A Family Systems Approach to Career Planning

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Most career planning books and workshops are focused on career planning for one individual. However, most people do not live individually, but instead in a relationship with a life partner.  Planning just for an individual leaves a huge gap which can lead to many problems in the future.  As a psychologist who has focused on families and family systems for most of my career, I am now working to create a career planning process which takes into account the reality and complexity of family systems, including both partners and children.

My efforts grow out of recognition that the planning efforts of couples is crucial to their long-term sense of happiness and well-being.  Too often, one member of the couple takes off with his or her career, only to leave the other member at home with too much household and child rearing responsibility.

As a starting point in this project, I’m listing a series of questions couples might want to consider.

  1. Do you want to create a future where both members of the relationship have an equal opportunity to pursue their career ambitions, or would you prefer that one move ahead while the other stays back to deal with the children and home?  Or Perhaps some combination where each member of the couple takes turns pursuing a career?
  2. Where do you want to live? There are multiple factors to consider including: opportunity for work, cost-of-living, proximity to family, climate, political atmosphere, etc.
  3. Do you plan to have children and if so how many?  What type of environment do you want for them? Do you want them to be raised by a stay-at-home parent?  What is your attitude about day care and when should it start?  Have you considered grandparents taking care of the children?
  4. How important is money and how much is enough in each stage of your life?
  5. Are you looking for a stable life where you stay acclimated to one area for a long period of time, or do you want to see the world and live in different countries and areas?
  6. What is your risk tolerance individually and as a couple?
  7. What are your long-term goals and vision for success as a family?
  8. What about further education for members of the family?

I would appreciate feedback on these questions and others you might think are important to consider. Furthermore, I would love to hear your story about successes or failures at dual career family planning.

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