Are You 'Happily' Married To The Job?
Many people would never admit to being married to their job. Those words, no matter how they are said, usually carry a negative undertone. It could mean you're out of control and work way too much, or your priorities are totally screwed up, or your actual marriage won't last. And I think the general advice would be to coach someone away from being "over-dedicated" to their career so they don't lose themselves in the pursuit of success.
I'm in the mood for a different approach. Instead of denying it, let's embrace this metaphor and see exactly what kind of spouse you are. What I've listed below are 9 key components (events, qualities, principles) of a marriage. And if you are to be happily married to your job, then your career must somehow reflect these components. Let's jump in...
#1 The Wedding
Despite the pain and torture of the planning, this is one of the most important rituals in a marriage. It signifies a new beginning, and a renewed commitment to yourself and the union. Ummm... what kind of "wedding" did you have when #isaidyes to the job you currently have? This was the first opportunity to set your intentions and expectations, and chances are you did absolutely nada. We throw parties when leaving the job, so why not have some kind of celebration when starting? It doesn't have to be a large scale event, so long as it's done with the intention to add some significance to your new gig. Unfortunately, you can't get your first day back. Fortunately, there is always:
#2 The Anniversary
Is it me or does LinkedIn acknowledge your workaversary more than you do? We understand this annual concept when it comes to birthdays, superbowls, actual anniversaries, etc. Each year you have a special opportunity to access the spatial memory and emotions of your first day on the job, but we do nothing to commemorate it beyond the 3 second realization of "hey, looks like I've been here # years." Make this day mean something to you! Write a letter, record a quick video about the past year, add a long post to your timeline... do something. You go out to dinner each year with your loved one, why not treat yourself to a nice meal for your workaversary?
I forget who sang it, but this is one area where I see a lot of "fake love." In any marriage of any kind, what value is there in being physically faithful when there is no mental or emotional loyalty? Yes, you do show up to work nearly every day... I'll give you that. However, the majority of your time is spent thinking about something else or longing to be somewhere else. What you're really doing is cheating on yourself... cheating on your potential. This has to stop. If you agreed to do the job, then love yourself enough to fully commit to all aspects of you being there... no more fake love. Show gratitude for the people or projects that bring you joy. Explore new roles and initiatives. Find ways to get more involved.
#4 Mutual Respect
What starts out as a genuine desire to please (or to not displease) your manager/team/company quickly turns into a career-long trap. You show up to the interview after receiving a list of demands in the form of a job description, and rarely do you provide a list in return. You then show up to each new role and must fully submit to the structure that's already in place. That doesn't sound respectful or mutual. Feeling like you must always "give in" will invariably lead to resentment. It's your responsibility to correct this, not your employer's. You need to communicate and get your respect. Start speaking up and asking for the things you want and need so you can actually:
#5 Be Happy
With the advent of social timelines, we've forgotten that real happiness can't be seen (or posted). I learned the hard way that a disorientation in values can make you confuse the external with the internal. Much like looking good in front of friends and family, we also prefer to act like everything is great at work. Truth is, there isn't a big enough paycheck, promotion, platform, or pat-on-the-back that can fill a void of happiness. You must find ways to continuously grow and contribute in areas that matter to you, both in love and in labor. This is the best way to dispel the illusion of happiness and experience the real thing. Facts.
Real talk. How often do you have honest conversations with your managers? And if you're not being honest, well, then you're lying. The lying is typically a product of fear, so perhaps a better question is: why are you afraid to be honest?
For most of us it's the anticipation of a negative reaction from the other person (i.e. losing your job). The sad part is that no matter how many emails, chat messages, performance reviews, phone calls, or 1-on-1's you have, real communication is not happening so long as you do so behind the mask of fear. I learned that sincerity only exists when there is an absence of fear. Your job is to build courage and confidence by showing up as the real you, speaking your authentic truth in ways that can be heard, and sincerely listening to what the other person has to say. Every relationship depends on your ability to do this. Pro tip: when in doubt, ask questions!
One of the biggest indicators of being "over-dedicated" to your job is when you begin over-identifying with it, and ultimately losing your identity altogether. You even start introducing yourself as your job! "Hi, may name is Sue and I am VP of such and such. This idea of two people becoming one may not be the best approach at home, nor at work. We learned a long time ago that 1+1 does not equal 1. You and your spouse/employer must come together, but you must do so in ways that strengthen your individual development and fulfillment, not take away from it. Self-actualization is the goal, not self-sacrifice. If that isn't happening, then perhaps you've been approaching this the wrong way.
In order to survive, we must produce. This is true for corporations and corpuscules. In relationships, children are often mistaken as signs of a happiness when in reality they're more like another external projection of #5 above. I don't want you to stop producing at work, obviously. My challenge to you is to make sure your "progeny" have purpose. The material possessions, the accolades, the plaques, the promotions... are they part of a larger plan? Are you climbing the corporate ladder with some level of intention? Spend time reflecting on whether or not the fruits of your labor are moving you toward your:
When you put all this together, you and your employer should be on the same page about where each of you are headed, and how each of you benefits from the journey and the destination. There must be a common or related vision that propels this collective organism called your career. What are the goals each of you has set in order to realize your desires and ambitions? The ability for all involved to clearly and concisely answer this question is proportionately related to your ability to succeed, especially in a marriage.
Yes, it requires being conscious and intentional about every aspect of your growth and development. But when you approach it this way, being married to your job will be an infinitely rewarding relationship!