How To Grow a Career and a Relationship
You want it all.
Perhaps you want that next-level promotion, or you aspire to turn your side hustle into a dreamy full-time business… All the while, you want to build or maintain a beautiful relationship, am I right?
Sounds like a modern fairy tale come true.
In order to make these things happen, you will likely have a long list of to-dos as well as an action plan to get there. But did you consider that what might be the most important aspect of your career to focus on, isn’t in your computer or at the office?
In fact, the most impactful career choice you ever make isn’t what degree you pursue or where you choose to live, it is who you marry, according to world-famous business leaders such as Warren Buffet and Sheryl Sandberg.
While you might love to cuddle up with your partner after a long workday or go on a tropical adventure together, it can be hard to see why this choice would be so critical for, of all things, your career path. The truth is, people who have a supportive spouse are more likely to make bolder decisions and pursue greater opportunities in their careers. Having each other as cheerleaders at home, helping one another remain focused, or being willing to pick up the slack around the house for the other person, could be just what you need to spark your career growth together.
So how can you improve your current relationship, or prepare for your future relationship, with your career in mind?
I recently sat down with SoFi members, Jeff and Andrea, to discuss how they have managed to successfully grow their career — and a healthy marriage. While there are many ways to do this, we focused on three areas that have moved the needle the furthest in their careers and relationship.
Focus on balance in your relationship.
Fostering a healthy relationship is challenging, and the odds are stacked against you. In the U.S, 40-50% of marriages end in divorce, and if you are a woman with a CEO or higher level promotion, you’re twice as likely to be divorced 3 years after your promotion. One of the best ways to avoid becoming one of these statistics is by focusing on balance within your relationship, and your life.
You may think the term balance means each partner is equally contributing 50/50, but that isn’t always possible, especially if you are both working towards lofty career goals. Balance could look like one partner offering 90% for a few months while you can only bring 10%, and then understanding that at some point in time that balance will shift.
From talking with Jeff and Andrea, Jeff has taken a step back from his full-time job to pursue a pilot’s license. While this has put more pressure on Andrea’s career to support them, they both knew it would be temporary and would set them up for far more success in the future.
Balance within a relationship looks like supporting one another to achieve and attain your individual life goals, as well as those you have as a couple. If you are looking to build more balance in your relationship, here are a few actions you can take:
• Create goals together, and apart: Have a goal session where you open up about your career goals, and then share how reaching this dream will impact your individual career, and your relationship together. During this conversation, consider what goals you want to reach as a couple, and then get curious about how you can each contribute in your own way.
• Maintain your sense of self: Having a balanced relationship isn’t just about balance between the two of you, it’s also about having balance between your relationship and the rest of your life. Engage in activities that you independently enjoy, and then come back and share this experience with your partner.
• Establish boundaries: The further you stray from your boundaries, the more unbalanced you will feel. Set clear lines between what you are willing to do for each other, and what is simply too much. There’s a difference between bending and breaking — strive to bend, not to break. If you are willing to do the dishes and cook dinner three nights a week while your partner stays late at the office, that’s great — but perhaps four or five nights is too much. You must communicate where your line is. In order to honor your partner, you need to first and foremost, honor yourself.
Communicate about money.
No one is talking about money…and it’s hurting us. The average American is currently $6,270 in debt with 45.5% of families carrying some form of debt. This is a hard pill to swallow, and one most couples avoid discussing at all costs. And yet, words unsaid tend to become a problem. For the majority of people, money is the last topic they want to breach during a conversation…some would even rather openly discuss sex than their debt. In fact, 34% of couples (married or not) couldn’t identify how much money the other person makes. With all this said, it’s to no surprise money (or lack of communication thereof) is one of the main reasons couples split.
