When following the American Dream means relocating.

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We work with clients and candidates all over the United States.  We have agencies in Dallas, who hire people from Minneapolis, and agencies in Minneapolis who hire people from Southern California.  And everything in between and beyond.

When the conversation of relocating for a career comes up candidates do not often lack a stance: They are open to it, or they are not.  Even the ones who say they will relocate “for the right opportunity” have very often not thought deeply enough about what that actually means, and how it will truly effect their world.

When people are young and single, just starting out in their career, its easy to be open to relocation.  Its just another adventure, what’s the worst that can happen?  When all you have to worry about is getting friends to help you shove your couch into a U-Haul and making sure you have enough money in the bank to put down a deposit on a new apartment, these decisions are pretty easy.  You can gain a lot of invaluable career experience if you are open to new adventures. 

But it gets more complicated once you find a mate, and a group of friends, or are nearby to emotional ties like close family and comfortable, safe surroundings.  If you happen to be from New York City, its pretty true that one can build a very comfortable career and life and never have to move very far.  But if you are from Denver, or Topeka, or Little Rock, eventually, it gets a bit harder to satisfy your growing career challenges.  This is where people usually decide the real trajectory for their career, without even realizing it.

I’m not saying you can’t achieve a fully satisfying career without moving at some point.  I am saying only that by putting your personal/emotional life before your career life, you make a choice, right then and there, and it helps to recognize that.

So, relocating.  Its not for sissies.  It is an adventure, and you have to be a person who likes adventure, and change, to even go down that road.  You have to be open to the bumps and curves and detours that might present themselves along the way, knowing the end result is the advantage this choice offers your career.  You can’t raise your hand and say “I’ll go!” and then later decide, wait, you mean it might be uncomfortable?  You have to keep the end result in mind: another rung of the career ladder you’ve laid out for yourself.

Even with a spouse, a carload of kids and a family dog, it isn’t so bad if you handle it right.  We often hear candidates say “Oh, we don’t want to have to move our kids, it would turn their lives upside down.”  Guess what?  Kids bounce.  As we talk to candidates who moved as children, we’ve found the experience of moving to a new place, making new friends and learning to cope in new situations tends to make a person more socially well rounded and capable of dealing with change as adults.

Old studies linking relocation with serious problems in kids have been partly disproven” according to Sue Shellanbarger of The Wall Street Journal Online.  Families with young children who try commuting often find the time apart is more frightening psychologically than a big move.  Its hard to parent a child who doesn’t see you for ten days at a time. 

If you have begun to expand your job or career search to a new city, you have to be prepared at the beginning to know what it will take for you to move there.  You need to sit down with your family, or at least your significant other (if you don’t want to rock the kid’s boat too soon), and talk about what would a move like this mean for us?  Where would we like to go?  What is the cost of living there?  What would we love about that new place?  What might be difficult, and how will we deal with that?

Paula Moriera, an author who focuses on IT careers, writes a nice post of things to think about when decided whether or not to approach relocating for your career.  Despite her attention to the IT industry, these things are mostly common sense and applicable across any career.

The bottom line is, consider it from all angles before you start interviewing for jobs in other places.  Make sure your spouse is completely on board, not just patting you on the head and saying “Sure, sweetie!” because he/she thinks it won’t happen anyway.  We’ve seen more than our share of candidates who get down to the offer stage for a job that includes relocation and then say, “I’m sorry, but we just don’t want to move”, even though they started the process in the first place, and knew all along it might come to this.  Just because the opportunity meets your career needs doesn’t mean it meets the needs of your family, and the two must be in balance to make it work.  And you have to find that out before you are walking up the aisle to meet your new company at the altar of employment/marriage.

On the flip side of all of this, if you’re an agency looking to hire a candidate who will be relocating, take this advice: Never, never, NEVER underestimate the pull of a spouse who is not on board from the very beginning.  Do your best to woo not just the candidate, but the spouse or partner as well.  Make it easy and comfortable for everyone.  Make sure they are comfortable with how their life will change, not just the candidate’s life. 

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