- Making a major geographic move is a big decision, and input from several sources can help
- Focusing on three main questions can help you make a final choice
- See related article: 4 signs you’re ready for higher-ed career advancement
Your email dings. It’s a message from a colleague you haven’t heard from in years. You are pleasantly surprised—then intrigued. She writes, “This position is open at my college. I think you’d be a perfect fit. Take a look and let me know if you’re interested.” You click the link and begin to peruse the job description. The skills and experience reflect your career path. Even better, the scope of work aligns with the trajectory you’ve mapped for your career. The catch? The job is 2,000 miles away.
Geographic relocations are common in higher education. Because they are standard practice, we often don’t think carefully about whether they are the right choice for this moment in our career. It may be that a move is the ideal thing to energize your career and open new opportunities. Conversely, a move at the wrong time can leave you depleted from a poor fit and adrift in a region where you have no existing network of support. Strategic reflection can help you identify the benefits and minimize the potential downsides of a relocation.
When applying for a position in another part of the country, the idea of relocation is hypothetical and abstract. Many job seekers choose to apply to see where the process may lead. As interviews progress, you must give candid consideration to whether or not a geographic move is optimal for your career right now. We have three questions you can ask yourself as you mull over a possible move.
What am I energized to start?
Starting a new position in a new region requires a significant outlay of mental and emotional energy. Is your life in a stage that is conducive to a beginning? This is not primarily about age, but about the level of creative bandwidth and energy reserves you have at this moment.
Careers go through seasons. Is this a season of attending to current commitments or embarking on new endeavors? Is the dissatisfaction you are feeling in your current role a result of a need for growth into a more challenging position or a dysfunctional team? Don’t allow frustration to move you from one bad position to another.
What does my family need?
It is essential that your partner be on the same page regarding a relocation. Your career may be ripe for a new beginning, but what about your family? A dream job for you might mean a nightmare decision for your partner. Don’t consider only your immediate family. While your spouse’s career and your children’s schooling are primary factors, think also of parents and extended family. Might your parents require increased care in the near future? How might a relocation change your quality of life if you are removed from a well-developed support system? A job is a central part of our lives, but not the whole of it. See the job in the context of your interconnected ecosystem.
What are the tertiary costs and benefits?
Allow your decision making to encompass not only the obvious pros and cons, but a holistic picture. How does this potential move support your overarching career goals? How is the team poised to contribute to the institution and larger community? What potential collaborations might it foster or preclude? How do the values and vision of the school match with your ethos, priorities, and goals? Don’t allow one or two benefits to overshadow a host of challenges. Likewise, don’t allow one downside to crowd out a situation that will suit you in the ways that matter most.
Don’t decide alone
When evaluating a significant geographic change, it is vital to get the input from others. Enlist the perspective of a few trusted confidants. Often, seasoned advisors can help you see additional implications of a move—positive and negative. They can also cut through any unrealistic notions you’re harboring. You may be overly optimistic about the ease of transition or excessively pessimistic about the obstacles involved. Colleagues provide a perspective that is less biased about the situation, while being invested in your long-term career success.
With intentional evaluation and external feedback, you can confidently make a decision about a relocation that will serve your career moving forward.
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