Whose Career Takes Priority? Decision-Making Strategies For Dual-Career Couples

As a recruiter, I’ve seen many job offers fall apart over the significant other. For example, in a relocation, the candidate was willing to make the move but the partner nixed it. Even in an offer situation for the same city, a partner’s hesitation could derail the deal. A deal-breaker raised by the significant other was so common that one of my recruiting colleagues always included a dinner with the partner during the selling process.

It makes sense that couples would include each other in their career decision-making. After all, your career moves impact the ones most close to you, especially if you share a household, finances, and/ or children. At the same time, you also want to prioritize your personal fulfillment and individual professional goals. What if your best next move requires a relocation, extensive travel, or a period of long, volatile hours? While there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to career decision-making (especially decisions made for two), here is how I’ve seen other dual-career couples decide on jobs that impose sacrifices on the other person:

Take turns

One couple who met at one of the top business schools and each navigated C-level careers while raising two children consciously do not make big moves at the same time. At one point the husband heard about an opportunity he really wanted, but his wife had just taken on a new role, so he waited a year before pursuing. Perhaps you made the last move (or several, as taking turns doesn’t have to mean 1-for-1 exactly). If you’re in a relationship and your partner is asking you to make a sacrifice, could it be your turn to prioritize your partner’s next move?

Negotiate the timing

Another couple faced a relocation for the wife and opted to do it in stages. Due to the nature of the opportunity (launch of a new group), the timing was pretty fixed but their timing as a family was also fixed as they had school-aged children in the middle of an academic year. So the husband stayed behind for the remainder of the school year, while the wife kicked off her new role. He took on the kid duties; she took on the move duties. They built in a schedule of visits so the family wasn’t apart for too long. Perhaps your next career move can be done in stages –part-time graduate school, a business on the side, a flexible schedule at the start with your new company – if you need to fulfill commitments at home. If your partner has more flexibility, perhaps s/he takes up household commitments you normally share. It’s not only the person making the career move who needs to adjust.


Related posts