Is your job a love-hate relationship? Crazy as it may seem, there are many parallels between a marriage and career. That’s why career coaching is a lot like marriage counseling. A job and a marriage both have one main function and many benefits. They each depend on teamwork, communication, and commitment. If any of these critical requirements is lacking, the career or the marriage will typically break down. Here are 8 ways in which a marriage and career are similar.
1. The Attraction
Job recruiting is like dating; one person pursues the other. Either you apply for a job at the organization, or they search for you, or you might even use the services of a matchmaker (recruitment agency). Whether job hunting or dating, it’s never a good idea to be so desperate that you settle for the first one that comes along. Keep your ego under control, be honest about who you are, and don’t badmouth your exes. Also remember, if your calls aren’t being returned, you need to realize that this silence is not only impolite, it signals a lack of interest; so that means it’s time to move on. Your goal isn’t just to get their attention; it’s to find the right one for you—one who values you.
2. The Courtship
The first date (interview) can make or break the relationship. First impressions really do count. Ask questions and express a genuine interest. If the first meeting is successful, there may be subsequent ones in which you attempt to win over the person or persuade them to hire you. Once things get serious, it’s time for both parties to lay their cards on the table. At this point, it’s important to ask yourself whether you really want to spend every day in this position with this person in this particular culture. Like first dates, job interviews often end up with the parties not feeling mutually compatible, although sometimes there’s that rare occasion of “love at first sight.”
3. The Contract
Just like a marriage certificate, a job is sanctioned by a legally binding employment contract entered into by two parties who are properly informed and in their right minds. You’re offering something of value – yourself – and they’re offering something in return. In both cases, the parties promise to be loyal to each other with no conflicts of interest. There are also implied roles to be played and expectations of working to maintain the relationship with mutual trust, respect, and communication.
4. The Honeymoon
This is the period when everything is new and exciting. You’re off to a great start, learning the ropes, and eagerly trying different things. You’re in the spotlight, the center of attention. Plenty of people – some of whom you hardly even know – wish you the best. For those few who do not, you simply discount them as being jaded or jealous, because you’re on top of the world and nothing can get you down.
Sooner or later, the thrill of the honeymoon period gives way to the drudgery of the everyday routine. The daily activities that once enthused you now bore you, and you begin to realize that everything isn’t perfect. Expectations may seem unrealistic and insignificant events are magnified out of proportion. You experience disappointments and setbacks, and notice areas that could be improved. A common element that breaks down work teams and interpersonal relationships is an imbalance in how much each member contributes. Perhaps your partner lacks initiative, slacks off, or doesn’t keep things as neat as you’d like. Maybe the other person doesn’t communicate well; he or she doesn’t always listen to your opinions, appreciate your efforts, or support you as much as you’d like. Your motivation may be dropping if you feel that you give more than you receive. At this point you can take the initiative to remedy the situation, be resentful and start to hold back, or consider alternatives such as seeking wise counsel.
Commitment is a vital quality to have in any serious relationship. In a study by UCLA psychologists, 172 married couples were asked about their level of commitment. They found that “the couples in which both people were willing to make sacrifices… were significantly more likely to have lasting and happy marriages.” Taking your job seriously, as you would a marriage, is a great mindset to have when you’re employed. So while you find yourself struggling to accept the differences in interests and expectations, you rally yourself to make an effort and grow from the experience. Career-wise, it means you show up on time, live up to your employer’s standards, and find solutions to problems in the workplace. Ideally, one will reach a level of acceptance of all the quirks that come with the territory in order to find a mutually satisfying marriage and career.
7. For Better or for Worse
Confronted with challenges, your partnership can either be a strength or an additional strain. According to Work It Daily, “We all make mistakes, even if they’re small ones. However, whether or not we decide to learn from them is what determines if our relationships – romantic or professional – continue to have a future. It’s easier to cling to the past or become hostile or even withdraw and avoid resolving issues. However, not learning from your mistakes not only shows that you’re not paying attention, but it also shows a lack of care for the job/relationship.” When you admit you’ve made a mistake and promise to not repeat it, it shows that you’re not afraid to take responsibility and that you want to improve. On the other hand, if you keep cutting corners and producing mediocre work, it might result in your employer asking for a divorce, so to speak.
8. Together Till the End
To be successful on the job or in a marriage means always putting forth a sincere effort and growing in knowledge, skill, and effectiveness. As long as both you and your employer/partner are satisfied and doing everything possible to resolve problems, your job/marriage will be a lasting one. However, if neither party is content and resentment builds up, the chances for marriage success or job security will likely be poor. Sadly, there may come a time when you have to throw in the towel upon realizing the situation is never going to get better. Perhaps you are being cheated or taken advantage of, or someone else is perceived as a better fit, making you redundant. Sometimes there is a mutual consent of irreconcilable differences, while other times it may come to a bitter contentious end. But at least you will know that you tried and worked hard to give it your best shot. Your experience will have provided valuable insight into the dynamics of interpersonal relationships, which will surely help you in the future.