Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Five Relationship Tips You Can Apply to Your Career


The following guest post is by Hannah Sternberg, also known as “Banana” on DW.

Take a look at your career problems and replace the word “job” with “boyfriend.” You’ll be surprised by how similar your career issues are to some of the Dear Wendy letters that make you shake your head. With that in mind, much of the relationship advice we read on this site and elsewhere can be applied to our careers. Keep reading to see how your job angst can be resolved with five classic relationship tips.

1. Stop looking for your One True Job.

We tell women to stop obsessing over “the one” and instead see the world full of potential “ones,” so why don’t we apply that same line of thinking to careers, too? Why do many people continue searching for their One True Job? Even if you got what you’d describe as your “dream job,” there will still be days that feel like the clock got stuck at 3 PM for hours. On the other hand, there are probably some perfectly eligible jobs you might be overlooking because they’re not quite what you dreamed of doing ever since you got your CEO Barbie. Give them a second date, I mean chance. If you keep an open mind, you might be surprised by the job that steals your heart.

2. Your career can’t make you happy if you don’t know how to be happy on your own.

You have to make your own happiness. Your job (and boyfriend) are just along for the ride. You can’t just show up for a job and sit there passively, expecting it to make all your dreams come true. If you want cooler assignments or a big promotion, you have to acquire the skills you need to qualify and go for them. If you’re feeling bored or underutilized at work, find something to do! Don’t immediately blame the job for your unhappiness. Just like in your relationships, you have to bring something to the table — you have to contribute to your own success and your happiness.

3. If you aren’t finding the job you want, maybe you’re looking for jobs in all the wrong places.

If you date the same kind of guys over and over again, even when you know they’re not right for you, you’ll keep getting burned. Your job hunt is the same. Feeling frustrated after an endless string of fruitless interviews? Well, the common denominator is you, so adjust your expectations, or adjust yourself. Take a look at the jobs you’re applying for — do they all tend to require a skill or level of experience you don’t have? Try either focusing on the jobs you are qualified for, or working hard to acquire the skills that would qualify you for the job you want. But if you keep getting turned down, you’re not going to get anywhere by registering a letter of complaint with the universe.

4. Find important lessons in even dead-end jobs.

One way to mitigate the pain and bitterness of a breakup is to look back on the lessons you’ve learned and the good experiences you had in your former relationships. The same goes for jobs. Specifically, try to learn two things from every work experience you have. First, learn a new skill – try learn how to do something you didn’t know how to do before. Then, learn something about what you want, and don’t want, out of a job. Did you discover that you don’t like managing, or doing lab work, or customer interaction? Even a dead-end job can teach you something about yourself and what you need to keep in mind going forward.

5. Don’t stay in abusive jobs, no matter how good they look on paper.

People in abusive relationships are often manipulated by their abusers into feeling guilty for leaving, as if they’re the crazy ones. Abusive bosses are pretty good at that, too. They’re different traumas, but in both abusive relationships and abusive job situations, it’s important to remember that no amount of positive attributes can compensate for the abuse. Does this mean you should quit your job in a blind fury, with no backup plan? No. But it does mean that you need to realize you don’t owe your horrible boss another month/year/decade, and you aren’t an ungrateful pest for looking for other jobs.

In jobs and relationships, it all boils down to the same things: making, and maintaining, your happiness is your own responsibility. So get out there and stir things up!

hannah_smallHannah Sternberg is an author, freelance blogger and marketing professional in Washington, DC. Her first novel, Queens of All the Earth, is available on Amazon. She posts on DW as @Banana but despite all reports to the contrary, she is not a minion.

If you have a personal story you’d like to share on DearWendy.com, please see submission guidelines here.

