A common career decision is whether to move for a job opportunity or to stay in a place where you already have strong ties to family and friends. There isn’t one right answer, of course, as people have different values and priorities, so I interviewed people who made different decisions to hear their perspectives for the benefit of people who might be considering whether to move for a job now.
As you will read, some people chose to move for job opportunities, some people chose to stay in a place for the community they have already built, and some people have done both at different points in their lives. Maybe because of the nature of human decision-making (cognitive dissonance causes us to rationalize as a good decision whatever path we chose), no one interviewed regretted their choices.
Moved from Ireland to the United States
“I was born in America but I grew up in rural Ireland, so I have dual citizenship. In 2011, I decided to immigrate to America since Ireland was the country second hardest hit by a recession (Greece being the first). All my family and friends remained in Ireland, so it was a hard decision to leave them. When I arrived in America, I had $200 and a backpack filled with clothes. In the beginning, I worked as a door-to-door salesman, which was worst working experience of my life. I was the only person I knew in Southern California who walked everywhere because I didn’t yet have enough money for a car.
Over the next two years, I became a different and better person. I had moved 5000 miles from home and put myself in a position where I had to make it and I did. If I had stayed at home, I would never have gotten out of my comfort zone or tried to succeed in life. If you accept a job even an hour away from your home, it opens the door to new opportunities and new friends. If you fail, you can always go back, but if you never leave, you will never know what could be possible.”
– Drew Kalinski, Ecommerce Manager, Ayer Comfort
The Dream Job That Wasn’t
“I moved for what I thought was my dream job with The Walt Disney Company. I relocated my family about 60 miles north of our hometown (Chula Vista day in south San Diego). It’s not too far, but also not close enough to our previous life. If you would have asked me the year it happened (2015), I would have told you I regretted the decision. The interview process with Disney took 8 months for me and I was only able to last there for 6 months. I tried to stick it out for at least 2 years but it would’ve mentally broken me down to stay any longer than I did.
I had to pay back the relocation expenses incurred (approximately $15,000) and my husband’s commute remains over 45 miles and an hour+ daily as a result. However, we love our home and neighborhood AND the other “blessings in disguise” that have resulted from the move. So, despite the challenges that year, I believe everything happens for a reason and that I ended up right where I’m supposed to be.
I was recruited by a consulting firm right after I left Disney and was offered a great position that paid really well and that I learned so much from. It was in Orange County so the location of our new home worked out perfectly. I recently left that position when I had a baby and have become an entrepreneur since. I don’t think I would have had the courage to do what I am doing now if things did not happen in the sequence that they did.”
– Mychelle Fernandez, Blogger, Let Love Shine
Three Adventures With Good Outcomes
“I have made three dramatic moves for my career in the past 13 years, each time to an area where I knew no one.
The first time I was single and I moved to a small town in Tennessee for a job. I left my friends and family — everyone I knew — behind. The second and third times I was married, but we still knew no one in the area, and both my husband and I are introverted, so it’s been an interesting experience that we’ve both coped with differently. For me, it has meant that most of my personal relationships have been forged in professional settings rather than through more traditional family, educational, or social settings.
I’m definitely happy with the decisions to have pursued my career opportunities — they’ve taken me on adventures and to new places to live that I would never have dreamed of even visiting in some cases, so the lack of attachment to one specific geography has helped me grow as a person in a way that I think I’d be missing and lacking if I had stayed in one place forever.”
– Andrew Becks, COO, 301 Digital Media, LLC
Moved to Start Over in a New City
“I moved to Austin, Texas, nearly 4 years ago, only knowing one person in town. It was hands down the best decision I ever made. I was reeling from a terrible breakup and was ready for a big change. I picked a place on a map, secured a job before I left, sold all my things and drove 24 hours with my mom and two dogs to Austin. The first 6 months were really hard, I didn’t have any friends only knew a couple coworkers and a few connections through the one person I knew.
Then I met my best friend and we co-founded a women’s social community because we know how challenging it can be to make friends in a new city – especially when you’re in your 30s. Through growing that community, I started my own business, bought a home and am happier now than I ever was. I still stay in touch with friends back home, but when people ask me if I’ll move back, I always say never. Changing my scenery, picking up and moving helped me to find my passion, my path and my career.”
– Angela Melpolder, Co-Founder, The B Hive Apiary
Moved for a Better Job Market
“I moved for a job 4 years ago. I had graduated college a year prior with a teaching certificate and the desire to stay in my hometown (Austin, TX), but the job prospects were pretty bleak. This prompted me to begin looking in other cities in Texas. Eventually, I found a job in Katy, TX (just outside of Houston) two weeks before the school year was to begin. The Saturday after I was offered the position, I went to find an apartment and moved to Houston the next week.
Accepting the offer was hard at first; I had been applying to jobs for months, and I didn’t think that an out-of-city job was really going to happen. I had begun to lose hope that I would move anywhere and was coming to terms with it. In fact, I was even kind of happy about it. A big change wasn’t going to be in the cards, and I’d get to stay in my hometown with my friends who had also moved home after college. We’d keep going to the same bars and doing the same things that we’d always done, and that thought was comforting. Staying there was certainty, and moving was uncertainty. Certainty sounded pretty good; I knew what to expect from certainty. But then I got the offer, and it was a little surreal and a bit jarring. I didn’t know if I even wanted to still move. I didn’t know what would be out in Houston. It’s a big city and I’d never been before; I was just really scared. I didn’t know what to do. I don’t remember exactly what influenced my decision, but for some reason, I decided to take the plunge and accept the offer.
