What job do you do in your relationship? Applying a marketing strategy to real life

With some unfortunate double-meanings

My partner discovered the jobs-to-be-done concept in Clayton Christensen’s book How Will You Measure Your Life?. Afterwards she asked me an excellent question:

I had to think about it. I hadn’t thought about it, and applying this approach to relationships was a new idea. What job does one hire a partner for? (I tried to generalise the question at first to give myself time to think. It’s not the kind of question you want to answer incorrectly.)

Jobs-to-be-Done refresher

Jobs-to-be-Done is a concept which directs you to think about the outcome someone is trying to achieve (i.e. the what), rather than the method they might use to achieve it (i.e. the how).

Two popular examples of jobs-to-be-done:

Quote Investigator traces this sentiment back to 1946. The gist is that people don’t buy a drill because they want a drill; they just want holes. If you just talk about how good the drill is — but don’t talk about how it makes holes — you’re not helping deliver what the customer wants.

Photo by Mushon Tamir on Unsplash

Example #2: The job of a McDonalds milkshake (Video | Text). Christensen’s research team asked people what “job” they “hired” a McDonald’s milkshake to do — trying to discover why people bought milkshakes before 10am, and therefore how to sell more of them. The “job” was to relieve the boredom of a long drive to work; and the attributes they valued were that they could do it one-handed (oh dear, between this and just wanting a hole… I promise this is a clean topic!), it lasted a long time (😆), and they didn’t feel guilty afterwards (😊). Other times, instead of hiring a milkshake to do the job, they might have hired a banana, or a bagel, or a Snickers bar, but they each had drawbacks.

(Incidentally, I use my drill as a screwdriver more often than a hole-maker. I don’t want to make holes so much as put things in h…😶 oh goodness, I had better move on.)

“Now hiring” sign
“Now hiring” sign
Photo by Free To Use Sounds on Unsplash

I assist the “job” of going places and doing fun things. Now that I know that, I know that a positive attitude is important, as well as having the time and money, and doing some planning and driving.

So what job did I hire my partner to do? I would say it’s inspiring me to be better. Challenging me and taking me on adventures out of my comfort zone. The attributes I care about are that I respect and admire her values and achievements, and so it’s a challenge to impress her — but when I do it’s meaningful to me that she’s impressed. At the same time supporting me and making me feel cared for.

Silhouette of a couple in front of a landscape of desert and snow-capped mountain peaks
Silhouette of a couple in front of a landscape of desert and snow-capped mountain peaks
An adventure to San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.

The type of partner I “hired” before we met was different. Back then I was just having fun, and was probably looking for someone who made me feel good, rather than inspiring me to become better.

Looking back with that job in mind, I think it’s clear I have made some bad hires. Or was a bad boss. Probably both. 😐

Jobs change. But knowing what your job-to-be-done is could help you know what to look for in a partner, and how you test for the right attributes in your potential hires.

Are you hiring someone for companionship? Fun times? Sexy times? Intelligent conversations? Adventures? Stability? Financial support? Emotional support? To make you feel adored? Attractive? Funny? Listened to? To solve problems? To raise your status? To raise your spirits?

If you’re filling that “morning commute” hole 🙊, you can make your milkshake more viscous, less sugary, with added oats and vitamins and superfoods.

Or maybe decide you don’t want to be that. Maybe you don’t want to do the job of distracting from work and traffic. Maybe you’d rather be the afternoon milkshake — a signal that the day is nearly over and the fun times are soon to begin. Bad for you? Sure. But sweet, rich, and

Billboard featuring a McDonald’s milkshake and the slogan “Painfully Thick”, edited to add “Recruiting Now” underneath
Billboard featuring a McDonald’s milkshake and the slogan “Painfully Thick”, edited to add “Recruiting Now” underneath
Art and photo by t.wat

What job do you do in your relationship? And what are you hiring a partner for?

I work with startups, teach entrepreneurship, and freelance in improv and leadership coaching.

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