40 comments… add one
  • iseeshiny February 6, 2014, 3:23 pm

    Oooh this definitely resonates. Very nice. #3 especially was a lot easier for me to learn in a professional setting than it was for me personally – of course it makes sense that if you want a great job you develop your skills and education and work ethic. For a while, though, I bought into the idea that everyone should get a great relationship simply for existing. Um, no. Self improvement. Become your most perfect self and be worthy of the love you want to have. (Um, I got that from a book, actually. But it was still hard for me to learn.)

    Reply Link
  • SasLinna February 6, 2014, 3:25 pm

    OK, back from googling you.
    Thanks, this is relevant to my interests! I’m going to have to make some career-related decisions in the next few months.

    Reply Link
  • Amanda February 6, 2014, 3:27 pm

    I know several of my friends who are guilty of #1. When I was job hunting, that was the furthest thing from my mind. At that time my only “dream” job was anything other than the one I had.

    Reply Link
    • iseeshiny February 6, 2014, 3:30 pm

      Haha, right? That’s one place where the analogy sort of starts to break down. It’s better to be single than in a bad relationship, but we still gotta eat, so it doesn’t really apply to jobs.

      Reply Link
      • Amanda February 6, 2014, 3:36 pm

        Exactly! Although, I’m pretty sure at that point I would’ve lived on Ramen for the forseeable future if it got me out of there. But I do understand her point. Especially after listening to one of my friends for HOURS at a time because she refuses to consider anything less than her dream job (and this would be her first job out of college, 3 years later she’s still looking).

      • iseeshiny February 6, 2014, 5:03 pm

        o.O she must have some tolerant parents!

      • Amanda February 6, 2014, 5:15 pm

        She has a very tolerant husband.

  • TECH February 6, 2014, 3:38 pm

    Jobs and relationships are definitely analagous. One thing I’ve often thought is that people rarely stay with the same job or same company for 20, 30, or 40 years any more. The reason is because they change. Their wants and needs change. Or something better comes along. But some people stay married for 20, 30, 40 years or more. I know I’m not comparing apples and apples, but people can and should outgrow relationships, just like they outgrow jobs.

    Reply Link
    • Banana February 6, 2014, 3:43 pm

      That is a GREAT point! I hadn’t even thought of it that way, but you’re right! What I find very interesting, looking at the differences between generations, is how our generation is very used to the idea of moving around between jobs — most people I know don’t stay at a job more than three or four years, before they’re in their 30s (though I also live in DC, which skews job-hoppy). I think for our parents’ generation, it was much more common to be a lifetime company man, which is interesting, because like a decades-long relationship, you have to value loyalty very highly to make it work.

      Reply Link
      • jlyfsh February 6, 2014, 3:49 pm

        I feel like companies were also more loyal to their employees at that point too though. Which also played in to people being willing to stay at the same job for that long.

      • Banana February 6, 2014, 3:51 pm


      • TECH February 6, 2014, 3:54 pm

        I agree. Companies, by and large, did used to be more loyal to their employees. But even if I worked for the best company in the world, I would probably be bored out of mind working for the same place for 40 years. Does the same hold true for relationships? I have no idea. Probably not. The longest I’ve ever been with someone is 3 years. Again, I’m probably not comparing apples to apples, but it’s interesting to think about.

      • Banana February 6, 2014, 3:56 pm

        Definitely very interesting. You have a good parallel that it’s okay to grow out of relationships or jobs if you’ve changed enough that it just isn’t working anymore.

      • jlyfsh February 6, 2014, 3:59 pm

        Yeah I think it just makes it easier. I would also argue that the people of that generation had more change involved. So, while we do have some change the change they saw was greater. I’m sure that made it less boring.

        Although, I think that too depends on the person. Like I might be bored at the job but it’s just what I do during the day so as long as I’m getting paid enough to do what makes me happy the rest of the time I don’t care after a certain point what I do?

        But, yeah I do think that it does have interesting parallels. Life though tends to be a little less boring than work 🙂 Or i would hope it would be, haha.

