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Bullish: How Business Is a Lot Like Dating

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Business is a lot like dating. Like cold-hearted, competitive dating among people who don't love each other, but rather are using each other for mutual, albeit temporary, ends.

Once upon a time, when I was considering moving to New York, I looked for jobs. A Director of Marketing position was available at a company I'll call QuixoticIdea.Com. I was an unconventional candidate -- I'd never held a "real job," but had run a company for five years despite my relative youth -- so I wrote directly to the CEO and pitched myself.

This resulted in a phone interview in which I gave a lot of free marketing advice.

I followed up, implying that I was coming to New York "anyway," and would the CEO like to meet? He agreed. I packed my best pinstripe outfit (paired with the black heels I wore to prom!), and spent half my net worth on gas to get to the interview. Again, the CEO asked me really detailed questions. He wrote down my answers on a legal pad. I thought it went well.

I drove back home and waited... and waited. I sent polite emails. Nothing.

I moved to the city anyway. I was now really, really broke. But I got a third "interview." In a park. Who does an "interview" in a park? Someone who wants to make it very clear that We Are Keeping It Casual. He came prepared with extremely specific questions about marketing his company. I realized that I was being booty-called... for my mind.

QuixoticIdea wasn't about to commit. I tried to put the company out of my mind. Maybe see other companies. Maybe I didn't need a company at all! Maybe I'd be my own company.

It's not that hard to start a company -- a service company, anyway -- with no cash. On Craigslist, I found a company willing to barter desk space, WiFi, phone, and the use of their mailing address, in exchange for marketing assistance. This arrangement also had the added benefit of allowing me to claim my first client.

Once I had settled into this comfortable marriage of convenience, I contacted QuixoticIdea. "Hi there, CEO! Just want to let you know I've opened up MyNewCompany!"

Of course, everybody wants you once you're already taken. I wish that I had Jessie's girl, you know?

I had a job offer two days later. The CEO literally said, "Wow, when we heard you'd started your own company, we realized we really needed to lock you down!" He asked for a proposal (ha ha, "proposal").

From this storied relationship, I learned that everybody wants you more when they think you're in demand. Start a company, get clients through barter or friends and family, and make yourself look like a sought-after expert in the field.

Also, don't respond to a professional booty call more than once. The first one's free. After that, try something like, "It seems like we're moving from something like a casual networking relationship to more of a client-service provider relationship. Would you like to meet for coffee or a drink to talk about how this could work?" You buy the drinks. But then they pay you for your work and ideas.

And finally, if you're already in a 9-to-5, look for a new company before you're going to need one. While it's not nice to advertise your awesomeness as a potential mate whilst you are in a relationship, it's smart to do exactly that while you're in a job. After all, your employer is totally seeing other employees.

Jennifer Dziura runs GetBullish.com, which provides "aggressive lady-advice" for young, ambitious women. The Bullish Conference takes place annually in Miami.

Based on material originally published on TheGloss.