There’s probably not one thing about your career that you left to chance. You went to school and worked hard. You applied for jobs, talked to people. You followed up, read up, showed up. You’ve found jobs and lost them; sometimes they left you first. You met new people, forged new connections. You know luck and timing play a role, and that opportunity always favors the well-prepared. Most importantly, you’ve learned to trust your instincts, ask the right questions, and persevere in the face of failure.
So here’s my question to you: Why is your love life any different? Or, more to the point, why are you treating it as if it’s the stuff of fairies and magic dust, instead of, well, anything else in your life that you’ve wanted and worked for?
I’ve seen the schticky books by Harvard MBAs promising to boost your bottom line of love, and I appreciate where they’re coming from, but also recognize that it leaves a lot of people cold. So, no, I’m not going to tell you to write a business plan or a press release to the universe. Nothing saps the romance out of romance like turning it into a job.
But I am telling you to apply the same care and intention (not just attention) to your personal life as you do your professional one. Because the fact is, work isn’t just work; your career is something you’ve invested in wholeheartedly. You believe in it and have big dreams for it. Even the language you use to talk about work isn’t just about money or title — it’s about whether it’s aligned with your values, sustainable, gives you the space to be authentic, creative, and all of that. Wouldn’t you want your relationship to be the same? To do that, you need to apply your career smarts to your love life. Here’s how.
Get online. If you have a business or a brand and you’re not online, then as far as I’m concerned, you don’t have a business or a brand. I meet so many people who patently refuse to date online, citing all kinds of safety precautions and privacy fears. Hogwash. Online dating is one of the most private ways to communicate — no one even has to know your name! If you go to a bar and sit there fairly frequently, any person can walk up and introduce himself and get your name and have a fair approximation as to where you live. So if that's your excuse, you're fresh out of excuses.
Would you as a career woman say, “Oh no, I don’t believe in posting a resume or applying online. I’m all about face-to-face communication and networking.” Duh. Of course not. It’s not an either/or. It’s both/and. Think of online dating as a way to supplement your in-person opportunities, and to round out your overall efforts. The goal of meeting online is to meet someone in person. And someone with a profile is no more scary or weird or dangerous than someone you happened to meet at the laundromat. Besides, too much dependence on fate is keeping you from dating like a grown up.
Don't get hung up on title. Spend any time at more than one company and you know that titles are made-up names that mean vastly different things. And while there’s a general consensus on the hierarchy, and you have an idea of what you want next, you know that the title doesn’t make the job better; the right title should suit and reflect the job. Great opportunities can come first, and the titles sometimes follow.
So if you’re currently single, maybe you want a boyfriend or partner; if you’re dating someone maybe you’ve got your eye on “spouse.” Fine. It’s good to have a goal. But I’ve seen far too many people so hung up on getting the “boyfriend” that they either a) settle for someone just to have the title, or b) push for a title before the relationship is ready for it. (Title of "wife" being the worst reason to get married ever.)
The way I see it, every relationship is a start-up. It requires a tremendous amount of effort to get it off the ground, and you should be driven by more than just money or fame. You have to love what you’re doing. Focus on the quality of the day to day: Do you like this person? Does he (or she) make you feel better about yourself, or worse? Are you enjoying it? These things matter. Focus on cultivating the relationship and building a foundation, rather than worry about when you're going to go public.
Take more risks. You can’t win big if you aren’t willing to play big. And by that I mean, play the numbers. Dudes for the most part already know this. And it works. Did you apply to your last job thinking, “This is it. This is where I’ll be forever and ever — and if they can’t promise me that, I’m withdrawing my application”? Of course not.
You also didn’t apply for just one job and then sit on your hands to see if they really loved you best. That would be insane. You apply for many jobs, and you’ll ultimately pass on as many as pass on you. You’re not meant to want and have every job. And if you didn’t get it, it wasn’t a fit. Or maybe you did get it and six months in, knew it wasn’t a fit. So you leave.
The sooner you can see relationships this way, the more likely you are to have one. Because part of the game is gunning for a thing you don't know if you'll get. The reason you’re afraid to do this in your love life is that you have this idea that you’ll mess up The One. That you won’t find him or he won’t like you and you’ll be loveless til you die. Which is patently false.
Nothing lasts forever. I don't think I need to tell you this but I will: No job lasts forever, and neither will all relationships. The idea that a relationship is a success only because you died while you were still in it is ridiculous. Some run their course. You don't give up on your career because one job ends. Same goes for that last guy you were seeing who up and moved to Seattle to marry a barista. Fun while it lasted, hurt when it ended. Moving on.
Some jobs are terrific and fun and then the place goes out of business. Or some are long and tedious but ultimately rewarding, and when you’re done, you’re done. This isn’t the 1950s where you get a desk in a firm and sit there for life. The world has changed and the economics of relationships along with it. The good news is, when it comes to love we're all independent contractors.
So, while you may get the urge to vision board and manifest, try not to credit fate or blame your mojo for what is or isn't working in your love life. When the chips are down and times are a little lean, make like a business mogul and create your own luck. Recognize that wishes and fairy dust and the patron saints of romance can only intervene when you act on your own behalf. Tap your inner entrepreneur and start seeing opportunity in every obstacle you encounter on the road to love. Because that's where the real magic happens.
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