How to Screen Dating Partners Based on Their Career
Looking for a life partner who is compatible with both you and your career ambitions isn’t always easy. Of course, there are plenty of online dating questions to ask before meeting—like what a potential date does and whether they enjoy their work.
And you probably already know how to check someone’s career out online. What does their LinkedIn profile say about their career path? How do they interact professionally on Twitter, and what topics do they engage with?
If you’re really looking for career compatibility, here are a few other things to keep in mind.
Is It Fair to Assess Someone Based on Their Career?
Getting preoccupied with a potential partner’s career can feel shallow, or even old-fashioned, but for many people, it’s important to be aligned when it comes to income goals. It’s not just about predicting joint income, though. If you value flexibility over long-term wealth, for example, or financial security over creative fulfillment, you may want to ensure your partner feels the same way—or at least supports your ideals.
According to career coach and SoFi Member Strategy Lead Alexandra Dickinson, a person’s “career is a proxy for lifestyle, and it’s important to get aligned on what kind of lifestyle you want to have together.”
How Soon is Too Soon to Discuss Careers?
Of course, you don’t have to dive straight into the tough questions the first time you meet for drinks. After all, you’re going on a date and not conducting an interview. In fact, start off by trying to get to know each other outside of your careers. Have you ever tried to get to know someone without mentioning either of your jobs? It’s really difficult.
Try to get a sense of them as a person before diving into career stuff, and try not to use talking about work as a conversation crutch. And make sure your date knows that you’re not judging them based on their job skills; you’re genuinely curious about how they spend their workdays.
Starting a Career Conversation
Once you do start the conversation, the most important thing to keep in mind is that discussing careers can reveal much more than future earning potential. Talking through career goals can help you:
Understand a Partner’s Priorities
For example, if someone spends 60+ hours per week on their job, or travels for work frequently, you can try to find out if that’s because they prioritize work over family and leisure. They may love focusing on work first, or they may be looking for a change.
How to ask: Instead of asking about their priorities directly, ask how much time a person spends on work, and if that’s their preferred lifestyle. Also ask about their travels or time with family to get a sense of what’s most important to them.
Align Your Goals and Ambitions
If you’re a career-driven person with big goals, it doesn’t mean your partner needs to be as motivated as you. But it’s a good idea to get a sense of where they envision themselves in five or 10 years.
If they don’t have a crystal clear idea and you have specific goals for the future, you may realize you’re looking for someone with more direction. Or, if you hope to make unplanned career changes but your potential partner prioritizes stability, it’s helpful to know that going in.
How to ask: Asking for a 10-year plan could come off as aggressive, so start a conversation about dream jobs. Instead of demanding to hear their hopes and dreams off the bat, start by opening up about your career goals, and where you see your job going.
If you’re someone who wants to make a career change or go back to school, explain your motivation. If you’ve always wanted to spend a year working abroad, say so! You never know, you might find that your goals align better than you think they will.
Understand Risk Tolerance
If you’re a serial entrepreneur with goals of launching a new tech startup, you likely have a high tolerance for risk, whereas if you prefer a 9-to-5 with benefits, you may be less comfortable shouldering financial uncertainty.
Dickinson notes that “if someone’s risk tolerance is quite high and yours is quite low (or vice versa), it could mean you balance each other out well. It could also mean that there’s tension around that issue a lot.”
How to ask: Ask a date if they dream of launching their own business, or if they’ve ever taken a risk and left a relatively safe position for another, less certain opportunity.
Get a Read on Stress Tolerance Too
Just like with risk, people can tolerate varying levels of stress. If your potential partner is an emergency room nurse or firefighter and enjoys their work, they may have a high tolerance for pressure. Or perhaps they are holding down a fast-paced consulting job but falling apart from the stress.
On the surface, they seem impervious to stress, but they’re actually seeking calm. Of course, many stressors in life are unplanned, but when it comes to your career, think about your own stress tolerance and the levels you’re comfortable maintaining over an extended period.
How to ask: Ask when they’ve felt the most pressure and how they handled it. Find out if they work well under pressure or prefer a mellower work environment.
Learn More About a Partner’s Ethics and Morals
Starting a conversation about careers can also help you understand a partner’s ethics and how they’re likely to handle tough situations in and out of the office. On the surface level, find out if you can get behind the industry and company they work in, and whether they feel fulfilled in that organization.
Further, if a partner has been fired several times, learning more about why can tell you a lot. Were they on the unfortunate end of a round of layoffs, or were they let go for misconduct?
How to ask: Try keeping it lighthearted and asking what it’s like in general to work in their industry. If they’ve job-hopped, ask what drove them to it.
Of course, you’ll need to use your own judgement when broaching these topics. But, just like asking a partner if they want children, talking about career goals up front can save trouble down the line.
If the first thing you notice about someone’s career is that you wish it was a little different, you may want to reevaluate. Dickinson notes that going into a relationship thinking, “‘Okay, well, I don’t think their job is prestigious enough,’ or ‘I want them to get a better position,’ is probably going to cause more strife than anything. In a thriving relationship, you’ll influence each others’ careers over time, but it’s not a great idea to think you’re going to change someone right off the bat.”
That’s why it’s probably more important to focus on long-term goals rather than present circumstances. The easiest place to start? Add “What’s your dream career look like?” to that list of online dating questions to ask.
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