How do you choose between love or career? Both could last a lifetime, but perhaps not simultaneously. Yet some lucky people find and manage both beautifully. Which is more important in the long run? Let’s study an example of one woman’s struggle deciding between love or career. Her name has been changed for privacy.
Linda shines at Davis Polk & Wardwell, one of our nation’s most prestigious law firms. Just eight years after Yale Law School, at the age of 34, Linda achieved her life long dream of making partner.
At last I have arrived, Linda first thought to herself. She spent countless hours in school studying late at night to get perfect grades and build a perfect resume. That was five years ago.
One day while working on an important case, Linda walked by the pantry only to overhear her associates whisper about her. She couldn’t quite catch everything they said. But phrases such as, “She’s almost 40,” and “Is she still single?” zinged her ears.
Never one to doubt herself, Linda kept going for the rest of the week. This case is my priority; it’s my mission, she kept saying in her head. Her clients are fighting a hostile takeover from a competitor, and it’s her job to defend them.
At 11:00 PM on Friday, she finally returns exhausted to her grey-scaled, minimalism-inspired condo at the St. Regis Residences. With a soft glass of Cabernet, Linda looks out to the Bay Bridge and begins to cry.
Why am I crying? Linda thinks to herself. I successfully defended my client and the competitor is looking to sweeten their offer. My clients will be filthy rich! I’ll be filthy rich.
Linda is unhappy because at 39 she is alone. There’s nobody to share her $2 million a year income with. And so she shares it with her apartment instead.
She buys the most expensive amenities, such as textured Brazilian cherrywood floors and Waterworks fixtures. Plus, she pays $2,600 a month in homeowners association dues alone so that she can have all the pampering in the world.
One touch of a button and housekeeping will come and take away her laundry and shine her marble bathroom floors. What’s the point of working so hard if not only to simplify my life? Linda wonders.
Despite the frequent client wining and dining, Linda is extraordinarily lean. With high cheekbones and sunken cheeks, she looks almost like a gaunt cross-country runner who indulges in the latest protein bars.
Her eyes are green and intense; she is a woman of focus and intent. She’ll snap you with her stare. Yet she is unable to melt you with her smile.
Linda can’t believe that almost fourteen years have passed since she first graduated from law school. People told her that her thirties would be the best years of her life.
In many ways they were, as she had one success after another in her career. But, despite all the studying in college, she misses her twenties because she had her youth and her future.
As trivial as it may seem, Linda misses having long hair and the ability to wear a pony tail if she wanted to. No, that’s unprofessional and inconvenient, she told herself once she turned thirty. If I am to be taken seriously, I need to have shoulder length hair that is simple, yet powerful. Linda has all the power she’s ever wanted now.
The one that got away was not a case, but a man she met during work right after she got promoted. He was a new lateral hire who came in as a second-year associate.
Peter, age 28, was her subordinate. After many endless weeks of working together, they fell in love. On the weekends they would get away on road trips up to Napa Valley and stay at their favorite resort, Auberge du Soleil. Linda paid the $700 a night resort fee of course.
One weekend, as they were lounging by the pool, sipping Arnold Palmers and holding hands, the most senior partner’s wife appeared. Peter and Linda’s hands immediately released, but it was too late.
The partner’s wife had already spotted them and she was shocked. How could one of their newly promoted partners and a second year associate be having a relationship? The partner’s wife was aghast, and Linda and Peter were ashamed.
Linda was petrified that all her hard work would be for nothing if word got out that she was having a relationship with one of her subordinates, seven years her junior.
No, she’s worked too hard to let some man ruin her career. Linda rushed over and spoke to the partner’s wife in private, pleading her not to say a word. She agreed, but only if Linda stopped seeing Peter. Linda acquiesced.
It’s been five years since the incident, and Linda’s career has been on a rocket ship’s path. Word never got out about her fling with her subordinate and Peter left several years ago for richer pastures.
Linda has everything she’s ever wanted, yet feels empty because she has nobody to share her good fortune with. Next week she turns forty and she worries whether she will be alone, forever.
Perhaps Linda’s story resonates a lot with you, or maybe not. We are all impacted in different ways and at varying degrees. So should you choose love or career?
Here are some tips to help you process your emotions and decide if you need more love or career right now. Or if you can find a way to balance both!
It’s hard to build a deep relationship with someone if you don’t love yourself first. Identify your personal values and have a deep understanding of what’s important to you.
Long lasting relationships are built on shared values, mutual respect, trust, strong communication, and of course love. Interestingly, long lasting and happy careers are built on these same ideals.
Identify the most important values you want to prioritize. Then you can decide if love or career is more important to you now.
For example, if you want to prioritize independence, autonomy and growing your net worth then career should probably be your priority.
If you are in a long-distance relationship and are trying to decide if you should quit your job to be with him/her, get ready to be uncomfortable. Have as many difficult conversations with your significant other as possible before making a career change.
How compatible are you really with this person? Do you share similar long-term goals? Get the answers to questions like do you both want kids, where do you both want to retire, do your families get along, etc.
What is your financial situation like? If you’re single, it’s super important to familiarize yourself with all of your assets and liabilities. Open a free account with Personal Capital to get a quick and easy look at your finances.
You can see all of your bank accounts in one secure portal. Plus, you can quickly track your net worth, set savings goals, plan for retirement and more.
If you’re in a relationship, take a long hard look at each of your finances together. Do you share similar personal finance goals? How do you each approach debt, spending, saving, investing?
Couples who are on the same page financially tend to have much happier, healthier relationships.
It sounds so simple, and it is. Make a list of pros and cons and see how it pans out. Sometimes just writing things down makes it easier to make a tough decision like love or career.
Then go through the list with your closest friends and family. Perhaps they can lend a fresh perspective and offer additional insights.
At the end of the day, you want to make a decision that will help you sleep easier at night. Think about what your instincts were really telling you when you walked away from your job interview, got denied from a promotion, finished your last date, etc.
Hone in on what makes you happy and how you can keep that happiness going. Having a job you love to go to is priceless. Don’t give that type of luck up easily. There are millions of unhappy employees out there, let alone unemployed people.
And finding someone you want to spend the rest of your life with is also priceless. If you’ve found your best friend, hold on tight and don’t let go.
However, if you’re at a job you hate or are in a relationship with a lot of holes, believe you can do better. Trust your instincts. If you put in the effort to improve your life, anything is possible.
Sometimes you don’t actually have to choose love or career. You can have both! Thanks to the global pandemic, working remotely is becoming the new normal. Perhaps you don’t have to quit your job to move out of state to be with your loved one after all.
Many companies are opening up to permanent work from home policies. As long as you have internet access, what does it matter where you’re logging in from?
Keep an open mind and think outside the box. Perhaps a beautiful balance of love and career are in your not too distant future.
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Readers, what would do if you were Linda five years ago? Would you have defied the partner’s wife’s wishes for your love of Peter? Or, would you do as Linda did and break it off because she invested too much in her career? Love or Career, which would you choose?
* Note: All names and the law firm have been changed for privacy.