How to go on your first professional date

Help me, I'm scared

If you’re not sure what a “professional date” is, and why you should want to go on one, you’re gonna want to keep reading.

If you’re like “I get it, but this whole thing freaks me out,” check out our piece on getting past emotional roadblocks to the professional date.

BUT if you’re ready to go on your first professional date, let’s do this!

An image Illustrations by Kate Costigan

Let’s say you’ve figured out who you’d like to reach out to, NOW WHAT?

1. If you feel an authentic interest in them, their work or the organisation they work for, reach out! Don’t be afraid to send them an email or stalk them on LinkedIn. See if you have a mutual acquaintance that can introduce you. Literally all successful people do this, so you’re not gonna seem like a creep, we promise.

2. If you don’t have any connections, do your homework! Show them you’re genuinely interested in what they have to say by referencing something they’ve done or published.

3. Remember 90% of the conversations you have won’t lead to anything cool. And a lot of people won’t even respond. That’s okay. It’s a numbers game. The 10% of conversations that DO lead to something cool make it all worth it.

An image Illustrations by Kate Costigan

OKAY. I’m here. What do I say? Where do I sit? What do I even do with my HANDS?

1. Be yourself (srsly). It’s totally possible to be both ‘professional’ and entirely yourself.

2. Share your hopes and dreams! You probably don’t have very much experience at this point in your career, but you have tons of POTENTIAL. People need to know what you want to do with all that potential before they can help you.

3. Don’t worry about asking for anything specific. I can’t emphasise this enough. You can leave it in the other person’s hands. If you give them a general sense for what you are trying to accomplish, they might have some unexpected advice, suggestions, or maybe even a job or internship for you!

4. If the person is not helpful, kind, engaged, nice, or fun... don’t take it personally. It’s just a bad date, and those are part of life. Mean people suck; brush it off.

An image Illustrations by Kate Costigan

Wow, that actually went okay! Maybe even great? What’s next?

Do I send a handwritten thank you note or something? (Spoiler alert: No, you don’t need to send anything handwritten.)

1. Check in with yourself. How do you feel? Did anything about the person or the things you talked about resonate for you?

2. If yes, follow up with the person via email and be authentic. Feeling enthusiastic? Say so. Still have a few burning questions? Ask ‘em! Hot tip: take something specific and memorable from the discussion and use it as an opener. Like: “Hey Richard, thanks again for your time today. I went ahead and ordered that book you recommended on AI -- can’t wait to read it!” or “Hi Melanie, I really enjoyed our lunch today! It’s always great to connect with another Dartmouth grad.”

3. If no, send a thank you email and move TF on (and CONGRATULATE yourself for listening to your heart).

You’ll know you’re on the right track when you are feeling excited, energised, intrigued, validated, welcomed and respected.

Bonus points: It’s also good to have one or two trusted advisors/mentors to check in with regularly for a super casual career chat. Tell them who you have been talking with, what has piqued your interest, and how you are feeling about the whole thing.

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