Elle Mentors

What modern women should look for when picking a life partner

Life lessons from the head of a multi-million dollar enterprise

Not that Shikha Sharma purports to be an expert on love, but as the chief of Axis Bank and a happily married career woman, her advice on choosing a life partner can't be easily dismissed. The banking CEO decided to get personal in her speech to the graduating class of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, explaining how one's choice of partner — both in private and professional spaces — can either hamper or help your career, and your peace of mind. 

Read Axis Bank CEO Shikha Sharma's advice on finding a life partner  

"It is a cliché to say that the choice of a life partner is the single-most important choice you will make in your life… it is a cliché because it is true. As H. Jackson Brown Jr wrote, “Choose your life’s mate carefully. From this one decision will come 90% of all your happiness and misery.” I don’t know about the 90%…but the fact is that much of the joy you derive on the journey of life does hark back to whom you choose to share this journey with. A lot of what I am today, the achievements that were so kindly mentioned in the introduction, are a function of the partner I was lucky to have alongside on my journey.

Sanjaya (Sharma) and I are very different people. He is widely read, divergent (in) thinking, and creative; I am a lot more linear (in) thinking and introverted. But on the most important thing, we are not different at all—we have very similar core values. If I were to point out the one thing that has made our partnership successful, it is just that—the alignment on core values. Indulge me for a minute if I sound like a mom! When you are out there looking for a partner, look beyond their looks, their success, their style. The durability and strength of your relationship is not going to come from your partner’s personality—it is going to come from their character. So remember to look well beneath the surface.

My discussion of partner choice has so far been about life partners.

But as professionals you will find that you are frequently faced with a very similar choice—that of organisations or teams. The principles of what makes for lasting relationships with your work team or with your organisation aren’t terribly different from those that make lasting personal partnerships. It is easy to get enamoured by the visible but superficial details of a new job you are considering—the money, the fancy title, the foosball table in the break-room. But in most cases, that is not what makes for a fulfilling career. You want to join an organization that has values that match yours; that has people you can be yourself with; that gives you the space to be who you have the potential be as a professional. These are not things that any firm can tell you in their pre-placement talk. It is something you can only find out the hard way, by doing your own research, by looking beneath the surface."