Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Top tips for those career-focussed times - guest post by Amy Bird, author, lawyer and Navy wife.

Let's face it - sometimes people have to put their careers first. That may not be a very sexy or relationship-friendly thing to say, but it's true. There will be the occasional week, month or more where either we or our sailor have to put jobs at the top level of priority. For me, an example might be if my sailor has a career-defining assessment, or if I have a deadline for a new book or a pitch. As with any relationship, plainly you should support each other in these goals. However, given the extra emotional stakes that there can sometimes be in a Navy relationship, here are my top tips on how to deal with those times when one or both of you is having to give your career priority:

1. Tell your partner what the issue is and why it is important. Or, conversely, get your partner to explain it to you. It is much easier to support someone when you know how the important career time fits into their wider goals - or even to your lives together, if there are financial implications.

2. Don't use it as a time for 'difficult conversations' When your partner is going through a tough time that demands their full attention and motivation, it really isn't the time to carp about the less positive aspect of their career choices, or to get into those conversations about whether they really want to be doing that forever. If you are frustrated about your sailor being away so much, or worried about future deployments, you can of course share that. But there is a time for everything - teary-eyed ultimatums are not helpful when you are trying to perform at your best.

3. Explain/ understand what it will mean from a practical perspective For instance, the heightened focus on work may mean that you or sailor will not be able to call or email for a period, or that communications will be less frequent. Much as we love communicating with our loved ones, and it is generally a source of relief, at times it can add to pressure. If, for instance, you always email twice a week, but you know you simply won't have time to do it that week (or maybe you will have time, but it will impair your work performance), then explain that. It helps manage your partner's expectations.

4. What can you do to help? It may be that you can help your sailor in the same way as you can each help your kids when they are doing a big project or exam. Do you need to help them talk through things, bounce ideas around, or revise? Or maybe read through something that you've written to sense-check it? Do they need to do the same for you? You may be from different disciplines, but you can still help each be at the top of your game.

5. Set limitations Careers are important and demanding. Everyone knows that. As a lawyer and a novelist, married to a sailor, I feel I *really* know that. But you can only play the 'work is my number one priority' card with your partner for so long. Otherwise, you perhaps need to reassess why you're in a relationship at all. When the pressure of the deadline or assessment is off, make sure you and your partner put the spare energy into your relationship. That way, when the work pressures come round again, you have a resource to draw on. And you will each be more willing to give each other the support that you need.

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