesy of Natalie Pacheco.