Career Planning: Great Job But Can't Afford to Move

Julie Shenkman
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Career Planning: Great Job But Can't Afford to Move
By Cathy Goodwin

Q. I live in a wonderful house in the Midwest. Recently a recruiter asked if I would consider a new job with a move to Southern California. The salary would be higher but the cost of living -- ouch! Should I go on the interview?

A. Let's do the easy part first. I almost always recommend going on the interview. Of course, do not jeopardize your current job or current clients.

But you have little to lose. Occasionally you will be considered for other jobs in the company. You may be able to negotiate a telecommute option. Your interviewer may know of other opportunities in more desirable locations.

And now let's say you get a job offer for Los Angeles. You wonder if you can find a place to rent or buy. The only affordable homes seem to be 2 hours away from your job. What can you do?

We're focusing here on finding a place to live, but the process works for other must-haves, too: access to the ocean, driving versus public transportation, art museums...even a good bakery or deli.

(a) Visit your new city before you accept an offer. Don't skip this step, even if you pay your own way.

(b) Look around on your own -- not with an agent or company representative. (If an agent offers to show you around, take another day alone.)

As you look, make detailed notes. Stay in touch with an objective friend, family member or paid consultant – someone who can be a sounding board when you are facing a tough decision.

(c) Revisit your offer.

Often the dollar amount and the terms look different – in either direction -- after your Exploration day. Consider negotiating for a signing bonus or additional salary. Or make your acceptance contingent on finding a place to live.

(d) Be ready to walk away from an offer.

We tell ourselves, "Sure, I can handle a two-hour commute." Or, "Sure, I can downsize to a 500-square-foot studio apartment for me, my St. Bernard dog, and my three cats. And if the guy in my life becomes my life partner, we’ll squeeze him in too."

My friend "Tim" is like that. He is super-easygoing and he can live in anything from a dungeon to a palace. Most of us can't.

(e) Be ruthlessly honest.

Resentment leads to frustration, anger and stress. This is not the time to grit your teeth and mutter, "I can do this!" or, "I can do without that!" (unless, of course, you’re trying to survive the Marine Corps Boot Camp -- a career choice that draws my admiration but not my expertise).

When I was in graduate school, one of my classmates had been a successful corporate manager. When he decided to go back to school, he sold a large house and downsized to a tiny dark studio apartment, determined to live the student life.

He dropped out of school in the middle of his very first year, although he had been identified as a promising scholar. I am convinced he would have completed the program if he had chosen a nicer place to live.

Bottom Line: Every time I (or my clients) have declined an offer for honest, realistic reasons, a better opportunity seems to turn up, faster than expected. No guarantees but don’t be surprised if that's your experience too.

Career Consultant Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D. created the 21-Day Extreme Career Makeover guide for midlife professionals who want to transform career breakdowns to career breakthroughs. Learn more. Relocating? Check out my guide to surviving the stress and hassle. Start here.

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