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Work & Purpose

The 6 Job Search Lessons I Learned as Mother of the Bride

Arranging a wedding was surprisingly enlightening for this career expert


Our oldest daughter Danielle was married earlier this summer in Westport, Conn., a beautiful June day marked by celebration, heartfelt toasts and more than a few joyful tears. As the mother of the bride, I worked closely with Danielle and her now-husband Steve to plan the big day. What I hadn’t expected: the process taught me six lessons about getting a job.

That sounds like an odd juxtaposition, no? Let me explain, and then cue you into the lessons which could help you during your next job search.

To make Danielle’s wedding memorable and ideal, we spent hours evaluating all kinds of vendors, including prospective florists, bands and photographers. It was the most “hiring” I’d done since my days working in corporate HR.

As we vetted dozens of service providers, the experience gave me a fresh perspective on why some people easily win a job — and others don’t.

6 Lessons and Tips for Job Hunters

Here are the six lessons I learned as mother of the bride and my related job search tips:

1. Referrals are key. As soon as the wedding planning began in earnest, I realized I needed help. So I picked up the phone, called family and friends, and asked for their recommendations. People eagerly shared their suggestions and it didn’t take long before we had a solid list to work with.

Your personal brand (what you do especially well) sets you apart from other job seekers.

We didn’t end up selecting everyone on the initial list — pricing, location and availability influenced our decisions — but the referrals I got were the first people I called and considered.

Job Search Tip: Having a personal referral is, by far, the single best way to land a job these days. So get serious about telling your network that you’re open to new opportunities. Meet with people over coffee, make connections at industry conferences and use LinkedIn to find people who work at your target employers. Some companies offer referral bonuses to employees, so your connections might be happy to refer you once they know you’re serious about making a change.

2. A compelling USP (unique selling proposition) makes you stand out. All the florists we considered had beautiful portfolios and strong recommendations, but we selected a relatively new florist because we were impressed by the owners’ unique story. Maple and Mum Florist is run by a mother-daughter team who are committed to working with local Connecticut farmers to source their organic flowers. Their website does a beautiful job explaining their philosophy and that made us want to learn more.

Job Search Tip: Your personal brand (what you do especially well) sets you apart from other job seekers. So, figure out what makes you a compelling job search candidate and then use sites like LinkedIn.com to convey your story and attract the attention of recruiters.

3. It pays to get to know others in your field. Many of our vendors had worked on jobs together before and were eager to have the chance to do so again. As a result, our wedding venue person recommended the wedding cake baker; the photographer gave us the names of several florists and the hotel staffer suggested a limo company.

Job Search Tip: People in your industry will often be your single best source of job leads. That’s why it pays become a go-to person in yours by attending or speaking at conferences and by writing for trade publications.

4. Show interest in your prospective employer to help you win the work. I was shocked by the number of vendors who were great at telling us about their services but neglected to ask what we wanted. One reason I selected our photographer was because she expressed a genuine interest in learning about Danielle and Steve.

Among the questions she asked: What was their vision for the wedding? How did they meet? Did they have any pets? By asking good questions — and listening carefully to the responses — she gave us confidence that her photographs would capture their unique personality on their special day.

Job Search Tip: When you go to job interviews, be sure to ask the interviewers about their experience with the employers. Some examples: Why do they enjoy working there? What do they see as the major challenges their employer faces? People appreciate being asked about their experiences and opinions. Doing so can help you establish a strong rapport and make you a more likeable job candidate.

5. Be prepared for generational differences. Danielle and I managed to avoid the dramatic conflicts that often come with wedding planning, but our generational divide did cause a few minor differences of opinion.

For example, I requested that guests put their cell phones away during the ceremony, but Danielle wanted them to be able to take pictures to post on social media. We compromised: Guests were asked to silence their phones, but we said nothing about taking photos. At the time, I wasn’t thrilled by the compromise. But now, I’m happy we have a few candid shots to enjoy while we await the professional photos.

Job Search Tip: Older job applicants are bound to deal with generational differences during their search. A younger prospective hiring manager might prefer connecting via text rather than email, for instance. Be prepared to boost your tech awareness to show you’re comfortable working alongside a generation raised on smart phones.

6. Remember that budgets are budgeable. A wedding can be an expensive proposition. And we tried hard to stick to a budget. But there were a few instances when we stretched in order to hire a vendor we really wanted. We don’t regret that decision.

Job Search Tip: Our experience increasing the budget has a parallel with employers and salaries. Don’t assume a company or nonprofit  won’t sweeten a job offer for the right candidate. Employers will almost always pay more for people they want, especially in today’s hot job market.

Nancy Collamer
By Nancy Collamer
Nancy Collamer, M.S., is a semi-retirement coach, speaker and author of Second-Act Careers: 50+ Ways to Profit From Your Passions During Semi-Retirement. You can now download her free workbook called 25 Ways to Help You Identify Your Ideal Second Act on her website at MyLifestyleCareer.com (and you'll also receive her free bi-monthly newsletter).

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