CarrieParker-CareerContessa-coverCarrie-Parker
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Carrie Parker didn’t always believe in matchmakers. But as someone who has been perpetually fascinated by human relationships, and who boasts a keen interest in the science of a first date, she was the perfect candidate for the job. Now, as the resident courtship authority at Tawkify, she spends her days setting up dates, meeting with clients and trading tips with other professionals in the business. When you’re looking for the perfect match, this is a woman you want on your side.

But let’s rewind. After applying to graduate school and being waitlisted, Carrie turned a setback into an opportunity. She took a job at Richmond Magazine, working a variety of different positions and ultimately loved the focus on culture that it brought into her life. But Carrie knew that she wanted something a little more tailored to her social psychology background. A posting for an apprenticeship at Tawkify offered the chance to turn a recreational love for love into a professional one.

In this day and age, it’s no secret that the dating world is a difficult one to navigate. Thanks to the availability of more dating websites than we can count, it can be overwhelming simply to find someone to ask out! Carrie does all of the legwork for her clients and, thanks to her dedication to helping people, she’s the perfect person to do so. Today, Carrie shares how she got started, plus she offers an insider’s scoop on what constitutes a successful relationship. Read the full story below

copy: Beatrice Helman
photos: Mallory Benedict

Her Starting Point

Many people find the transition between college and “real life” a bit daunting. Can you tell us about your journey between the two? What was your first job post-college?

I graduated in the midst of the economic fall-out and can remember staring down the barrel of two options: a corporate recruiting position with a large company, or work as a teaching assistant with a very small Montessori primary school. I went with the Montessori school. Little did I know that this would be my first job in a startup. I came on to round out the staff to three, and wore many hats, eventually piloting unique programs and learning a lot about business basics.

The Director went on to sell her school to a franchise, as many owners do. I had the quintessential Quarter Life Crisis and went back to school for Speech Language Pathology. Much to my dismay, I was waitlisted into two graduate programs. It was a difficult time—a lack of available jobs sent many graduates back into school, so the competition was stiff. I postponed the idea of going back to school, and instead accepted a position at Richmond Magazine. I worked front desk, subscriptions, administrative, accounts—again, a “Jane of All Trades” position. I was elated to be working in a position that allowed me to have my finger on the pulse of the city. I knew about every new restaurant, event and festival in Richmond that year. But I still longed for a position that involved more creative thinking and that, more specifically, utilized my degree.

When Tawkify co-Founder and Elle Magazine Columnist, E. Jean Carroll did the social media all-page requesting an individual to serve as a “matchmaking apprentice,” I had no idea what that was, but I knew I was it. I immediately leapt at the opportunity, and drafted what E. Jean calls “the craziest email” (which is entirely true—I certainly didn’t play it safe when I detailed why my own history of a billion dates made me the perfect matchmaker). No risk, no reward! After a round of Skype interviews, I found myself in over my head with a second full-time position. I ended up working for six months at Richmond Magazine during the day, and then Tawkify at night. I don’t miss those days at all.

I still reflect on how incredibly close I was to pursuing Speech Language Pathology—I would never have found Tawkify and I would not have been a Matchmaker. It solidifies that “failure” should never be seen as such. There is no failure. There is only learning and opportunity.

How did your background in social psychology help land you your current role as a Professional Matchmaker at Tawkify?

As a matchmaker, having a background in Psychology, particularly Social Psychology, is invaluable. A solid portion of my job is counseling. People open up to me about their love lives, looking for answers and guidance. And when it comes to matching, I’m armed with research about attraction and relationships that help explain courtship behavior and patterns. I’m always keeping up to date with contemporary academic studies as it pertains to courtship and relationships.

What drew you to the matchmaking sector? How did you know it would be a good fit?

I have always been passionate about human relationships and connections. In high school, I knew I was going to go to college to study Psychology. When given the opportunity, I would write my Psychology papers about attraction and relationship concepts and theory. I will never get enough of it. I am always trying to stay up to date on recent academic studies. Finding a professional career that applied this love of relationships and interaction seemed unobtainable. Instead, I pursued it recreationally, constantly meddling in the love lives of friends and co-workers.

What life experience prepared you for this role? Do you ever use your own dating history as a sort of guide? If so, in what ways?

In 2010, as part of that quarter life crisis, I started writing down all my dating experiences. Hot off the heels of a long-term relationship, I realized I had done very little dating. That, combined with the fact that I wasn’t in the market for anything serious, allowed me to enjoy a healthy dating life. I sought to demystify the process of the first date, and examine contemporary courtship. That sounds awfully clinical but, of course, I enjoyed myself and developed connections with people along the way. It was a period of time where I allowed myself to say “yes” to most of the opportunities that presented themselves, because why not?

Ultimately, I loved dating. I loved the good dates, the bad dates, the ugly dates—all of them! I’ve made all of the mistakes along the way! If you look back at my Twitter or my Facebook, I lamented that Date Coach and Matchmaker weren’t real professions (I thought it was all vanity/reality TV stuff) because I wanted to be just that. I frequently draw upon my own experiences, but I remain aware that people have differing, unique relationship experiences that have molded them into their current incarnation of a dater. Everyone has their story, and I want to hear it.

Her Big Break

How does your job work exactly? Was that first match nerve wracking? Has it gotten easier since? 

I’m a courtship concierge! I meet every single who is open to meeting other intriguing singles. When I have two singles who seem like a great fit, I throw them together for a signature rendezvous—no dinner or coffee dates allowed. After I’ve sent them out on their date, I follow up with both parties to get the hot gossip. If they both had a superb time, I’ll give them each other’s contact information. If not, I put them back into the matching machine.

