10 Things Nobody Tells You About Being a Single, Career-Oriented Woman in Your Twenties
I was recently told by a guy that he didn't think it was a good idea for us to continue dating because I was "too career-oriented." [Insert the deer in headlights, eyes bulging emoji].
I work in a culture where 11-15 hour days and weekends are the norm, where a "9 to 5" sounds like a dream. If this is your reality too, you may be the "Classic Corporate Worrier," to borrow a phrase from Nigel Marsh's TED talk in which he says he was eating too much, drinking too much and working too hard. Sound familiar?
After the initial shock and a lot of reading, here is what I learned and wished that I knew before going down a path of being completely career-focused so early on in my career.
1. Work is really hard.
In law school, I thought that I would work really hard now so that I would work less and less over time. My dad was a dentist and my brother is a doctor. Over time, medical professionals work less. This is not the case for Corporate America, nor is it the case for lawyers or other business professionals. You work a lot and it's actually really hard stuff and can be stressful during your twenties when you're still trying to figure things out. The work takes on a life of its own. It's not only the hours, but the stress that you're under during those hours. This works out OK for some people and not for others. It's OK if you're one of the people that it's not right for.
2. There is no such thing as work-life balance.
In careers like law, private equity and other corporate professions that are prestigious and demanding, work-life balance does not exist. This is worth repeating: work-life balance does not exist. Your best bet is "outsourcing," which means paying someone else to do things at home that you don't have time to do.
3. You will be one of very few women in your work environment.
These types of careers lend themselves to male-heavy institutions. You may have been surrounded by females in graduate school, but this will not be the case in your career. For example, as of 2013, only 16.5% of partners in law firms were female, according to the National Association of Law Placement. This means you'll be around a lot of men all of the time, and you'll need to connect with men "all day every day," so be ready for that.
4. Male coworkers hate seeing you cry at work.
When you cry at work, it makes your male coworkers feel awkward at best and incredibly uncomfortable and judgmental at worst. They really don't like it. This is tough if you're overwhelmed by your job. Something to think about.
5. Everyone is already married (although you can't figure out when that happened).
You will go from being in school where no one is married to your job, where everyone is married. This is unexpected, and if you're not careful, you'll put the pressure on yourself to catch up with your colleagues (because you're competitive and type-A so this is just what you do). Remember to be on your own time with this one and don't drive yourself crazy over it (even if it means going solo to work events and describing yourself as a "yogi who likes to cook" in your welcome email because you don't have family to talk about).
6. Men who you meet socially will not necessarily love your success (they may even be intimidated by it).
Remember the bell curve? Well, you're toward one end of it. And there's a good chance that a lot of people who you meet socially won't be on the same end of that bell curve as you. Suddenly, you're either at work with your equally-achieving, married male colleagues or you're out at the bar dancing to 2 Chainz. Not great.
7. If you don't slow down in your career, then don't expect your personal life to change.
"What you focus on expands" is one of my favorite sayings because I find it to always be true. If you focus solely on your career, then it will excel, leaving your relationships stagnant. Just something to think about if you actually want to "settle down" one day (and if you work a ton, any sort of setting down probably sounds great).
8. The masculine energy that you use at work is not great for your dating life.
Everyone has both masculine and feminine energy. Masculine energy is decisive, logical, direct, competitive, strong, plans and is result-oriented. Feminine energy is soft, relational, emotional, creative and journey-oriented. If you spend all day working and are using mostly masculine energy, you need to realize this and try to turn it off when you're dating. This reminds me of Patti Singer, who often coaches female millionaires by telling them to "put their d*** away" (pardon the expletive, but you get the point -- you're not attractive to masculine men if you're constantly in your masculine energy).
9. It's a good idea to be involved with other women and/or feminine activities to maintain some level of girly-ness.
In an effort to maintain a better standard of reality and embrace your femininity, you need to get around other women when you're not working or at least do activities that bring out your feminine qualities (like yoga or book club or whisky tasting -- whatever the women in your office do).
10. You need to take the time to reflect on whether this is what you actually want for yourself.
Up to this point, you probably excelled in school and followed a path that everyone around you encouraged and applauded. Now that you're in your career and things are going full speed ahead, you need to think about whether this is what you actually want. I stumbled upon a fantastic article by Penelope Trunk, where she says "you can control where you spend your time and energy, and you should look hard for a husband early on. Line up the marriage first, then the career." Her point being that if you are so career-oriented in your twenties and thirties, you'll wake up one day without having a husband or kids, which is not what you wanted.
I certainly don't have any of the answers to these problems, but these issues are all things I wish I knew earlier, and that I will be thinking about as I move forward in life.