      • othy February 6, 2014, 4:06 pm

        I think it would depend on the nature of the job. I’ve been in my position for the last 5 years, and it stays interesting. We are constantly applying for grants for different projects, which mixes up the nature of my work. And my role has grown with me, as I’ve acquired new skills and can start applying them to new situations.

        But, I think the same can very much be said about my relationship with Othello.

      • Lyra February 6, 2014, 8:18 pm

        Yes yes yes. I’ve switched jobs EVERY YEAR I’ve been out of college. My dad has been at the same company since he was 22. Big difference. Though I definitely agree with jlyfsh below that companies were more loyal to their employees.

  • Fabelle February 6, 2014, 3:47 pm

    OMG Banana, I love this! I kept comparing the two when I was job hunting, mostly because of the way I overanalyzed after every interview (date). Great piece 😀

    Reply Link
    • TECH February 6, 2014, 3:50 pm

      Yeah, interviewing and dating have a lot of similarities. When I was interviewing, I would try to think, “What do I think of them?” Rather than “What do they think of me?” The same should go with dating. When you go out with a guy, you shouldn’t be concerned with what he thinks of you. You should only be worried about what you think of him.
      I’ve turned down job offers before. And quite frankly, people should turn down relationship offers more often. Selectivity can pay off, bother personally and professionally.

      Reply Link
    • Banana February 7, 2014, 11:11 am

      Aw shucks thanks!

      Reply Link
  • theattack February 6, 2014, 4:09 pm

    This is amazing, Banana! I love it and I love you and I love Wendy and everyone.

    I’m about to go into a job interview, dudes, and I have to pee so bad I’m going to explode but there are only houses around for miles, and I can’t get the cat hair out of my PEE coat. Omg urine. How does that relate to a relationship now? Anyway, awesome post Banana!

    Reply Link
    • Banana February 6, 2014, 4:12 pm

      Thanks so much, TA, and I’m super excited that you’re going to an interview — that’s great news! I don’t think it looks bad (if you’ve arrived a little early) to just ask to use the restroom as soon as you get there. They don’t know how long you’ve been driving! And in my experience, exploding with pee has never resulted in a job offer. I don’t want to think about the situation in which it would.

      Reply Link
      • theattack February 6, 2014, 4:21 pm

        Bahahaha now you’re going to make me pee on myself, and it will be all your fault when I don’t get this job. That’s the story I’m sticking to if I don’t get this either way. 😉 I just have to hold it in until 3:40 when it’s acceptable to go inside for a 4:00 appointment.

        Anyway, great advice as usual, Banana!

    • starpattern February 6, 2014, 5:48 pm

      Ohhh, how’d the interview go??

      Reply Link
      • theattack February 6, 2014, 8:24 pm

        It was awesome, thanks for asking! It was a little over an hour and a half long, and she gave me a candy bar, and I have a homework assignment. She even said it was a good interview! I’m happy!

      • iseeshiny February 7, 2014, 1:43 am


  • Sara February 6, 2014, 4:24 pm

    This is great! And thanks for reminding me of #2 – a lot of things go into happiness and sometimes I get tunnel vision re: my career path. Last year I was actively on the job market and I read a similar article about the similarities between interviewing and dating from “Inside Higher Ed.” I’ll just share my favorite tip from the article, which helped me with my own search: “You have to not only make them believe you are special, but that they are special.”

    Reply Link
    • theattack February 6, 2014, 4:26 pm

      Omg #2 reminds me of #1 which is urine, and I have to peeeeeeeeeeee. Sorry, Sara, I also like your tip!

      Reply Link
      • Sara February 6, 2014, 4:33 pm

        haha! Sorry to make your situation worse – 7 minutes to go!

  • Addie Pray February 6, 2014, 4:46 pm

    Banana exposed! Very cool, you’re a published author!

    Reply Link
    • Banana February 6, 2014, 4:50 pm

      Aw shucks, thanks!

