12.6 How to Have a Life and a Career

Learning Objectives

  1. Understand why quality of life outside work contributes to career success.
  2. Get strategies for how to maintain a healthy life outside your job.

Personal Finances Impact Career Success

Some employers check credit history before extending offers. One of the reasons for this is the notion that a person’s ability to handle money responsibly is a signal of overall responsibility. This is a well-defined example of how your life outside of work (in this case, your finances) impacts your career success. When you transition to your first job, you have a number of financial issues to manage:

  • If you borrowed money for school, you may have to start loan repayment.
  • You may need to secure your first off-campus residence.
  • You won’t have health insurance through your school, so you need to secure medical coverage.
  • You have your first significant paycheck and need to understand withholdingsThe amount of taxes set aside from your paycheck and sent to the IRS as prepayment for your taxes., taxes, and perhaps retirement plansFinancial structures set up so employers or employees can set aside money for retirement. Examples of retirement plans include IRA and 401k plans..

Even if this isn’t your first job, financial transitions will occur throughout your life—for example, buying a home, getting married and commingling finances and legal obligations, and having children.

For both the entry-level and the experienced worker, your financial situation dictates how much risk you can take, which may limit your opportunities. If you are living paycheck to paycheck, you might need to tolerate a less-than-ideal work situation. You might not be able to take a chance on a new business or a job change.

Personal finances matter. You can start some good habits start early in your career:

  • Check your credit annually. You can get a free credit report at each of the major credit bureaus at https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/index.jsp.
  • Manage your debt. If you have student loans, get confirmation about when you need to start repaying and how much. With other debts, make sure you pay at least the minimum on time. Late fees and penalties for underpayment can add significant amounts quickly to your original debt. Don’t forget to consider future graduate school plans as you review and organize your debt load.
  • Get adequate insurance coverage. You want to be able to focus on your career and not have to worry about unexpected medical bills or something happening to your home derailing your focus. Types of insurance that most people need include medical insuranceReimburses you financially for medical care, sometimes including preventive care, but especially care due to illness and hospitalization., dental insuranceReimburses you financially for dental treatments., life insuranceReimburses a person or people you designate in the event that you die., homeowners or renters insuranceReimburses you for loss or damage to your home or apartment; also typically includes coverage for the contents of your residence., and disability insuranceReplaces a portion of your income if you are unable to work due to becoming disabled.

Health and Well-Being Are Important to Your Career

In addition to good finances, good health is part of the foundation for career success. You physically can’t do the work if you don’t take care of your health. Once you know your typical work schedule in your new job, schedule time for exercise. Some workplaces have gyms, or you might look at nearby gyms as an option to make time for exercise.

Schedule your annual physical, dental appointments, and other routine medical care. Put these appointments into your professional calendar so you don’t schedule meetings on top of these and push them off to the side. Try scheduling as many routine checkups as possible before you start your job so that you can focus 100 percent on the new job.

Make time for breaks, eat lunch, drink water, and practice good health habits even during the workday. When you are new, you have a lot of information to process and you may be tempted to work through breaks or lunch, or never leave your desk. Set your Outlook calendar to remind you to stretch. Block off your lunch hours and make dates with colleagues so you keep the time free. You need to replenish your mental and physical energy so you are able to focus and do good work.

You might be tempted to work past the regular day, or do career-related activities after work (e.g., professional networking, training). While this is admirable, you also want to pursue hobbies and personal interests outside work. First of all, personal hobbies make you a more well-rounded person, which helps your career. Second, focusing on personal hobbies gives you a more diverse network, which also helps your career. Finally, pursuing personal interests gives you a much-needed mental break, which should help you be more focused and possibly more creative in your job.

Personal Relationships also Need Attention

Not every relationship needs to contribute to your career success. Consider involvement in your community. Don’t forget your social circle from college and other non-work-related situations. Similar to personal hobbies, personal relationships outside work make you more well rounded and give you a diverse perspective. It is easy to overlook these relationships, so schedule time on your calendar on an ongoing basis so that these relationships are not continually pushed aside for work reasons.

Key Takeaways

  • Life success contributes to career success, such as the areas of personal finance, health and well-being, and relationships.
  • Schedule the time and specific activities for each of your nonwork areas so that they are not forgotten in the immediate pressures of work.


  1. Go to https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/index.jsp and order your credit report. Fix any errors, and read it thoroughly to understand the current state of your finances.
  2. Itemize your current financial responsibilities. Make a list of bills you need to pay. Make a list of action steps before your next job, for example, if you need to find a place to live. Check your insurance coverage.
  3. Schedule routine medical checkups. Set your calendar for when you need to make your next appointment so that when you are busy on the job you can be assured that your calendar will remind you to make appointments.
  4. Pick which personal hobbies and relationships you will prioritize. Make specific plans with dates, times, and activities and how you will incorporate these interests and relationships once you start working.