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Education Article

Lessons Learned: Career or Family First—or Both?

Authored by Diane Crutcher

Lessons Learned: Career or Family First—or Both?Having completed several careers; having married and raised our children (and grandchildren!); having started and run a few businesses; having weathered serious illnesses and life traumas—I offer a few thoughts for those of you still building your lives.

  • At different points in your life your priorities will change. Right out of school your focus may appropriately be on starting your career.

Key Points:

  • What you initially think you want to do professionally may not end up being what you truly want to do longer term. Even after you have earned a certification, license, or degree in a specific field, working in it day in and day out may be an eye-opener regarding how you want to spend the remainder of your career.

  • Your career choices may change as you make personal life choices. That is OK. In time, you will likely reprioritize your life again and again (if you are smart!).

  • Working in a chosen job as a startup to your career can guide you to something else you may want to do in your professional life. Great way to stimulate your creative genes!

  • Compensation needs are typically very different when you initially begin working right out of school, versus after you take on more personal responsibilities. That changes your perspective when seeking new employment opportunities. This reality check is important for establishing a stable life for you.
  • At some point in your professional life, you will likely make some personal choices that lead to a change in lifestyle, whether it is engaging with a significant other, having children, relocating, buying a home, going back to school, etc. Such changes dramatically alter not only your need for compensation and benefits (as noted above), but also your priorities.

Key Points:

  • As you develop personal relationships, you will want to appropriately provide your share of financial, emotional, and physical support. That will begin to shift you away from a 100 percent focus on your career and may even occur at a challenging time (such as a promotional opportunity on the horizon or relocation to a desired site becoming available).

  • Your career may really be taking off after you’ve been in a field a few years; you’ve perhaps gained more certifications, licenses, or education, and are settled that this is now your career of choice, so you want to continue to progress in it. Simultaneously, you have taken on some personal responsibilities, to which you want to assure financial support. This makes doing a great job at work even more important. Work out a balance within your personal relationships so that you all agree regarding time at work versus (uninterrupted) time at home.

  • Uninterrupted time at home means:
    • Spending meaningful and focused time with family and friends
    • Getting needed tasks done around the house
    • Exercising (you can do this with family)
    • Volunteering (as you wish; you can do this with family as well)
    • Relaxing (you can do this with family)

  • Uninterrupted time at home does NOT mean:
    • Bringing work home and sequestering yourself in a room away from family while you take "just a minute" to "finish something," patting yourself on the back because you aren’t AT work but are home "with family."
    • Opening yourself up to being on call 24/7 and then moving away from family as you take those calls (emergencies aside).

Bottom line, with your priorities in the right order (and this is an ever-moving target), established, applied, and appropriately updated with those most important in your life and who impact your day-to-day responsibilities and opportunities, you are ready to lead a balanced life. Decide that you are in control not only in your daily points of focus but also, and more importantly, your ongoing satisfaction and happiness.