All Work, All Play: 3 Ways To Master The Dating-Job Hunting Limbo
Regardless of the overall unemployment rate, the odds are pretty good that most of us will spend at least a little of our post-graduation time feverishly looking for work.
And it's almost a guarantee that several more times in your working life, you'll find yourself "in between things," anxiously sending out résumés and going on interviews, in search of the next destination on your career path.
It's an exhausting process, and one that can have definite, stigmatizing effects on your social life.
The most obvious place where this occurs is dating.
Although not a justification, it's deeply ingrained in the American psyche that on some level, joblessness is a character flaw. Most compassionate people don't go around berating the unemployed for the predicament they find themselves in, but there's also real trepidation when it comes to people committing to you.
You experience it when the lack of regular income prevents you from, say, moving into the apartment you want. As a result, you necessarily transfer this caution onto others.
And why wouldn't you? We haven't reached a point in society where anyone's parents get giddy about their son or daughter bringing home someone who's only job hunting.
Still, we'd like to believe that "love don't cost a thing," and that we're not just a nation of middle class gold diggers. In a weird sort of way, it's not the worst thing in the world to begin a relationship when your financial ducks aren't completely in a row.
You can't dictate the timing of when you might meet someone you're interested in. If he or she is serious about seeing where things with you may lead, what better place to start than to trust you in an endeavor like job hunting?
That being said, you're likely going to talk online or via text before your first date. And whether it comes up in textual conversation or in-person, one of the very first evaluation questions that will inevitably get lobbed your way is, "What do you do?"
As a full-time freelance writer who cannot yet refer prospective significant others to my New York Times column, here's my advice for handling that potentially tricky query:
1. Don't dance around the facts.
This one comes right out of the gate: Be honest.
A lie that you have a job -- and ostensibly, money -- when you actually don't, will get discovered very quickly.
And in the rare instances someone doesn't catch on right away, he or she will eventually. Then, the other person will know you're broke and a liar. Needless to say, you probably won't get a chance to make a third strike.
Beyond that, don't sit there skipping around the truth in the moment. Don't be cryptic about the opportunities you're pursuing that may avail themselves.
It's better just to be confident and clear about your direction, even if you have to admit you don't quite have one yet. Assuming you haven't just given up, tell your new SO what your plan is, and give him or her some specifics he or she can support you with.
2.You're job hunting; be frugal without being cheap.
This isn't the 1950s, so it's not necessarily incumbent upon the guy to pay for everything anymore.
Suffice it to say, if you're seeing someone, there's going to be some measure of give and take when it comes to things like the dinner check. Whether you're paying for the first date, splitting it or your date has you covered, the choice of place can be a way to smoothly work in the details of your career situation.
No one's recommending you insist upon McDonald's, but there's really no benefit in flaunting champagne tastes while masking a beer budget. It doesn't hurt you to present a realistic approximation of what date night is generally going to be like.
If you're reaching for gimmicks just to get things off the ground, the odds are pretty strong you'll find yourself back there at some point, not too far down the road.
3. Don't oversell the results of your job hunting.
Wherever you happen to be in the job hunting process, you're probably not going to go from $0 to $100,000 (or more) with one offer. So don't act like it.
Those of us in our early to mid-20s are more than happy for entry-level positions with benefits.
There's really no sense in getting caught up in the materialism of it all. If grabbing a few rounds of craft beers is going to give you anxiety and force you to skip lunch for a week, don't buy them.
You'll be better off in the long-run if you're not (literally) paying to try and look cool.
One of the worst unintended consequences of not working is overcompensation. Our minds become filled with delusions of grandeur, and we put the proverbial cart before the horse by not being honest — with ourselves or with our significant others.
Look at it this way: Lying about past experiences, relying on gimmicks and overestimating what you can do in the future (sans any help) is no different than lying about old jobs on your résumé. Hoping an expensive, borrowed suit lands you a job or exaggerating skills you don't possess will get you nowhere.
In that way, dating and job hunting not only aren't mutually exclusive, they actually share the same principal property. It's all about putting your most genuine self out there, and hoping someone likes what he or she sees enough to take a chance.