About five months ago I was sitting in my friend Marianne's garden relaying my tale of woe about the current state of my love life. "Have you thought about a dating web site?" she asked me. I groaned. Had I thought about a dating web site? I'd been there, done that and now owned a few tee-shirts. I really didn't want to go there again. "You should give it another go if only just to realise that there are loads of men out there and to get out of your rut." And with that she took my hand, dragged me into the house and sat me down in front of her computer.
It is here that I should mention that Marianne is a career coach and a damn good one too. She writes an informative and entertaining blog about making career changes and runs her own coaching business. As we sat in front of her computer with her giving me advice on how to create a profile that captured the essence of me and was tailored to finding my ideal man, Marianne kept chuckling and pointing out how this was very similar to what she does for a living. Then it hit me. Internet dating is a lot like job hunting and frankly you'd rather be in the perfect job than out there looking it for it. So maybe the key to finding the right person online is to approach your search in the same manner you would when looking for the perfect job.
1. Your CV (that's resume for my fellow Americans)
When you're looking for a specific job- that perfect job- you want a CV that stands out among all the rest and shows off your skills, experience and even in some cases your personality so your future employer notices you, wants to know more about you and contacts you for an interview. (As an aside Marianne has written a great blog post on CV and cover letter writing.) This is just the same as an internet dating profile. You want to show off how great you are without boasting and at the same time you don't want to ramble on in great detail about yourself. That will just bore any prospects. Why would they want to know more about you if you tell them everything straight away?
You want your profile to reflect the best side of you, so for pity's sake CHECK YOUR GRAMMAR! This is just as important in internet dating as it is in job searching. If you use text speak in your profile, you will come across as lazy. If your profile is riddled with grammar errors that any primary student can spot, you will look illiterate. Do you want a lazy and illiterate partner? I don't.
Put up a few nice photos. This is a must and is an area where a dating profile is different than a CV. You want at least one nice attractive photo of yourself up there. Profiles without photos usually do not get noticed. Choose your picture honestly as well. Don't select a picture taken ten years ago when you were two stone lighter, but instead choose one that was taken within the last two years. If you end up on a date looking significantly older than or nothing like your profile pictures, at the very least your date might not completely trust you and at the worst no longer find you attractive.
Remember that it is also YOU who's looking to 'hire' someone. What type of profile grabs your attention? What type turns you off? Apply these preferences to the profile you're creating. At the end of the day we want a partner who compliments our personality and is drawn to the same things that interest us. If you don't want to read your own profile, who else will?
2. The Cover Letter
So you think you've found your perfect match online and want to make contact? This is just the same as finding the right job and wanting to be selected for an interview. Make your contact and make it personal. This is the same advice Marianne gives to job hunters about writing cover letters. You don't want to be the typical introduction email or you will just be set aside in the same way employers will bin letters and CV's that are just a repetition of the status quo. I once received a long introduction message that read as if it could have been copied and pasted and sent to many women at once. A friend of mine was on the same site and received the exact same message from the same man. Needless to say, neither of us got back to him and we had a good laugh about it. Really read the person's profile and say something directed towards them, about them and go beyond the trite, "I enjoyed reading your profile and think we have a lot in common." Mentioning a common interest or playing on their sense of humour is a good start. You want give them an intriguing taste of who you are so they will want to know more about you. However, don't be too wordy. Again, you don't want to bore your potential date or give too much away about yourself in one go. If you are the one making the first contact, your introduction message is meant to have your readers want to go back and look at your profile and your profile is meant to leave those readers wanting to know even more about you.
Oh and again you're putting your best face forward here, CHECK YOUR GRAMMAR!
3. The Interview
So you've made contact, spoken a bit and now it's time for that first date. First dates and job interviews are very similar and if you're a naturally introverted person, both job interviews and blind dates can be horribly intimidating. Marianne has yet another terrific blog post about introverts and interviews. One of the keys to success in an interview is preparation and that goes for first dates as well. Re-read your date's profile. Think of some interesting questions that would stimulate conversation and allow you to discover more about your date. However, before you even get to the point of having a first date with someone be sure that you really want to be having that first date with that someone. Get to know them a bit. Exchange a few emails and chat on the phone. Granted some people are not good on the phone and you might not be either, but speaking before your date can give you a good idea of what the date might be like. So give them a ring just to confirm the date and you can at least hear the sound of their voice. In the end the more you know about the person you've just met online, the more relaxed you'll be when you meet them in person.
Once again remember that you are doing the interviewing too. This holds true for job interviews as well. You don't want to find yourself in a job that you despise just to get by much like you don't want to be with someone who annoys you just to have a partner. On the other hand, don't be overly judgemental. This is, after all, just a date and chances are high that the person you meet will be just as nervous as you are. So if you both just relax and enjoy the moment all should go well and if it doesn't and is awful, you don't have to see that person ever again.
4. Don't Give Up
As I said a the start of this internet dating, like job hunting, is not easy. That's not what the internet dating sites would have you think, however. On their introduction pages and in their advertising they show happy couples or cute little animated couples having the time of their lives. They don't show you the amount of time you spend reading profiles, the disappointment of not being written back or how frustrating it can be to go out on a date that you think went well only to never hear from the person again. But, don't let this get you down. Internet dating is certainly not the only way to meet people but it does help in many ways. For starters the not-so-fabulous dates can be seen as flirting practice. You might not meet the right person, but what's stopping you from practising your verbal banter on those you do?
The best way to keep the roadblocks you may stumble across during the beginning of internet dating from getting you down is to not take them personally or seriously. You'll find yourself just giving up on dating completely and losing all desire to put yourself out there if you do. It may not be easy, but perhaps you should approach it in the manner that the internet dating site marketing team would have you believe it all is, light hearted and fun. You need to keep your eye on the prize with an optimistic attitude.
So where am I now with all this internet dating stuff since Marianne put me back online? Well, I must confess that once I realised how similar internet dating and job hunting were I backed off and crawled back into my very dissatisfying, but comfortable, rut. This is quite similar to those people who stay in their mediocre jobs and not seek something better because it is just too much trouble. However, with the new year comes a new frame of mind. It's time that I really got out there and found the satisfying, loving long term relationship that I'd really like. Internet dating may not be the answer, but it is a means to an end. And, it's one I'm going to approach a bit more seriously.