Career Unhappiness Leads to Family Unhappiness

I distinctly remember telling a good friend: “I live a split life. I am happy at home and unhappy at work.” This was 20 years ago when I was in private practice at a big law firm.  I also remember my discussion with an older wise mentor who urged me to find work that made me happier.  I philosophically agreed.  But I gave the all too common defense of staying in unhappy careers: “I need to support my family.”  Certainly, he agreed and he was not urging me to do anything crazy like quit my job.  But he explained that if my goal was to be the best husband and father possible then I was making a big mistake.  Soon enough, your unhappiness at work will start to be carried home with you.  You won’t be a good father and husband if you are grumpy all the time.  You also won’t be a good example for your children when they choose work.  Fortunately, I was able to navigate my transition to happy work and I’m certain I’ve been a better father and husband due to my career happiness.

Eric, a career counseling client from a few years back, provides a cautionary tale. He worked in a field that did not suit him.  He stayed because he wanted to support his family.  He had a good marriage and two young kids that he adored.  His work life was a daily stressful grind.  A new associate joined the company and they struck up what seemed like a harmless flirtation.  As Eric relayed, it was the only thing he looked forward to when he went to work. The combination of a work event that took them out of town and a few too many drinks led to the beginnings of an affair. Eric felt horribly guilty and wonders if he wanted to get caught as he didn’t cover his tracks too carefully.  His wife forgave him but the marriage was never the same. A year later, Eric – demonstrating one of my tenets about work success “if you don’t like your work, soon enough, you’ll be unemployed” was laid off.  But he couldn’t tell his wife. Since she left for work earlier than he did, he was able to fake being employed for several weeks until he had to confess that his paycheck was not coming in.  After 6 months of unemployment – and no search out of his field – Eric took another job but it was out of state.  So, for a year he worked with a long weekend commute from the Boston area to Connecticut as he stayed in a small apartment during the week.  He was let go from that job as well.  Again, he couldn’t bring himself to tell his wife until the money stopped coming in. Her trust violated – yet again – and having become used to his absence filed for divorce.

Eric was devastated.  His brother – a past client of Career Counseling Connecticut – gave him a few career counseling sessions as a gift and a way to rebuild himself.  When Eric left the meeting, he said he had “hope” but that he wished he had come in for a session before his life had been destroyed.

The greatest satisfaction from my work at Career Counseling Connecticut stems not just from helping to create happier careers but creating happier lives.