Looking back on it, I can honestly say that moving was the right choice. I’ve learned so much about myself that I couldn’t have done living near my high school friends and family. Moving allowed me the space I needed to grow, to figure things out on my own, and to get to know the deep depths of me.”
– Lauren Crain, Digital Marketer, HealthLabs.com
No Regrets After Choosing Family in Los Angeles
“I am an attorney and business owner. I was approached by someone who offered to acquire my business and then hire me to run a division in the Midwest. I could not imagine the thought of moving away from my family (all of whom live in LA) and disrupting my kids in school, etc. We have our entire lives here in Los Angeles – including family, friends, a home, etc. While opportunities for career advancement are amazing, I think there are always opportunities that come up and being close to family was a #1 priority for me. We stayed here in LA and we’ve never looked back. I’m fortunate to continue to grow and thrive within the business I own and I feel that, for me, there really wasn’t too much of a decision.”
– Deborah Sweeney, CEO, MyCorporation.com
Became Self-Employed to Move Toward Family
“Rather than moving away from family for a job, I moved away from my job in order to be closer to family.
Here’s what happened:
I spent almost six years living in Washington, DC and working as a communications director for a national nonprofit. It was long hours, hard work, and a lifestyle that kept me tethered to two cell phones. Not one, but TWO!
I realized I needed to re-prioritize my life when I found myself answering calls on Christmas Eve. I should have been sitting by the fireplace with my family, but instead I was talking to reporters. In 2015, I took a big leap. My then-boyfriend and I discussed moving back to my home state of New Jersey to be closer to family. It was the best decision I ever made (other than marrying that boyfriend and having one beautiful son together almost 4 years later).
We spent two months in D.C. waiting for our lease to expire, and during that time I created my own freelance writing and editing business. I see my family every day, I make more money than I did in Washington, I work from home, and I get to make my own hours.
My experience in Washington gave me the knowledge, connections, and professional confidence needed to launch my business. I wouldn’t trade those memories and friendships for anything. But I can say this: Four years later, I have more work-life balance than ever before and I have no regrets, only gratitude.”
– Jackie Webster, Writer, Editor, Content Strategist, JackieBWriting.com
Ten Moves in Eleven Years
“My husband and I moved ten times in eleven years for our jobs and for our education. Our most recent (and final?) move was back to Chicago, the place that feels most like home to us. In our twenties, my husband, Dan, and I crisscrossed the country as we pursued our graduate degrees and our jobs. We moved from Maryland to Ohio to California to Illinois. As a medical resident, my husband had little choice in where we would move. He ranked his top medical residencies, and on Match Day we learned we would spend the next five years in California and Illinois. All of these moves were good choices for us. We were doing what we were supposed to do.
After living in Chicago for four years and having three kids during that time, our next move took on greater significance. It was no longer just about us. We needed to figure out if the move would be beneficial for the entire family. Dan accepted an excellent job offer in Knoxville, Tennessee because it seemed like a wonderful place to raise the kids. The problem was we didn’t have any family or friends nearby. We relocated to Knoxville after only two visits there.
Knoxville is beautiful and the southern charm is palpable. We made some mistakes, though. Because housing prices were much lower in Knoxville than in Chicago, we could afford a brick colonial home in a nice neighborhood. We soon learned that our neighbors had kids on high school sports teams while our kids were still in diapers. Our life stages didn’t quite match up and it wasn’t easy to break into the close-knit community. After some deep thinking, we realized that Knoxville wasn’t the long-term place for us.
Priorities change. Instead of looking for the most lucrative job, we decided that Chicago was the best place for our family. We’re within driving distance of Dan’s family and an easy flight to visit my family. We live in a community where neighbors help one another and friends live within walking distance. After ten moves in eleven years, we’ve finally been able to set down roots and we couldn’t be happier.”
– Ali Wenzke, Author and Founder, The Art of Happy Moving
Chose Grandparents and Hometown Traditions
“My husband and I made the decision 14 years ago to find a home equidistant between our parents and stay in our hometown, rather than to move away for a job opportunity. We have had the ability to keep a close relationship with them and have our son get lots of grandparent time because of this. It made everything worth it because without family, nothing else is worth much. We may not have million dollar salaries, but we feel very rich being near our family and being able to share our childhood experiences in our hometown with our son. It allows for deeper traditions and more laid back times that don’t involve the stress of travel. We’ve never regretted staying!”
– Carrie Aulenbacher, Writer, CarrieAulenbacher.com
Declined Multiple Job Opportunities
“I started my career in my hometown with a manufacturing organization in 2003. Over time, I’ve received and declined many job offers from abroad. Each time I explored the job market to test my market value, I had to re-evaluate my decision to stay near friends and family. In 2013, I received a particularly wonderful opportunity and I discussed it with my father. He said that he hoped I would stay as my moving away would take not only me away from him in the last years of his life, but his grandson (my son), too. I decided to stay and he passed away in 2016.
When I look back over my decision and analyze whether my choice was good or bad, I feel happy and proud with what I chose. I have not a single bit of regret.”
– Inder Kundnani, Founder, Invajy.com
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