Is your job a love-hate relationship? Strange 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 career and a marriage both involve hard work and require communication. If either of these items is lacking, the career or the marriage will typically break down. Here are 8 ways in which marriage and careers 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 in check, 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 rude and inconsiderate; it signals lack of interest so it’s time to move on. Your goal isn’t just to get their attention; it’s to find the one that’s right for you—and who values you.
2. The Courtship
The first date (interview) can make or break the relationship. First impressions really do count. Ask each other questions and express a genuine interest. This is when both parties lay their cards on the table. During the interview, you have to ask yourself whether you really want to spend every day in this position with this manager and these co-workers in this particular culture. Thus, 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
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 hard 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 in the spotlight and on top of the world. You’re off to a good start, eagerly trying new things, learning the ropes, and doing well. You’re the center of attention, and plenty of people – some of whom you hardly even know – wish you the best. But for those few who do not, you simply discount them as jaded or of having a negative attitude because nothing can get you down.
This is when the thrill of the honeymoon period gives way to the drudgery of the everyday routine. Sooner or later you start to realize that everything isn’t perfect. The daily activities that once enthused you now bore you. You experience setbacks and disappointments, and notice areas that could be improved. Perhaps your partner lacks initiative, slacks off, or doesn’t keep things as neat as you’d like. Maybe they don’t always listen to your opinions, recognize and appreciate your efforts, or support you as much as you’d like. Expectations begin to seem unrealistic, insignificant events are magnified out of proportion, and your motivation is dropping.
This is a vital quality to have in both a marriage and the workplace. 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 it. Career-wise, it means you have make the effort to show up on time, live up to your employer’s standards, and find solutions to problems in the workplace. As professionals, we want to make sure we improve, and we can’t improve if we don’t learn from our mistakes. Ideally, one will reach a level of acceptance of all the quirks that come with the territory in order to find a mutually satisfying relationship or job security and engagement.
7. For Better or for Worse
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.” If both parties aren’t content and resentment builds up in the relationship, the chances for success are likely to be dismal. The same can be said when it comes to employment. If you start to cut corners and produce mediocre work, it might result with your employer asking for a divorce, so to speak.
8. Together Till the End
Chances are, if your employer/partner is happy and you’re doing everything you can to live up to your potential, your job/marriage will be a long-lasting one. Confronted with challenges and changes, your relationship can either be a refuge to rely on or an additional strain. When you accept you made a mistake and make an effort to not repeat it, it shows you are not afraid to take responsibility. There may come a time when you have to throw in the towel and quit upon realizing that you are redundant and not appreciated, or you are being cheated/taken advantage of, or someone else is perceived as a better fit/ match over you. Sometimes there is a mutual consent of irreconcilable differences, while others may have a bitter contentious end. But at least you will know that you tried and gave it your best shot. Your experiences will have given you new insights into the dynamics of a successful working relationship which will help you in the future.