Defining the Relationship (DTR talk)

I often use the analogy of dating when discussing the steps of a career search to college age audiences as the analogy resonates with the demographic since dating is an ever-present topic in their lives.  So how are dating and applying for jobs similar?

The DTR Talk (Defining the Relationship)

“We need to talk. Where do you see this relationship going?” Of course this is usually asked during a most awkward time (after taking a huge bite of food, when you are merging onto a highway and have no escape route) and can cause sleepless nights if one is not ready for the discussion.  This question is important as it addresses the fundamental need to know if the relationship should be taken to the next level, stay at the current level, or end.  The only bad answer (trust me, from experience) is to say “I don’t know.”

You have to have an opinion.  If you are ready to explore the option of taking the relationship to the next level, it is important to spell out what the “next level” is.  Meeting parents, attending a family function as the ‘significant other’, or having a label such as ‘boyfriend’ or ‘girlfriend’ – it is necessary to ensure both parties are on the same page about the expectations.  Better to be upfront and align expectations than offer some indirect statements that send mixed messages.

If one person is not interested in advancing the relationship and the other person is, this also needs to be discussed.  Can one person wait until the other one is ready?  Does one person need an answer now?  Is the status quo okay for both parties for the time being?  Just as taking the relationship to the next level, keeping the relationship at the current level has to be agreed upon by both parties.

The third option, the DTR question can cause a relationship to end.  This is a healthy, albeit often painful, step as it puts an end to something that had no potential in the long run.  This outcome can be an individual or group decision – but unlike the others, once one party decides to end it, the relationship is dead.

Career Search DTR

During the career search, we all reach a moment where the hiring manager and applicant reach the DTR stage.  Usually the questions are along the lines of:

  • What kind of salary are you looking for?
  • What is your timeline? When would you anticipate being able to start?
  • Do you have any other offers/interviews upcoming?
  • Where do we stand in relation to other opportunities
  • When would you need an answer?
  • What are you thinking about this opportunity?
  • What would it take for you to consider an offer from us?

Many hiring managers will try to gauge whether an applicant is truly interested in the opportunity by asking some of these or similar questions.  Just as one does not want to answer “I don’t know” when dealing with the DTR talk in a personal relationship, “I don’t know” in the Career Search DTR talk will communicate a lack of interest in the employment opportunity.  Having thought through these questions will help you handle the DTR talk when it comes.  No one is asking for a firm commitment, just a sense that there is potential.

An employer and applicant could decide to keep the status quo.  For example, “We should have more information/decision in a couple of weeks.” or “I would like some time to consider our conversation.” Both are non-committal statements that allow either party to keep all options open.

And if you decide that you are not interested in continuing the relationship, as I mentioned above, that is a healthy conclusion.  It is better to realize the employment opportunity or employer is not a good fit now than six months into the job.

Be ready for the DTR talk when it comes as you don’t want to get it wrong – with your significant other or with a potential employer.  Tomorrow’s installment – Making the Commitment.


About Kevin Monahan

I have 10+ years experience in coaching clients in their career management and career change efforts. Personal career consulting services combined with employer outreach to help find opportunities for both constituents.
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One Response to Defining the Relationship (DTR talk)

  1. Pingback: Dating (beyond the first date) | Career Seeker's Guide

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