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Matchmaker, Matchmaker: An Alumna’s Labor of Love

As a professional matchmaker, psychology major Michelle Jacoby, BA ’87, uses her people skills to help D.C singles look for love in all the right places.

Professional matchmaker Michelle Jacoby, BA ’87

Professional matchmaker Michelle Jacoby, BA ’87
February 13, 2020

Michelle Jacoby, BA ’87, describes herself as a “compulsive connecter.” She’s the friend you call for a book recommendation, a restaurant tip or the number of the best dentist in town. And her top talent is connecting people. For as long as she can remember, she’s matched happy couples at her dinner parties and set up lunch dates that blossomed into long-term romances.

“It’s something I sort of instinctively know how to do—bring people together,” said Jacoby, a former psychology major. “It's a combination of listening skills, reading people and a lot of good luck with the universe.”

So when Jacoby was mulling a life change in 2009—while raising four children, she tried her hand at businesses from massage therapy to computer work—her parents suggested becoming a professional couple connector: a matchmaker.

“I thought, ‘I’m a good dater, I’m good with people. Why not give it a whirl? It might be fun,’” she laughed.

Today, Jacoby owns D.C. Matchmaking, a boutique service that brings together commitment-seeking singles in the Washington-metro area. Jacoby has been recognized as a leader in the professional dating field and, in 2017, was voted the number one matchmaker in the U.S. by her peers. She went on to co-found the industry’s nonprofit Matchmakers Alliance and has written advice columns for publications including Self and Washington Life Magazine. Her business also offers date-coaching for women seeking the secrets of relationship success, and she recently launched a friends-matching service for busy professionals who want to find a platonic pal.

“I’m very passionate about this work,” she said. “One thing that makes me a good matchmaker is that people feel comfortable with me. They open up and trust me. They know I they have their best interests at heart.”

In the Tinder age of swiping right, matchmakers may seem like a Fiddler on the Roof relic. But Jacoby largely caters to clients who have no interest in the bar scene and no time to navigate apps and online options. Working with about 20 clients at a time—80 to 90 percent are men—she matches potential partners based on preferences from physical attraction to shared values and goals. “It is a very personal, very interactive, very high level of service,” she said. The perfect match may come from her free database of 6,500 singles in the D.C. area or her voluminous address book or even someone she chats with in line at Starbucks.

Her time and talent can be pricey. A matchmaking contract runs about $15,000, while date coaching can be $10,000. Jacoby’s clients, who are mostly older but range in age from 20 to over 70, trust her to find compatible companions so her they can simply show up and enjoy their dates. It’s a task that puts Jacoby’s psychology degree to work. She often must determine what her clients are looking for even if they aren’t quite sure themselves. “People who have psychology degrees—people who are super curious about how the mind works and how people think—would enjoy what I do on daily basis,” she said.

Jacoby assures even the most dysfunctional daters that they can learn to love it. “Believe it or not, dating can actually be really enjoyable.” In addition to coaching clients on everything from clothes to conversation, she navigates them around her dating-don’t’s. First, she said, don’t over share. A first date isn’t the forum to get deeply personal about your ex, your boss or your family drama. “You don’t need to tell your whole life story over that first drink,” she said. “By the time the check comes, you’ll both be exhausted.”

Second, Jacoby advised, don’t look for chemistry—create it. Instead of expecting to be swept off your feet, relax and enjoy spending time with someone new. “Dating should be fun and playful,” she said. “You should be getting to know each other—not immediately looking for sparks to fly.”

And don’t be too quick to dismiss a date after the first encounter. One client, Jacoby recalled, was downcast after a date. “He told me he really liked this woman but he knew for a fact she didn’t like him.” When pressed him, he revealed that she had been looking over his shoulder at other men throughout dinner. But his date had a different take. She said she was just too nervous to make eye contact. Jacoby encouraged them to give it another shot—and this time look at each other. “They had a great second date,” she said, “and I danced at their wedding!”

