[Me and K. That french manicure now makes me cringe. Photo credit: Sargeant Photography]
A recent article in The Grindstone caught my eye this weekend, titled "I'm Afraid A Relationship Could Hurt My Career." This isn't the first article on the Internets that espouses the professional benefits of being single. And it's not the first article of its kind to ruffle my feathers (exhibits A, B, C).
Some of the arguments are certainly true: it's harder to pick up on a last-minute trip (although not impossible...I love doing that) and relocation is definitely more difficult (but also not impossible). Does this flexibility help in career advancement? Sure, especially if you're in a small market and want to get closer to HQ. But they also may not hurt you as much as you think...you may never know whether the same or better promotion was available if you stayed, and telecommuting is becoming more and more common these days.
Here are two excerpts from this particular article that caught my eye. To be clear, I'm only speaking from my personal opinion here.
"Calls during the working day, arriving later or late, leaving earlier and missing work altogether are all ways a relationship can distract a person from work." - Shannon Mouton to the GrindstoneThis woman's partner sounds sort of needy and inconsiderate. Boundaries are so important in every type of relationship. Even when K and I lived across the country from each other, we talked once a day, in the evening. Since being married, I've definitely pulled my share of late nights (even all-nighters) alongside fellow married coworkers. A relationship can only cause you to miss work if you let it.
"But these women interviewed above are not saying they were rejected by men because they wanted to focus on their careers but rather they were worried that a man could slowdown their career trajectories. They are in the driver’s seat and contrary to the data and way of thinking above, that can be appealing too."This statement has its merits—you're definitely sharing the drivers seat in a marriage. There's a flip-side to that, though, that a supportive partner can help in your career. K has been my biggest career champion; sometimes he thinks I'm more capable than I really am, and that support pushes me to do better than I thought I could. On days I feel like giving up, he won't let me. I'm also a big believer in letting your career and life goals evolve; what I want for my life now is pretty different than what I wanted three years ago. I think there's a lot of pressure to aim for something and dedicate your life to it, but there are some of us that just don't work that way. My "career trajectory" changes on a weekly basis (or more like bounces among a few options), and that's OK.
One thing that these articles rarely touch on is the fact that there are quite a few successful women who are, in fact, married, and some of them have been for quite a while. Anne Mulcahy, who lead Xerox for eight years, climbed from sales to the top job while married with two children. Anne Sweeney, president of Disney-ABC Television Group, has been married to her graduate school sweetheart for nearly 30 years. Their relationships haven't held them back, and yours doesn't have to either (or maybe it's just the fortune of being named "Anne").
I get slightly defensive when I read these articles because of my own experience. I was engaged soon after college and married before I got my first full-time permanent job, so I've never known my career as a truly single girl. Has it hurt me? I don't think so. In fact, I think it's worked to my advantage in several ways. As a young professional with only internships under my belt, being married was a subtle sign that I wasn't afraid of commitment. Socially, being married put me on a level playing field with my coworkers, all of whom were 5+ years older than me; despite the age difference and the fact that I look younger than I am, I was able to connect with them straight out of the gate. I may not have the flexibility of someone without a significant other, but I have the drive and a lot of other great traits that helped me advance anyway.
Of course, there is a lot that I don't know. I don't know where my career would be had I not fallen in love at 20 and married at 23. I don't know where I would be relationship or career-wise if we hadn't decided to weather a cross-country relationship for two years so we could both pursue further education at the institutions we felt were the best fits. I only know my own experience as it played out, and it just hasn't been that bad. Don't get me wrong...I don't think that my path is the best path for everyone or even a recommended path, but it's what I chose and I'm happy with it.
We're living in a different era than our mothers; marriage is no longer a given or even a goal for many women, and that is really freakin' awesome. I don't think it's preferable or not preferable to be in a relationship. All I'm saying is...being in a relationship does not have to be a career disadvantage.
What has your experience been? And I'm curious...have you avoided relationships because you think they'll hurt your career?