Life and career are intimately intertwined. We can try to keep them as separate as possible, but the fact remains that it is an impossible task. Our daily work life directly effects our life outside of work and vice versa. Instead of ignoring this connection, we all need to be aware how each side can cause issues for the other.
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When I am doing a one-to-one career consult with a client, I like to let them lead the conversation. I ask them directly what issues or questions are foremost in their mind. This usually leads to complaints or worries about their boss, their company and their work. As we talk further, though, more personal information comes to the fore. Perhaps they are having trouble with their family, their spouse or their children. Maybe their health is compromised in some way. What always surprises me, is how little they think these issues effect their work life. Any of these problems can have great impact on their work and collectively they can result in large challenges to their career.
Taking these consults as an example, I want to offer some advice on how you can better understand the impact of general life issues on your career and how you can work with them to improve both. If you focus on just one one side of the equation, you can feel frustrated and any attempts to change your life may seem futile. It need not be, though. Instead you need to look at the issues from a more holistic perspective.
A common theme I hear when consulting with people is that they are feeling trapped in their career. They don’t like their work, but everyone around them, from their boss to their spouse to the rest of the their family is telling them they shouldn’t leave their job. In fact, I often hear the phrase, “you should feel lucky to have a job.” These life pressures can cause you to make some very bad decisions about your career.
You should never stay in a job you hate for any reason and anyone who suggests it needs to be questioned as to their motives. In most cases, your spouse and family are simply afraid. They are afraid you will never find another job — ever — and pass this fear on to you. In many cases, they don’t believe in “building the career you deserve” but instead that work is only meant to be tolerated until retirement arrives. This is a common viewpoint, but one that I wish would be abandoned. If you were able to get your current job, then you should be able to get another — even better — job. You should never make the decision to change jobs lightly, but neither should you be dissuaded from it when it makes the most sense for you.
Be aware of your family’s attitudes, bias and fears. Listen to their advice and then make the best decision for you.
A disinterested third party
Both in my own life — and in my career consulting — I have learned that we can all benefit from consulting a “disinterested third party” when we are trying to make large life and career decisions. When someone is discussing their career with me, they are free of the “baggage” of family and spousal relationships. Since I am not directly related to them, I am able to focus on their needs, their career, their success. When talking with family members, your needs can get overwhelmed by the needs of others. You can end up making the best decisions that please your family instead of decisions that please — or best benefit — you. It is a common trap that stunts many careers. It is at times like this you need to seek out your most understanding friend or a professional consultant to make sure you are seeing the situation clearly and making the best decision for you, your life and career.
Life and career are inextricably linked. You can’t effect one without effecting the other. In fact, you will often find that addressing and solving issues in your life can directly help to solve issues in your career and vice versa. Taking these issues together, as a whole, can be a great way to build the career you deserve.