There’s always weirdness on the first date, whether it’s a literal first romantic date or (in my case) a professional one. Some traditionalists call the “professional first date” an interview, but I think that verbiage fails to adequately reflect the chemistry and interpersonal magic that’s so crucial to a successful experience.
You plan for all the controllable stuff…you research the role, the company, LinkedIn, and reach out to shared connections. You map your skills to the role requirements, and you isolate 3-5 stories that you plan to tell during the date. You put on eyeliner (something I didn’t bother to do for many romantic dates) but you wear the neutral lipstick. You wear the bra that makes your figure look awesome, and then you wear a modest shirt.
During all the preparations, you know there’s a mountain of things you can’t control during the professional date. You understand that the first five minutes are crucial, and that you’ll receive your first buy (or rejection) sign in less than 90 seconds — and that it’s terribly difficult to reverse that first impression.
If it’s going well, you know you can relax. Your laughs become more genuine. You can spin out your stories with confidence, and the follow-on questions will be mostly friendly. The research and the preparations have paid off…even the eyeliner was worth it.
If it’s going poorly, you start to rack your brain for the perfect thing to say to get the discussion on track. Maybe this other story actually showcases your drive better….maybe if you speak more slowly, or use smaller words. Start smiling. Stop squinting. Remove that damn plastic smile. Don’t fidget. Realize that this one might not end well, sigh internally, and resolve to try again.
Professional dating is very similar to the romantic kind. Attitude matters, as does resilience….and sometimes, you just need to wrap up and move on.