Anxieties and emotional roadblocks that get in the way of professional dating

Hashtag nervous

If you’re ready to go on a “professional date” and figure out what you want to do with your life, check out our guide: How to Go On a Professional Date.

If you’re feeling a little anxious, read on! We’ve all been there.

I don't feel comfortable bothering someone! I don't want to be a pest!

Okay, but think about how you’d feel if someone younger asked to chat about something you know a ton about—probably v flattered! Even Ron Swanson gets excited when you ask him about things he cares about, like whisky, woodwork, hunting, steak, or reasons why Europe is dumb.

Also, you almost certainly have something valuable to offer in return. Even if the person is a CEO and you’re straight outta your freshman year, your unique perspective will provide inspiration and insight to someone who hasn’t heard a fresh opinion since 1998.

Connecting with and helping other people IRL is realistically one of the best things about life (unless you’re actually Squidward), and that’s what this whole “professional dating” thing is all about.

I like to think about it this way: when I talk to someone in the professional world for the first time, I’m giving them—or, really BLESSING them with—the opportunity to be a part of my future. And they’re doing the same for me.

An image Illustrations by Kate Costigan

But I don't know what I want, or where I'm even going!

That’s okay! That’s literally WHY you are doing this.

You aren’t humbly bowing down to the powerful Wizard of Oz asking for a favor. You’re trying to find your way through the unfathomable chaos of life (which they can relate to, whether they admit it or not). No matter what stage you’re at, talking to other people about what they do and how they got there is the perfect way to figure out where to go next. People and conversation are like compasses: They’ll point you in the right direction.

For example: If you have even the slightest interest in drone photography, go talk to somebody who does that. You might find out that you aren’t interested in drone photography, but maybe your “date” used to lead horse-packing trips across Montana, and maybe that’s something you’d like to try (I would tbh.)

An image Illustrations by Kate Costigan

What if it doesn’t go well?

This will definitely happen at some point, and that’s ok! Much like romantic dating, professional dating will sometimes be awkward and disappointing. But the bad dates are compasses, too. They point you away from things that weren’t meant for you. Respect that and move on.

I’ve had crazy boring conversations, but I still learned that person’s, role, industry, or topic was clearly not my passion. I’ve also had conversations where the person seemed to genuinely dislike me. Maybe they thought I was too eager, or I wasn’t very smart. I’ll never know, and I don’t particularly care, because putting myself out there has still been overwhelmingly worth it.

I’m worried that I'll get convinced to do something that’s not really right for me.

This definitely could happen. Maybe you meet someone who really needs an entry-level marketing operations coordinator, and you really need a job. Maybe they make it sound amazing, so you go ahead and do it. Then, in a few weeks, whoops, it turns out that you HATE marketing operations.

Mediocre jobs (like mediocre significant others!) are a part of life, and in 3 years, they’ll make a GREAT story for parties. If you end up getting drawn down the wrong path by other people, just get out your guide to the professional date and start talking to new people!

You’ll have a new (and better) job before you know it.

Pro tip: Always check in with your body. Your gut is never wrong. If it feels a little unsettled, and Pepto Bismol doesn’t do the trick, it’s probably not right for you.

An image Illustrations by Kate Costigan

I just have way too much anxiety about this and. I. Just. Can’t.

Okay, so don’t! This is the only way I know how to figure out what I want. And honestly, I haven’t heard of any better ways. But if you’re really dreading it, you don’t have to do this. Maybe one day in the future it’ll feel more natural.

Orrrrrr, just don’t listen to your anxiety. You could just do it anyway. You don’t have to feel good about something in order to do it. I can think of like… 30 different Pinterest quotes about good things never coming from comfort zones.

And, tbh, you never know. Maybe it goes well, and maybe that positive experience alleviates some of your anxiety. Either way, it’ll be a good experience, or a good story.

And there’s nothing more validating, in my experience, than sitting across from someone who shares enthusiasm for your aspirations and have them express an active interest in your future.

Hopefully this has helped to calm your nerves about professional dating...that was the point, so LMK if we’ve failed. Assuming we’ve managed to pump you up and get you ready to get out there, here’s your guide about how to actually do the damn thing.

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