There are two milestones you reach when life catapults you into adulthood. Both are equally as terrifying but also rewarding once you strap your boots up, stand tall, and muster up the courage to face them. They are rites of passage.
The first one is getting a real world job. Not the ice cream scooping, babysitting, lawn mowing variety either. This job should come with an annual salary, benefits, and vacation package. The other is finding your true love. You had your fill of casual hookups, drunken one night stands, and complicated FWBs, and now you’re finally ready to settle down with a life companion.
There’s just one problem. In the midst of growing up, no one actually teaches you how to obtain a fulfilling job or a loving mate. It’s more like you learn by trial and error. Make mistakes as you go along the way and hope that the next time you won’t fall flat on your face because you will, many times over. Unlike learning how to drive or cook, there are no immersive courses on how to interview or how to date. Instead, you’re on your own forced to read perplexing articles, observe others, ask around your network and then practice, practice, practice. Luckily, interviewing and dating are very similar animals. They both require the vulnerability to put yourself out there and allow others to judge you. A very calculated representation of your best qualities is on display and any imperfections are swept under the rug. The process can be draining, awkward, scary, frustrating and yet it also can be exciting, rewarding, and life-changing. Here are five stages that typically occur when you land a job or find a relationship.
Stage 1: First Encounter
A potential job opportunity suddenly catches your eye as you sift through the postings on Indeed. You think, “This could be it. The search is over!” It sounds like the perfect position, right up your alley, aligns with your precarious five-year plan and more importantly; you fit all the job qualifications. Excellent verbal and written communication skills. Check. Detail-oriented and resourceful. Check. Ability to work independently and also be a team player. Easy-breezy, baby.
Your phone alerts you of a new message. You prepare yourself to read a cheesy or perverse line from one of the many creepy online suitors. To your astonishment, he’s painfully attractive and writes a respectable introduction. You start to daydream about the first time you see each other. Cut to scenes of you laughing hysterically together over an inside joke, deep in philosophical conversations at an unassuming cafe, passionate love- making sessions in his overpriced city apartment. The story lines are endless. A tingly, warm sensation pours over you as you stop to catch your breath from all the excitement.
Stage 2: Research and Prep
Before your interview, you research the company and the opening role so that you don’t look like a bumbling idiot when they ask you charged questions like: Why do you want to work for us? Why are you interested in pursuing this position? Also, you get a sense of the prevailing company culture and mission statement to see how you would fit in.
Like any good private investigator, you need to know who you are dealing with before you go on a date. You google them, re-read their online profile, stalk their Facebook account and Twitter feeds. No sign of crazy exes or dirty shirtless bathroom selfies. He likes camping and the outdoors. You make a mental note to seamlessly work your love of nature into a conversation. Knowledge is power.
Stage 3: The Interview/Date
You look neat and professional even though you’re sweating balls underneath a confining, stuffy suit that you bought after graduation and it has since been collecting dust in the back of your closet. You engage in small talk. Then the real interviewing begins. You’ve done your research and practiced your answers in front of the mirror so you hope that they don’t toss you any curve balls. It’s over before you know it. When you get downstairs, heels come off, flats go on, and you let out a sigh of relief and pray that you’ve impressed them enough for a callback.
Listen up. This is important. Nothing is more embarrassing and date-ending than calling someone by the wrong name. This is why you always repeat your date’s name a few times moments before you meet. John, John, John. He approaches and you greet him. “Hi, John!” Nailed it. The rest of the date goes well and you like him but you’re still worried that he won’t like you. You’re eager to please. When you get back home, the dress that has been holding you in all night peels off, swapped for oversized sweats and a t-shirt. You replay every detail of the night in your mind, making sure to overanalyze and overthink everything.
Stage 4: The Callback
The treacherous waiting period begins. You wait nervously for them to call, email, or text. To beam you a message, anything! Your chances of success decrease with each passing day that you don’t hear back. The uncertainty is gut-wrenching, tearing up your insides into strands of sinew. Alas! An answer. They like you. They want to see you again. You run around your bedroom like a maniac with hands up in the air and a smile from ear to ear.
Stage 5: Final Decision
Will you accept their job offer? Do you want to see them again? You wanted this so badly but now you’re second-guessing yourself. You need to marinate on the offer. Re-evaluate things. You worry that the job won’t be what you expected or that your new beau is an asshole. You take the risk anyway because life’s too short to fixate on what ifs.
Fast-forward a few months or years and you are back on the job/dating circuit to repeat the entire process over again. There’s also no guarantee that you’ll get the job or person you wanted on the first attempt. You wonder why things can’t be simpler like in third grade when you would have friends pass a note to your crush asking him or her to check “yes” or “no” to going steady. Instead, you have to decipher cryptic non-committal messages or experience the slow fade or receive generic letters that simultaneously praise your qualifications and reject your candidacy. Being an adult is outright brutal. Then you remember the first time you fell in love and how the world suddenly illuminated around you. Or the first paycheck you received and how ecstatic you were to blow it on a new pair of shoes. This helps you to hold on just a little longer.