Location versus Opportunity – Lessons Learned

As I’ve been out recruiting across the country these past six weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and interact with some great candidates.  One of the topics of discussion that has often come up is job location.  As a former Cameron-Brooks candidate and a business person of ten years, I have also wrestled with opportunity versus location and I wanted to take the opportunity to share a personal job location story with all of you. 

I attended the November 2000 career conference in Austin, TX.  As with all of the candidates I had listed a geographic preference but remained open on location based on the career opportunity.  My preference was the Midwest/Texas area.  In my follow up interview process, I had narrowed my choices to three great companies in Dallas, TX, Minneapolis, MN, and San Jose, CA.  Two of the positions were exactly in my geographic preference and the third, to be honest, was near the bottom in relation to where my wife and I wanted to live.  After a lot of discussion, soul searching, and really laying out the pros, cons, tradeoffs, etc. we decided to take the opportunity in San Jose.   Even though it was in our least desirable location, we felt it was the best career opportunity for me in the long run. 

Flash forward two years.  I had been working hard at my new job and produced results, and an executive in my organization had taken notice.  He approached me about a new opportunity which involved more responsibility, new challenges, and involved a move to a new location…..Dallas, TX!  My wife and I jumped at the chance for a promotion and to be in a place we preferred.  Since that time, we have moved twice more, always continuing to weigh the pros, cons, tradeoffs, etc. in the process. 

This is just one example but I know of many others from my peers that illustrate the same thing.  I wanted to summarize some of the lessons I’ve learned over the past ten years in business so they may serve you well when it comes time to evaluate your options: 

  • If you aren’t happy doing what you are doing, location will be irrelevant.  Think about it.  Most of us will spend 10+ hours a day at work five days a week.  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.  
  • It is easier to maneuver your career once you have your foot in the door.  You simply have more leverage with an employer once you have worked in the company, demonstrated an ability to learn, produce results, and contributed.   For one, you become a “proven entity” for the company and they are more inclined to reward you and two, you get a chance to network and meet more people inside the organization.  Those relationships can present future opportunities that you simply can’t get until you are a part of the team. 
  • 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.  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.   

After the many deployments 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.  What I’m suggesting to you in this blog post is to examine this decision from every angle.  I’m a fan of the TV show, “Friday Night Lights” and the football team has a motto, “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.”  That is precisely the attitude you need to have when evaluating opportunity and location.  By all means, it will involve heart.  After all, it impacts your family.  But if you also go into the decision with clear eyes and look at all the options and tradeoffs from an objective point of view, the decision you ultimately make will be one that is right for you.

Rob Davis