      Also, should you say, “Banana peeled?” Sorry, it’s 5pm here. I need a nap or a drink.

      Reply Link
  • starpattern February 6, 2014, 5:50 pm

    This is great, Banana! And seriously, #4 is critical to maintaining your sanity (and your resume) when you’re in a job you’re not happy with.

    Reply Link
  • sarolabelle February 6, 2014, 5:53 pm

    I assume the person’s name can do something when managers look at resumes right?

    I am SERIOUSLY considering the name Hannah for my baby but can’t help but think people are going to look at her resume in the future and go “oh Hannah Montana” or “Hannah Banana”….

    If you have a chance to answer, Hannah, how your name has attributed to your success or not, and if you really like the name or hate it, I’d love to hear your opinion.

    Reply Link
    • iwannatalktosampson February 6, 2014, 6:00 pm

      Haha Hannah Montana? How old are you? I would never think of that. Anyway the problem is that most names (unless they’re cooky – in a bad way) have a famous person they’re associated with. It’s how life is. I have a few okay people associated with mine, but I mean what if you just happened to be named after the Oklahoma City Bomber? Or an actor that overdosed? Or anything else. I don’t think anyone looks differently at a name unless, like I said, it’s a dumb one, like apple. Or moses. I swear I’m not picking on Gwenyth Paltrow. Or Blue Ivy.

      Reply Link
    • jlyfsh February 6, 2014, 6:18 pm

      I think it’s totally subjective and what one person experiences might not even be what another experiences (unless like iwtts said and your name is apple or blue ivy). when i hear the name hannah i think of my friend from college who i love and it gives me warm fuzzies. i definitely don’t think of hannah montana or hannah banana (well maybe the second but also in a positive way).

      Reply Link
    • Sunshine Brite February 7, 2014, 8:38 am

      I love the name at this point. It’s not super unique at my age (26) and I think has attributed to success since I don’t have to explain how to spell it. It tends to stick with people because they think Hannah Banana/Montana/hey it’s spelled the same both ways. Plus, those associations helped me work better with children who got a kick out of calling me Ms. Hannah Montana sometimes.

      I didn’t like it for awhile growing up. I can’t quite remember why.

      Reply Link
    • Banana February 7, 2014, 11:12 am

      Hm. I’ve never encountered a name that made me immediately reject someone. Even very strange names — I usually assume their parents chose it and it really doesn’t reflect on them. I’m much more interested in their resume, writing samples, and professional deportment than their first name! I think most hiring managers are like that, too. If I ever encountered one who DIDN’T want to hire someone named Hannah because it made them think of Hannah Montana…then I’d consider that a bullet dodged!

      Reply Link
  • mainer February 6, 2014, 6:18 pm

    I think point #1 and #4 compliment each other really well.
    Take on the shitty to appreciate the good. Hold on to the good when you have it because you have seen the shitty. Get better at what you do by doing it a lot. And don’t be afraid to settle for a good job today over an awesome job tomorrow. Because for most people, tomorrow never comes. That holds true for relationships, too.

    Reply Link
  • mrmidtwenties February 6, 2014, 6:47 pm

    Great article @Banana, as someone who has been stuck in retail the past couple years after graduating with a B.comm number 3 definitely resonates with me.

    Reply Link
  • mylaray February 6, 2014, 8:13 pm

    Ah this is very timely for me. Great post! I don’t want to leave my job and they just gave me a big promotion to entice me to stay, but I feel like I need to hop around after being here 3 years in order to reach my career goals. #1 is something I often need to be reminded about and I have considered not leaving since I’m comfortable where I am. Decisions, decisions.

    Reply Link
  • Lyra February 6, 2014, 9:29 pm

    I love this! I can definitely agree that there are lots of parallels between the right job and the right SO. I also think that if your job and/or your significant other is draining you emotionally or mentally, you really really really need to MOA.

    Reply Link

Leave a Comment