Monday, May 11, 2009

Is looking for a job after a layoff like dating after a divorce?

After I wrote my guest post for “A Step Ahead,” Rachel Esterline’s blog, shortly after learning of my impending layoff, I had a concept for a second post that really rang true for me at the time and continues to do so now that I actually am laid off:

Losing your job is like getting a divorce, and looking for a new job in the aftermath of being laid off is like finding yourself back on the dating market again.

I know it sounds odd, but just think about it for a minute ...

  • You’re in a relationship (job) for a number of years, and while it has had its share of ups and downs, you’re content overall and don’t have any plans to end the relationship (quit your job), but then your spouse (employer) tells you it’s over.

  • You are stunned by the loss and must figure out where you’ll live, what life will be like on your new income, etc.

  • You find yourself alone (unemployed) and needing to re-enter the dating pool (job-seeking market). Since you’ve been in this relationship (job) for so long and didn’t expect it to end, you’re somewhat unfamiliar with the current dating scene (job-search process) and lack the stylish wardrobe, hairstyle, etc. (fancy portfolio, personal Web site, e-résumé, technical skills, etc.) to be an attractive potential mate (employee). The game has changed since you last had to play it.

  • You give yourself a bit of a makeover (building a Web site, creating a modern portfolio, reformatting your résumé, trying out some of the newest tools of your trade and becoming proficient with them, etc.) and start going to new hangouts (networking events, professional conferences, etc.) where you might meet new people (find new job leads).

  • You go on dates (interviews), and when you really like the person (job opportunity), you sit by the phone and await a call back for another date (second interview); if that does happen and the situation seems promising, you start thinking maybe this could lead to a proposal (a viable job offer) and marriage (acceptance of a job offer and the start of a new job or career).

I ran this concept, in its simplest form, by someone who is both divorced and a job-search/career development expert, and she enthusiastically agreed that the comparison is a valid one (although divorce and job loss are not the same; don’t think for a moment that that’s what I’m suggesting!), which made me feel like I could share it.

Personally, I’ve been in the “waiting by the phone” stage for awhile, since my last “date” was one I really liked. Unfortunately, I’ve heard through the grapevine that he was just not that into me, but he hasn’t yet called or dropped me a line to tell me so. It’s a shame, too, since we are old friends.

I also recently completed most of my “makeover,” doing a complete overhaul of my résumé, working with a friend to create my Web site, and securing letters of recommendation and organizing other materials for what I think will turn out to be a pretty fantastic portfolio.

So it’s back to “going to new hangouts” for now; in fact, I just did that this weekend, attending the Ragan Communications Social Media Un-Conference in Chicago, where I met lots of folks, collected many business cards and heard plenty of interesting discussion about the use of social media in public relations and marketing. Perhaps I’ve even met my next potential “date.”

To follow my adventures in job searching, subscribe to this blog, follow me on Twitter and visit my Web site.


  1. I actually have said this! While I'm not divorced, I have said that looking for a job when you didn't instigate the process (layoff) is like being divorced and dating (based on friends' experiences). I have compared to - people and companies/positions appearing to be much more than they truly are, trolling for a date/job, etc.

  2. Great post. I actually posted something like this today on my blog, "Unemployment, Lite" where I compare our job like other important significant relationships. Look forward to reading more. I think it's essential to view the job search process in the way you describe. Otherwise, we end up in bad (toxic, destructive) relationships with employers. (I am planning to share some of my horror stories in the future. UGH!)

  3. Excellent comparison, Lindsay, bang on the money. I'd maybe add one more - you don't always get the money that you're owed after putting in so many years.

    Although since I've never been divorced, I'll have to hazard a guess on that one. But I'd imagine it may be true ;-)