As part of the Career Center’s Graduate School night, Psi Chi is hosting a Graduate School Panel (5:30-6:30pm in Marvin 311) as a breakout session after the plenary session (4:30-5:30pm in Marvin 309). There will be a panel of professors and current psychology graduate students, who will discuss the process or applying to graduate schools.

If you're interested in learning more about what it takes to get into graduate school in Psychology, what you need to do now to prepare, and what it's like as a graduate student and faculty member later on, this event is a great way to find out!

CCAS integrates career development focus in courses across fields

This article appeared in the April 19, 2018 issue of the Hatchet.

MEDIA CREDIT: MAX WANG | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Christina Gee, an associate professor of clinical and community psychology, incorporated alumni visits into her class as part of new courses focused on career development in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.

Students in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences can now work on their resumes and get career advice while taking classes in subjects like geography or music.

CCAS piloted six courses this academic year focused on career development in subjects ranging from biology and geography to psychology and music. The courses integrate skills like resume writing and networking into class discussions and assignments, which students said will give them a leg up as they pursue careers with a liberal arts degree.

CCAS Dean Ben Vinson said the courses were offered to connect classroom learning with professional development skills. After receiving student evaluations from the courses at the end of this semester, he said administrators will review the classes and may change offerings ahead of the fall semester.

“In collaboration with GW Career Services, the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences was pleased to introduce to our students this year a handful of courses meant to embody the pedagogy of the ‘engaged liberal arts,’ which we see as connecting scholarship and the theoretical realm with practice-oriented learning enterprises and professional development,” he said in an email.

Similar to dean’s seminars and sophomore colloquia, the “engaged liberal arts courses” are small seminar courses only available to sophomores and juniors to help them learn skills and establish a structured career path earlier in college, according to a University release last month.

The University has launched several initiatives to boost career services in recent years – like expanding career coaches to the Mount Vernon Campus and establishing a platform to professionally connect students and alumni. The Elliott School of International Affairs will launch a mandatory first-year course focusing on leadership and career skills next fall.

Elizabeth Chacko, the CCAS associate dean for undergraduate studies and a professor of geography and international affairs, taught one of the courses – Migrants and the City – this semester, which focuses on immigration flow into cities. Chacko said she worked with career services to incorporate professional development modules into her course, including a career strength assessment test, a resume writing lesson and information about jobs and internships in each student’s specific field.

“We felt that students should get professional development support earlier and not wait until senior year to start thinking about jobs and how to position oneself best for a career in a field,” Chacko said.

Christina Gee, an associate professor of clinical and community psychology, said her clinical psychology course this semester was the “perfect place” to allow students to learn about careers in the field. She said there was a section in the syllabus stating the course will integrate classroom learning with experiential learning and career development.

“I think oftentimes students do not see the relevance of their courses for their future,” Gee said. “We wanted to provide tangible skills that students would take away from this course regardless of whether they would eventually go into clinical psychology as a profession.”

She said she worked with career services to plan her course and has invited alumni to discuss their work in the psychology field with the class. Earlier this semester, her class also visited the American Psychological Association, an organization that represents psychologists in the United States, where students learned about potential career options.

“Many students who are seniors have told me that they wish they could have had this class earlier in their careers,” she said. “The students who are earlier in their undergraduate career are learning more about themselves and gaining a better understanding of their own values and how those may align with future careers.”

McManus said offering more career-focused courses allows students to spend time building a resume and working closely with a career coach.

“Engaged liberal arts courses allow students to see life past college,” he said. “It enables students to be successful outside the classroom and become engaged in the community of study that they focus on.”

Sophomore Carley Christerson, who took a Public History course this fall, said students were given opportunities to meet with a former top-level National Security Agency employee and visit places like the National Archives and Office of Historian at the State Department.

Students took personality tests to discover how their skill sets would translate in a workplace environment during the course, she said.

“Even though, as a history major, these assignments weren’t exactly enjoyable or what I had expected to get out of a history course, I realize how valuable some of these resources were,” she said. “I’m also much more likely to go to the career center for help or career advice.”

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