If your spending styles and views on money are out of alignment, it can be difficult to thrive together both personally and professionally. So make the decision to breach the topic of spending and finances with your partner. Between Jeff and Andrea, Jeff was more of the spender, while Andrea loved the thrill of saving. Now, they help balance each other out, yet in the beginning had to navigate honoring their unique styles of spending.
If you feel stuck in how to communicate about money, especially if you are looking to make a career shift that could alter your income or go in on a large purchase such as higher education, don’t avoid the conversation. Approach your partner and perhaps say something like, “I would really like to sit down and talk about a financial decision with you. When is a good time?” This gives them the heads up without forcing a conversation on them if they are otherwise engaged.
Once you have a time set in place, here are a few tips to communicate about money, as well as other topics to discuss in order to set yourself up for success:
• Allowance: Yes, give each other an allowance. Set a dollar amount that you can individually spend on your career growth or otherwise, and if you need to expand beyond that, then have a follow-up conversation. Consider creating a “no questions asked” budget that each of you has to spend on building your side hustle, giving yourself a treat, or investing.
• Check-ins: One of the traits that set millionaires apart from others is they tend to keep a pulse on their finances. Take after this trait and establish a routine financial review. At the end of each month, sit down together and review your savings, credit balance, and investment accounts to see where you stand. Based on your spending, you can adjust for the next month ahead.
• Take breaks: If the conversation becomes heavy and heated, take some time away. You can say something like, “We are both bringing unique views to this topic, and clearly care about this, let’s take some time to ourselves and revisit this in [insert time].”
For new couples that may not be this serious yet, here are a few questions you can ask each other to get the conversation started as a way to determine whether your money styles are in line or whether they will balance one another out throughout the partnership:
• What do you spend money on that brings you joy?
• What are your views on combining finances?
• What are your career/entrepreneurial goals? How does that play out in your financial plan?
• Where do you stand on loaning people money?
• What do you want to do with the money that you make?
The more you can normalize discussing money, the easier it will feel to have a difficult conversation about spending later on down the road.
Navigate the rise of the side hustle.
To date, one in three Americans has a side hustle, and this isn’t only Millennials or fresh grads hungry for the entrepreneurial journey. If you have kids, the chances of you or your partner starting a side hustle nearly double. The main reasons being financial income perks such as passive income, saving for a big purchase or feeling a sense of financial freedom.
Perks aside, starting and maintaining a side hustle is no easy feat. The average person dedicates 11-16 hours each week to their side hustle. So if you already have a full time job, your free time will become limited.
Whether you are knee deep in a hustle, or are just beginning, here are few tips to help keep your relationship healthy while growing your business:
• Set up a schedule that you share with your partner to show when you have carved out time for your side hustle, and when you carve out time for each other. Every Sunday evening, sit down together and create this block calendar and review your plans together. This time up front will help reduce miscommunication and increase prioritization.
• Communicate about the intention of the side hustle. If you are both on the same page about the value behind the hustle, absenteeism or shifts in daily life can become more manageable. For instance, if your goal is to pay off credit card debt or build funds for a honeymoon vacation, it will be easier to manage one of you being absent for the premier of the latest Netflix show. At the same time, be sure to check in with each other to see if one of you has gone outside of the boundaries you established at the beginning.
• Lean into the power of your community. Growth and marketing are two of the most challenging aspects side hustlers report. So leverage word-of-mouth, when it comes to marketing for a side hustle or new business. Together, or solo, attend community events and join Facebook groups in your niche. The more you can enjoy existing in a circle of people who know what you do and what you have to offer, opportunities will follow.
At the end of the day, no matter how much you review financial spreadsheets, or plan your schedules together, the most important thing a partner can do is enjoy the other’s passion. Andrea opened up about building her side hustle, and immediately, Jeff shared how inspiring her efforts were and how it motivated him to want more for their relationship. Sometimes, all we need is to sit down, and hear about what brings our partners to life.
What can you do in your relationship to be more present?
How can you show up more for your partner?
Chances are, if you show up for them, they will show up for you.