The first match as a professional was wild! It went well, the two connected for a second date, but I learned very quickly that this was not going to be a job that I would ever do half-heartedly. I care about my clients. I want them to have good dates. They’ve given me stake in their love lives! It’s incredibly personal.

My resources have increased, my workflow has streamlined, I have learned along the way—but matchmaking will always be a position that keeps me on my toes. I have a vested interest in the success of my clients, and because of that, I will always work fairly diligently to make them solid matches.

You currently live in Richmond, VA. Can you describe the social scene there? What’s your favorite type of date to coordinate in this artsy, eclectic city?

Richmond is unique. It’s multifaceted enough that there’s

something for everyone, but small enough that the efforts of creative and driven individuals don’t go unnoticed. Many of the residents have been here since birth, so it can be a challenge designing dates that make their hometown feel new. 

The dates I design for Richmond may take the participants to a familiar place, but will provide them with a new and unique experience. Most everyone has been to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, but significantly fewer have used materials from the VMFA cafe to recreate a Faberge egg (the person with the winning egg, as selected by a server, is treated to a beverage of choice). The foundation for an amazing date is here, I simply brainstorm refreshing twists to the old favorites. 

If we had the chance to peek at your schedule, what would an average day look like? 

I wake up, leisurely saunter out of bed and drink coffee until I have my wits about me. Matchmaking without wits is pointless. You won’t make anyone happy. I read three emails where someone has had “something come up” and must reschedule their date. I make the necessary arrangements. I meet for a consultation over lunch. We pour over her lifestyle, dating history and what constitutes her expectations of a partner. After we part ways, I dash to keep a phone interview with a woman I’m considering as a match for a client. After my chat, I peruse LinkedIn for suitable matches for my intelligent, worldly, Miami transplant. I message 10 people, four write back, two are married, but flattered. I post on Facebook and Twitter that I am in need of a “mid 30s female in the Richmond area who loves the outdoors and bacon.” I brainstorm with my fellow matchmakers in New York and San Francisco via video conference. We laugh about the absurdity of any mishaps of the week.

Then, I pick up the phone and quell one client’s fear that she is too desperate. I coach another client who has never been on a date. I text yet another client to confirm that the evening’s match is on. I get a text back from said client that he is running five minutes late to meet his date. I text his date that he is running five minutes late. I get a post-mortem email that reads he had an amazing time with his match. I exhale, lie down and wonder if I will finally sink that match for Miami tomorrow.

In our fast-paced world, it can be difficult to stay ahead of the game. So how is Tawkify different? What sets it apart from other dating websites/apps? 

One recent study claims that the average online dater spends 12 hours a week searching and messaging potential matches online (Dunn, Norton). That’s a part-time job. People are exhausted by the inefficiency of online dating. So they come to me.

People who have highly sensitive professions with a need for discretion will come to me. People who continually date the wrong partners will come to me for some new perspective. I’m a human. I will listen to what your dating life is like, nail down your particular challenges and help you overcome them. I will save you time, effort and introduce you to people I’ve vet specifically for you.

I’m bridging the gap between the rapidly changing online and mobile dating scene and those who are looking for a more traditional, organic experience. The dating game can and will change rapidly—I’m here to stay on top of those changes on behalf of my clients.

Her Perspective 

In your experience, what are the components of a successful relationship?

Passion, compassion and balance.

Balance between people’s strengths and weaknesses in interpersonal relationships is essential. I think this might be where the concept of “opposites attract” derives from (spoiler alert: research has told us that opposites do not attract). What you need is not an opposite, but rather someone who picks you up where you falter. People will come to me seeking their clone counterpart, when in actuality they need someone who rounds out their life. 

For example, if you are a power extrovert who can work a room and make conversation with even the dullest of patrons, a partner who is as or more extroverted than you are, is not a complement to you. You need someone who can happily hang while you schmooze, supporting you and highlighting your strengths as a super socialite. Seek out complementary partners as opposed to competitive partners. 

For the women who want it all—the job and the relationship—what advice would you give to them for striking a balance? What trends have you noticed with women in the workplace and the effect, if any, on relationships? 

It’s as simple as making time for the things you want. Everyone is busy. Everyone. If you want a relationship, you will find a way—you will make time. That’s how I can tell people are ready to be in a relationship. They will actively make time in their schedule for dating. Most women are juggling their career, the gym, friendships, family and hobbies. Often times they’re forced to pick between putting in extra hours in the office, getting in a run before dark or winding down with a glass of wine with friends. Or maybe even a date. There is no right or wrong answer. It’s entirely up to the woman. At the end of the day, you only have so much free time, and it’s up to you how you spend it. Do what makes you happy. If you’re happy, everything else will fall in line.

Talk to us about TEDxRVAWomen—how are you involved? For those unfamiliar, can you give us the basic gist of the conference and its goals? 

TEDxRVAWomen, the first independently organized TEDxWomen event in the region, hosted 14 live speakers from the Richmond area and streamed a single session from the live webcast of TEDWomen from San Francisco. The thematic narrative “Invented Here” allowed women of the Richmond area to discuss a wide range of topics that affect our community. The community of TEDxRVAWOMEN was so supportive, welcoming and brilliant. The crew, coaches, sponsors and speakers worked tirelessly and it resulted in a full day of inspirational lectures, highlighting the fact that women are executing important research, projects and ideas right here in our own city. I’m still stunned that I was invited to participate in such a hallmark event.

And finally, what do you wake up looking forward to? What’s next for your career? 

Every day I’m presented with opportunity. I’m still in a phase in life where career can come first, and I love it. I’m hungry. I want to innovate and develop creative solutions to some of the most fundamental dating woes. I want my clients to get into happy, healthy relationships. I want to project enthusiasm and hope onto wilted and overwhelmed singles.

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