What’s Your Dating Story? It Matters to Your Career.
(This is the third installment in a series on telling stories about yourself. The first is about key work narratives. The second is about service narratives.)Note: If you’re in a loving, committed relationship that’s working for you, just forward this to your friend who wants to be like you. Ever since we were little, my mom would say to my siblings and me that our own company is better than the wrong company. In other words: learn to be alone, and don’t hang with jerks just to avoid being alone.At the time, this seemed useless because our house was so small that personal space was unfathomable, and I shared a room with my twin sister, so actually being alone was also theoretical.But when I moved to Phoenix for work, I was alone. A lot. And dating. A lot.And, bummer for me, it was years before I put my mom’s words into practice. And before I realized how much my dates were likely to impact my career.Here’s a look at how to make sure you’re telling the right stories so the right kind of people are coming into your love life. If you want a partner, having the right partner for you makes a huge difference for professional achievement. This is something we’re hearing more of today than ever before: how the love and support of a partner can mean so much to your success, from women like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and from a range of forthcoming female CEOs, and it was a huge part of the public response to the death of Dave Goldberg, the man Sheryl Sandberg praised so much in Lean In.So, how does storytelling help you find the right person?How do you tell a story that says: “I want an emotionally supportive, thoughtful partner who has a sense of humor, is willing to learn my love language, and is eager to help me get ahead in my career, and I’m willing to do the same”?(You could totally just say that. If you’re the kind of woman who can pull it off, you will attract the kind of person who will respond.)But if earth-shaking directness just isn’t your jam, try this:The following is an example. You’ll want to make your own list…If you want a partner who does things: Tell a story about doing something thoughtful when things didn’t turn out the way you thought they would.I have a story about cleaning a boyfriend’s apartment when he worked a million days in a row… and finding his porn stash. Lesson learned about leaving laundry on the bed.If you want a person who gets your career: Tell a story about a time you followed your passion for your job. It doesn’t have to make you look good… as long it makes you look like a good sport.I have a story about nagging an editor for months to get an internship at Harper’s Bazaar. But once there, I did not fit in. One day, I asked if the other interns knew where I could get my hair cut for less than $100. So many crickets. That summer, I learned a lot about magazine publishing, myself, and privilege, but I did not get a haircut.If you want a hardworking partner: Tell a story about a time you saw dedication pay off.Consider a story about a parent, grandparent, or mentor. This can show someone where you’re from, how you learned certain values, and how you’re thankful to those who helped you.If you want a partner who is smart in a way you find attractive: Make an observation on a topic you hope to have in common and tell a story about how you came to think or know this.Recently, I was out with a man who commented that he didn’t realize I knew “so much” about music. I’d been idly commenting on songs as they came up in the restaurant’s playlist. I’ve been obsessed with pop, some classic rock, and hip-hop since I was 13. Of course, I don’t know if he meant, I know a lot about music for a woman. Or for a non-musician. Or for someone so pretty. But instead of asking, I just assumed the nicest possible thing: that he meant he values music. Then we swapped stories about concerts.So, the next time you think about making one of those lists of attributes you want in a partner, consider making a second list of stories you could tell about yourself—ones that would help a partner get to know your attributes.