Does Your Date’s Job Matter?

Can you judge a person by his or her career choice? Here, one writer shares her point of view—see if you agree.

By Nicole Kristal

met Non-Profit Guy through a neighbor while we were all seeing a summer blockbuster. He offered me popcorn and mentioned that he’d recently moved to Los Angeles to work for a non-profit. My last boyfriend had swapped his hybrid for an SUV, so my interest spiked immediately as this Harry Connick, Jr. lookalike spoke about his frustration with trying to make people care about global warming. I nodded with deep admiration, dipping a hand into his popcorn bag as I stared at my rare find—a guy with a social consciousness in Los Angeles. I slipped him my business card at the end of the film. It was a bold move, but I wasn’t concerned about giving out my personal information to a stranger. After all, this guy was a “good person” for a living.

At least, that’s what I thought. I was surprised when, on our
Maybe he was just trying to get away from his do-gooder image…
first date, Non-Profit Guy expressed his penchant for strip clubs and Pamela Anderson types. Still, I thought, maybe he was just trying to get away from his do-gooder image. On our second date, he asked me to pay for my $5 drink. I assumed it was because his meaningful job paid so little. That theory went out the window on our third date, as I watched Non-Profit Guy swill four pricey imported beers. When I dropped him off at his apartment, I realized he hadn’t asked me a single question all night—a dumpworthy attribute in any of the corporate guys I’d dated. I couldn’t believe that someone who saved the environment for a living was a self-centered borderline lush.

How much does career choice reveal?
A person’s job doesn’t necessarily tell you what kind of date he or she will be, notes career expert Marty Nemko, the author of Cool Careers for Dummies. My pal Monica agrees. She said that one of her friends set her up on a blind date with a telemarketer. “I totally expected the guy to be lame, but over the course of dinner I thought, ‘This guy’s actually kind of smart and funny.’” My friend Joy said she dated a stiff-collared computer programmer who seemed traditional and tightly wound, but turned out to be the opposite—on the phone, on dates, and, as the relationship progressed, in the bedroom. “He really surprised me,” she said.

Now, some generalizations probably do hold up. Nemko says that you can get some basic information from such factors as a person’s level of responsibility and reliability (a part-time telemarketer versus a bank manager), his or her
77 percent of Americans don’t like their jobs anyway.
ability to be a provider (an abstract canvas artist versus a cardiologist), and the individual’s values (a bond trader versus a minister).

However, “The career provides a clue, but only one clue,” cautions Nemko. To get more information, Nemko suggests asking questions during a date that will reveal more about your date’s personality. For instance: If you were to write a book, what would it be about? What’s the one thing you’d like to change about the world?

What my date’s job really revealed
I don’t know what Non-Profit Guy wanted to change about himself, but I knew exactly what I wanted to change about him: his thoughtlessness. When I invited him to a friend’s Fourth of July barbecue, he didn’t offer to bring anything. Then he proceeded to eat all the hot dogs I’d brought, gulped down my friends’ drinks, and insisted on leaving early so he could see some fireworks. Instead of asking him, “Can’t we just stay 10 more minutes?” as I did, I should have been quizzing him on his job.

Which is exactly what I did as we drove to that fireworks display he was so desperate to see. He shrugged and complained that he hadn’t been making his donation quota lately because “the planet doesn’t sell itself.” It turned out that he viewed his job like any other sales position and aspired to do something different with his life: Non-Profit Guy wanted to be an actor. (Suddenly it didn’t seem like a coincidence that I worked for an actors’ trade newspaper.)

As fireworks filled the sky, I realized I was done with Non-Profit Guy and the absurd notion that people’s jobs tell you anything useful about who they really are—that is, if they’d be nice to your mom or remember your birthday.

So next time you find yourself exchanging smiles with a good-looking stranger who happens to work for FEMA, don’t jump to any conclusions. Just try to find out whether there are any natural disasters lurking in his or her personal life. After all, according to a recent Gallup poll, 77 percent of Americans don’t like their jobs anyway. And your date might be one of them.

Nicole Kristal has written for Newsweek and Premiere, and is a staff writer for Back Stage West newspaper.
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