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13/04/2013

The most important career decision is who you’ll marry.

Adapted from the Harvard Business Review blog: "The most important career choice you'll make is who you marry." This career advice from Facebook Chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, makes good sense based on research. Among couples, career outcomes are indeed linked to the dynamics of support
and career priority within couples.

Just as lack of consensus around finances can doom a marriage, lack of support from one's spouse can effectively sink a career. To make dual careers work, a couple needs to be on the same page regarding their career and life goals and how they will support each other in achieving them. Here are four strategies for developing and maintaining an effective dual-career partnership.

1. Shared vision and values. First of all, talk early and often about what matters most to both of you. What gives you a sense of value, meaning, identity, joy? Which of these things do you share? What would you not give up under any circumstances, even if it meant sacrificing in other important areas?

2. Mutual interest, appreciation, and investment. Remember that you fell in love with this person because you found him or her interesting. Being interested in and learning about your partner's work life and sharing about your own are important ways of maintaining that mutual interest and of promoting the limitless possibilities of mutuality. A good guiding principle to follow is to look for solutions that reduce career-related conflicts and maximize opportunities for career enrichment between the members of the couple.

3. A team orientation. If you've been working on the first two strategies, it should be fairly natural to help each other out and to work together to find solutions that help you to achieve your shared goals. This often means taking turns, for example, in putting each other through school. The most successful dual-career couples avoid consistently sacrificing one partner's career in favor of the other's.

4. Flexibility and adaptability. Both partners need to be open to change and be adaptable. Plotting an inflexible dual-career roadmap at the outset and expecting that you will be able to stick to it forever is a recipe for disappointment and missed opportunities.

If you fundamentally respect each other, value and appreciate each others' careers, want to help each other succeed, and keep the lines of communication open, you'll be able to handle and quite possibly even embrace the twists and turns you encounter along the way.

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