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The Seeker Part Nine: The Elephant

Written By William Reagan | Mar 2, 2017

It seemed to Nathan that every staffing firm made some tacit allusion–or even an overt analogy–to how they served as matchmakers. In some cases, the employment pitch seemed lifted straight from a dating site: Are you tired of searching? Want something more satisfying? Looking for a place where your passion can flow?

Nathan grimaced when he read such pages, knowing how many people green-lighted the copy before the site went live.

He wondered if the people who frequented dating sites found this employment analogy encouraging. Nathan had tried a couple of dating services, lured by the science of data-driven romance, but there are so many data points that can’t be captured in an online form. The Venn diagram of a date’s political leanings and favorite movies might overlap, but a bizarre laugh or an obsession with checking their phone during dinner had more impact on there being a next date than any abstract compatibilities.

Wasn’t the same true of work? Job responsibilities are easily outlined, but how much of our job satisfaction is tied to those bullet points? It’s hard to admire a great mission when the woman at the next desk insists on her right to play the Christian music station all day; the perk of an espresso machine in the break room is offset by a motor-mouth who insists on sharing shot-by-shot recaps of their mini-golf victories. These are the factors that drive people to urgent lunch-hour updates of their LinkedIn accounts. Nathan couldn’t think of any job he’d left because he didn’t like the actual work.

Besides, Nathan thought that if these staffing firms claimed to be corporate cupids, they ought to embrace the whole analogy. The similarities between courting a date and applying for a job go deeper than the mere belief that something unnamable is out there waiting for us. Both experiences generate the same physical responses:

They stimulate our brains, often more than an appropriate amount. Just having someone show interest in us eases the continual concern about our perceived inadequacies and lets us focus on possibilities. What if they actually get my jokes and don’t simply laugh politely? What if they completely understand why I need this specific pen, not just any pen? What if the puzzle piece I call Me is a perfect fit for a spot I’d only imagined existed? When we walk away from a first date or a job interview, glowing with delight, we begin building around that brightness, oblivious that the light might actually be a wildfire.

They make us nauseous, first with nervous anticipation, and again when the little fictions we’ve assembled in our head are besieged by our insecurities. Didn’t the first date/interview go well? Why haven’t they called? Should I call them? Hope may be the last to die, but doubt is a tenacious assassin, toiling like Hollywood scriptwriters on stimulants, continually editing infinite drafts. We assure ourselves there’s probably some logical explanation, but the longer the wait, the more our worst case scenarios gain traction.

They break our hearts. Maybe it happens quickly, when we’re rejected or ghosted and left to ponder the questionable architecture of our expectations. Or maybe it takes a while for the good thing to reveal itself as something different, all those extra data points jumping onto the scale to tip it toward discontent. Sure, some first dates lead to 30-year romances, and maybe some job interviews lead to 30-year tenures, but anytime Nathan met someone who spent 30 years at the same company, he suspected it was less about commitment and more about complacency.

Just as dating sites don’t mention current divorce rates, the heartbreak inherent in the job hunt is the elephant in the room that none of these staffing firms want to talk about. They want Nathan to believe that there is something special out there just for him, the perfect fit, and they are the doorway between him and happily-ever-after.

And Nathan wanted to believe it, too. It would make the tedium of the process–the quest for the perfect font, the resumes shipped into the abyss, the string of awkward interviews–feel worth it. He assured himself that there must be a job out there where he could thrive, somewhere with a strict fragrance policy, no desktop radios, and people who kept their mini-golf triumphs to themselves.

But the matchmaker staffing firms did get one thing right: He was tired of searching.

By day, William Reagan is a mild-mannered marketing copywriter stealthily sneaking clever wordplay into the most corporate of collateral—but at night, he’s a creative mischeivian bent on taking the shortest possible path to profound truths and/or preposterous lies. (Still mild-mannered then, too.)

Read the whole series!

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