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Career Crossroad: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Where your career takes you geographically is as important as your career itself. After all, as an under-30 professional, your next move might be the place where you stay long-term. That can be a great thing if you’re looking to put down roots and establish yourself in the community, but if you’re unhappy with the choice, it can make you feel tethered somewhere you don’t want to be.

Here are some suggestions for a few things you might want to consider in deciding whether you want to relocate or stay put.

1. Who?

Is it just you, or does this move involve other people? If you have a partner or family, of course you need to consider how the move would affect those relationships. Your partner’s profession might be an issue in deciding where to move – would he or she have employment options? Is it necessary for him or her to get any additional degrees? Would your partner even agree to move? If you’re not in that kind of relationship, perhaps there are other people to whom you want or need to remain close; if you have parents or siblings who need attention, whether you’re far away or not could affect their well-being. If you have children, you would want to make sure that a move won’t be detrimental to their schooling or other needs.

2. What?

What is the opportunity that you want to uproot your life to pursue? If you’re planning to relocate, do you have a prospect waiting for you, or are you hoping to find a job when you arrive? The job, itself, is a leap of faith. Certainly, you can never be sure that a job will be a good fit before you’re actually there. If you’re going to pack up your entire life and move to a new city, though, you want to be confident that the odds are in your favor that it will work out. Once you move, if the new gig doesn’t work out, you either (a) have to find a job in the new city (where you might not have many connections), or (b) pack your life again, perhaps break a lease or sell a home and re-start the relocation process back to your original (or another) city.

3. When?

When is it a good time to make a move in order to advance your career? Check the job market in the city to which you’re considering relocating. If you’re going with the hope of finding a job (as opposed to relocating for one that you’ve already accepted), try to gauge what the opportunity is in your field. If you’re a recent law school graduate and you know that three large firms in a particular city just laid off associates, now is not a good time to pursue a legal career there. You would be not only applying on your own merits, but also competing against more experienced associates who just lost jobs – not good odds.

4. Where?

Are you moving to something, or away from something? Perhaps you were born, raised and educated on the West Coast, but you’ve always wanted an East Coast experience; you’ll be thrilled to have a job in D.C., Boston or New York – you just want to move East. Or, maybe you’ve recently been let go from a job or suffered a relationship breakup and you need a change of pace… to start fresh, reinvigorate your career and your life, but it doesn’t really matter that much where you go. A little research can go a long way. Again, determining whether jobs in your field are plentiful in your chosen city is a huge factor as to whether it will be livable for you.  If you don’t have a specific destination, research your field and let that dictate where you move. Are you in a high-tech field like nanotechnology? Consider a location where there’s a nanotechnology college or research being done in the field, because that’s where the jobs are.

5. Why?

Are you moving to advance your career, or to maintain it? Believe it or not, that’s an important distinction. It’s no secret that the job market is rough, but more so in some locations than others. For example, if you’re a journalist, you’re going to have a tough time finding a job anywhere.That’s not to say you shouldn’t try – only that it might make the most sense to find a job first, and let that dictate where you’ll move, rather than the other way around. It’s a Catch-22; the big newspapers have stiff competition for the very few jobs that become available. However, smaller, local newspapers tend to be shedding jobs rather than adding them. If you can find a niche or specific expertise that makes you extra marketable, then target publications in your area of specialty and go where those jobs are.  As a journalist, you might need to accept maintaining a career for right now, as advancement may take a number of years. On the flip side, going back to the example of a recent law school grad, if you’re willing to work in a smaller law firm, or in a smaller city, you might be able to hit the partnership track quickly and work with the goal of becoming partner in a relatively short time.

6. How?

Understanding the logistics of your move is key to a successful relocation. Moving can be a huge expense; if you’re fortunate enough to have a job lined up that will pay your relocation costs, that’s one weight off your shoulders. If not, then figure out a budget for your move (which does not include rent and costs of living – there needs to be money allocated for moving, alone) and see if it’s feasible to relocate within that budget. Are you planning to ship your things or drive them? Are you employing movers or doing it yourself? Perhaps you’ve been living pretty simply and it would be more cost-effective to sell your current furnishings now and purchase new things when you arrive. If you’ve decided on a city, see where, specifically, is the right neighborhood for you. Every city has its own personality, and likewise, communities within the city are different. You might want to live very close to your work to ease transportation costs, or you might be more interested in living where there’s nightlife, things to do and people to meet. Of course, you must take into consideration the cost of living and other necessities when figuring out whether your desired relocation will work.

So, are you ready to go? Relocating to a new place is exciting, can be daunting, and will undoubtedly be interesting. By asking yourself a few basic questions, you can determine whether this is the right time for a move and if the move is the right one for your career. Good luck!

Amy Watson is a long time writer and Community Coordinator for Area Vibes – a company focused on helping people find the best places to live. If you haven’t yet chosen where to relocate, areavibes.com can help you find the best cities or neighborhoods to call home

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