Why Job-Hunting Isn’t Like Dating

by Ruth Kitchin Tillman, previous Head Editor, INALJ Maryland
previously published 12/19/13

Why Job-Hunting Isn’t Like Dating

ruthtillmanSometimes, the hunt for a job and for a date can seem awfully similar. You scan websites looking for good matches. You visit networking events hoping to meet someone who has similar interests to your own. You exchange emails or phone calls before actually going out. And rejection can be similarly painful.

Yet for all this, I think it’s important for new professionals in particular to remember that looking for a job is actually quite different from looking for a partner.

1. It’s ok to be second-best

Nobody wants to hear a date or prom invitation start with “So, Sheila said no and I was wondering if…” But in jobs, it’s ok to be your employer’s second choice for a position. Unlike in love, in business your employer is not going to keep pining for “the one that got away.” Once you’re in the position, you’re the one they’re working with every day and focusing on.

Once you’ve made it far enough that you are their second or third choice (and you may not even know which you were), you’re already someone they like a lot. I was recently on a pastoral search committee. It took us nearly a year to find the right candidates, narrow them down, phone interview, interview in person, arrange for them to meet with various church committees, and then choose and finalize a candidate. By the point we got to in-person interviews, we were left with two fantastic candidates. They were extremely different people, but each brought strengths we thought would be great fits for our congregation. If our first choice had turned down the offer, we would have been quite happy to go with our second.

2. It’s not a one-time thing

In dating, it’s good advice to take rejection and let it go. But a library/archives is usually much bigger than just the single position. While you should accept a search committee’s decision not to hire you (don’t stalk or badger or argue), be aware that during the whole process you’ve made contacts which you may be able to call upon in the future.

If you made it to the point of interviewing, they saw something interesting in you. Should another position that fits your experience open up, don’t hesitate to apply. They didn’t reject you, they simply thought someone else was an even better fit than you were. You may also hear from people at the institution suggesting that you apply for a relevant job with them or other organizations. Take them up on it.

3. It’s not (really) personal

It may be personal, but it’s probably not. This is similar to point one, but it merits repeating. Both dating and job hunting can feel incredibly personal. But in most cases a decision to hire someone else is by no means a rejection of you and your skills.

You may be a perfect fit for the position and a great person to work with, but if the other person is both these things and has a recommendation from the hiring manager’s old mentor, then they’re going to get the job. Rejection sucks, no doubt. But keep in mind that it’s unlikely that they thought or said any of the hurtful things that your ex may have.

Job hunting can be as nerve-wracking and emotionally draining as trying to find a potential life partner. Just remind yourself as you do it that it’s not nearly so personal as your experiences in the dating world may make it feel.


Naomi House

Naomi House, MLIS, is the founder and publisher of the popular webzine and jobs list INALJ.com (formerly I Need a Library Job) and former CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) of T160K.org, a crowdfunding platform focused on African patrimony, heritage and cultural projects. INALJ was founded in October 2010 with the assistance of her fellow Rutgers classmate, Elizabeth Leonard. Its social media presence has grown to include Facebook (retired in 2016), Twitter and a LinkedIn group, in addition to the interviews, articles and jobs found on INALJ. INALJ has had over 21 Million page hits and helped many, many thousands of librarians find employment! Through grassroots marketing, word of mouth and a real focus on exploring unconventional resources for job leads, INALJ grew from a subscription base of 20 friends to a website with over 500,000 visits in one month. Naomi believes that well-sourced quantity is quality in this narrow job market and INALJ reflects this with many new jobs published daily. She has also written for the 2011, 2012 and 2013 LexisNexis Government Info Pro and many other publications in the past decade. She presents whenever she can, including serving on three panels at the American Library Association's Annual Conference in Las Vegas; as breakout presenter at OCLC EMEA in Cape Town, South Africa; as a keynote speaker at the Virginia Library Association annual meeting; at the National Press Club in Washington DC; McGill University in Montreal, Canada; the University of the Emirates, Dubai, MLIS program and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Naomi was a Reference, Marketing and Acquisitions Librarian for a contractor at a federal library outside Washington, DC, and has been living and working in Budapest, Hungary and Western New York State. She spent years running her husband’s moving labor website, fixed and sold old houses and assisted her husband cooking delicious Pakistani food. She is preparing to re-enter the workforce and is job hunting. Her husband is now the co-editor of INALJ, a true support!  She has heard of spare time but hasn’t encountered it lately. She pronounces INALJ as eye-na-elle-jay. 


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