Jump start your career with a "Professional Date"

Swipe right on your career

Figuring out what you want to do with your life is a pretty epic challenge. Finding a job or internship that suits you can be even harder. But the secret (as with most things in life) is both simple and scary: actually talking to other people.

Maybe you’re already familiar with this concept—some people call it informational interviewing. I prefer the phrase “professional date” because, just like with romantic dates, you are looking for chemistry, shared interests, and a connection (but..in a different way, obv).

Spending time talking to people who interest you, professionally, can help you figure out what you want to do with your life. They can also help guide you on how to do it. But where to start? We’ve outlined the basics of the professional date for you here. If you want to skip straight to a guide to going on your first professional date, be our guest.

An image Illustrations by Kate Costigan

Why do I even care about this?

Because seriously, it works. My current boss hired me for a job at the New York Times a few years ago after one of my childhood friends knew I was interested in the company, knew her, and set us both up on a professional date! (Fun fact: She then hired me a second time at UNiDAYS.)

I honestly think it’s the single most effective way to get your foot in the door and find an interesting/cool job. You have to go out and find them yourself, and this is a great way to start.

Ok, define "professional date"

A professional date (usually called an informational interview) is simply a conversation between two people that happens over coffee, lunch, breakfast, Skype, or the phone, and is usually about shared professional interests.

Why not just call it an informational interview, then?

Well, because I think that “informational interview” is way too… dry and boring. It also sounds kinda like a really formal one-way evaluation, which is definitely not the point.

I‘ve actually found that most professional conversations are a two-way street, even if the person I’m talking to has decades of experience on me.

Finally, “informational interview” suggests a single encounter. I like “professional date” because, as with romance, encounters like this can lead to meaningful and even life-long relationships.

An image Illustrations by Kate Costigan

What happens on a professional date?

Two people chat. Like… that’s it. Ideally, they both learn more about themselves, their interests, and maybe even the world.

Each person also has the opportunity to decide if they would like to “swipe right” and have a professional relationship with the person they are talking to.

What happens after a professional date?

It depends! If you didn’t vibe with the person and were bored to tears by the whole conversation, you can simply send a thank-you email and moooooove on.

If they said something that intrigued you, you might want to follow up with more questions.

Maybe they offered to introduce you to someone they know. If so, you should absolutely send a follow-up email reminding them about that and thanking them in advance.

And if you’re not sure what to ask for, hot tip: Share a book or an article that they might be interested in. (I authentically love it when people do this, don’t worry about seeming like a weirdo.)

An image Illustrations by Kate Costigan

What's the point of a professional date?

To get your foot in the door. To learn more about the inner workings of the professional world. To discover your calling. To get a new job or internship. To make more money. To find out who you are. THE LIST GOES ON.

And, that’s basically it: The professional date in a nutshell. And don’t worry, I know it can be confusing and stressful to ask someone out to coffee or to “pick their brain.” So, because we LOVE you and WANT YOU TO BE SUCCESSFUL, we’ve put together a handy guide to going on your first professional date.

Think this all sounds scary? We agree, that’s why we also wrote an article about all the feels that might get in the way of your professional dating. If this all feels daunting to you, maybe check out that article first.

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