5 Thoughts When Considering Opportunity vs. Location

As a recruiter, I have the opportunity to travel across the country meeting and working with great officers.  In my 6 1/2 years at Cameron-Brooks, one topic that has been a mainstay in my discussions with JMOs about transitioning is location.  As a former Cameron-Brooks candidate and a business person of nearly seventeen years, I have been faced many times with the opportunity versus location situation.  It is only natural that you wrestle with the location issue but the key is to wrestle with it BEFORE you launch into a career search. In other words, do your research to understand the trade-offs that come with location preferences and develop a strategy to help you make good career decisions.  It is important to get it right the first time.  Here are five thoughts to help you when considering opportunity and location:

  1. Location IS a factor. You will not find anyone at Cameron-Brooks who would suggest otherwise.  As a JMO with your OPTEMPO and having little say over where you get stationed in the military, who doesn’t want more ownership over where they live?  As stated above, the question is not whether you have a location preference or whether it should be a factor, but rather how you will manage location preference with regard to achieving your career goals.
  2. If you aren’t happy doing what you are doing, location will rarely keep you satisfied.  Most of us will spend 10+ hours a day at work. This is a lot of time to be spent doing something you settled for in lieu of a location preference.  I can tell you from experience from former colleagues and friends that it will not matter where you live if you don’t like what you are doing.  Think back to your favorite job in the military.  You know the one.  You were excited to get up and do the job, felt challenged and motivated and were making an impact with your unit and team.  Now ask yourself, was it your favorite job because of where you were stationed?  In some cases perhaps, but I’m willing to bet in most cases it probably wasn’t, and in some cases, it might have been at your least favorite base or post.
  3. It is easier to maneuver your career within an organization. Approximately 66% of Cameron-Brooks candidates accept job offers in their REGIONAL preference.  The reason for this is that good companies have good attitudes about helping people get in a region of the country that meets their personal needs.  Additionally, once you have been with a company and you have a track record of success, you will find that the organization will continue to try to help you balance your professional development with your personal needs.  The number one reason that business people turn down promotions that involve location changes is due to family considerations.  You have more freedom to do this because you have become a “proven entity” for the company and they are more inclined to work with you.  At the same time, accepting promotions can be excellent strategic decisions.  You get a chance to further network across the larger organization and those relationships can present future opportunities you may not see staying in one location.
  4. The better job you do with your company the more likely it is you will work yourself out of a location. You generally can’t get all of your professional growth within one location.  There is a reason companies who are looking to grow their talent often move them around from time to time.  It is simply because not all of the necessary experiences, jobs, skills, etc., can be obtained by staying in one location.  The better you perform the more likely you are to get promoted and that next promotion may not always be at your current location.  Companies will relocate their developing leaders to work in different areas of the company, interact with different groups, learn new markets, etc.  To be a top 10% leader, you must have a very good understanding of the whole company, not just pieces and parts.  It is akin to wanting to be a General Officer or Admiral but asking to be stationed at just one duty station your entire military career.  It would simply be impossible to gain the experiences necessary at one military base or post to make the decisions required at those levels in the military.
  5. Your strategy should match your goals. Here is a suggestion if you aspire to future executive positions in your business career after the military.  First, define your location preference by region (Northeast, Southwest, etc.).  Second, communicate this preference to your recruiting firm.  Again, remember that 66% of our candidates end up in their regional preference with top companies and excellent career opportunities.  Third, identify a couple of other regions in the country where you would consider EXCELLENT career opportunities (in addition to your preference).  If your preference is the Northeast, perhaps consider the Southeast or Midwest as viable second choices provided the career opportunity is a great fit.  Fourth, identify areas of the country that you would NOT consider, even for a good opportunity.  Lastly don’t bring location back into the picture until you are trying to narrow down offers.  Location can be an excellent tiebreaker.

After the many deployments and high OPTEMPO most of you have faced, I completely understand and empathize with the emotion surrounding wanting to be closer to family or a particular geographic area, and there may be situations where that makes the most sense.  In the end, career decisions are about weighing opportunities and costs.  Living outside of your location preference is a cost, but for the right career move, the opportunity/cost can be a good decision. Educate yourself and avoid making emotional decisions and the decision you ultimately make will be one that is right for you and will pay big dividends in the way you manage your business career for years to come.

Rob Davis