Lots of things (including luck) matter where your job satisfaction, earning power, and the success of your career are concerned. Your boss matters. So does your education, the industry you’ve chosen, and macroeconomics.


But while those are all important factors in your career — and your earning power — here’s one factor you probably haven’t considered: Your significant other!

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis found that people with relatively prudent and reliable partners tend to perform better at work, earning more promotions, making more money, and feeling more satisfied with their jobs.

That’s true for men and women. “Partner conscientiousness” predicted future job satisfaction, income, and likelihood of promotion (even after factoring in the participants’ level of conscientiousness) for both sexes.

According to the researchers, “conscientious” partners perform more household tasks, exhibit more pragmatic behaviors that their spouses are likely to emulate, and promote a more satisfying home life… all of which enables their spouse to focus more on work.

As one researcher said, “These results demonstrate that the dispositional characteristics of the person one marries influence important aspects of one’s professional life.” (Or, in non-researcher lingo, a good partner sets a good example and makes it possible for you to be an even better you.)

I know that’s true for me. My wife is the most organized person I know. She juggles family, multiple jobs, multiple interests… she’s a goal-achieving machine.

For a while her “conscientiousness” got on my nerves until I realized the reason it bugged me was because her level of focus and drive implicitly challenged my inherent laziness. I finally realized the best way to get more done, something we all want to do, is to actually get more done — and she definitely helps me do that.

And I try to do the same for her. Since my daily commute is two flights of stairs, I take care of most of the household stuff: laundry, groceries, cleaning (I don’t do all the cleaning but I make sure it gets done), etc, so when she comes home she can just be home.

So, while she’s still considerably more conscientious and organized than I am, she’s definitely rubbed off on me in a very positive way.

Which of course makes sense: as Jim Rohn (and others) likes to say, we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with — and that’s particularly true where our significant others are concerned. Bad habits rub off. Poor tendencies rub off. We all know that.

But great habits and great tendencies rub off too.

Plus, if one person is extremely organized and keeps the household trains running on time that frees the other up to focus more on work. (In a perfect world both would more or less equally share train-engineer duties so that both can better focus on their careers, whether those careers are inside or outside the home.)


Of course I’m not recommending you choose your significant other solely on the basis of criteria like conscientiousness and prudence. As the researchers say, “Marrying a conscientious partner could at first sound like a recipe for a rigid and lackluster lifestyle.”

Nor am I suggesting you end your relationship if you feel your partner is lacking in those areas. But it does appear that having a conscientious and prudent partner is part of the recipe for a better and more rewarding career.

So here’s what you can do. Instead of expecting your partner to change, think about what you can do to be more supportive of your significant other. Maybe you can take on managing finances, or take on more household chores or schedules.

Since the best way to lead is to lead by example, in time you may find that you and your significant other make a great, mutually supportive team, each of you genuinely, and actively, supporting each other… and supporting each other’s goals and dreams.

You don’t need research to tell you that kind of relationship would be awesome.

Now it’s your turn. How has your significant other affected (positively or negatively) your career? Better yet, how have you helped your significant other?

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