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Help! Should I Relocate for a Job?

Dear Ron, I've been at my company for 10 years and I've been offered a role that's essentially a lateral move that requires me to relocate from Los Angeles to New York. There are some possibilities with the position, but it would mean uprooting me and my family and moving somewhere I don't like as much as where I am now, for no additional increase in pay or official responsibility. What should I do?
There are two sets of issues here -- personal and professional -- and your decision needs to come down to how each of these will be impacted by a move, and how important each is to you. On the professional side, you should investigate whether there's any possibility that more than a lateral move could be involved here. And if not, you need to figure out if it's still a move that will put you on a better track to building your career in some new and better ways.

For example, will the move give you exposure to influential leaders in your organization that you otherwise would not have? Or allow you to work with or for someone who has more clout in the organization or unique experience that you could leverage later in your career? You need to evaluate the move far beyond just the initial job description. Another consideration: Is it a move that brings you closer to the heartbeat of your company so you can be on top of important trends, as well as important organizational issues and changes? Or one that will allow you to expand your range of contacts, both within and outside the company?

In terms of personal considerations, you have to figure out whether it's a move that will let you really meet your personal needs for the right kinds of activities, friends, and lifestyle. If you have a significant other, could you sustain a long-distance relationship if you had to for a period of time? With respect to your family, is this a move that, while difficult, could positively affect them by, say, putting you closer to aging parents or other relatives, or to unique educational and cultural opportunities for your children?

I once worked with a woman at a consumer products company who was asked to move to Chicago from a smaller Midwestern city for a lateral move. It was for a stint in a larger, more influential office of her company, but it meant moving from a position where she had profit and loss responsibilities and a great deal of autonomy to one where she would have more of a support role. Plus, she would have to uproot her husband and children to a new school district. On the professional side, she eventually determined that the opportunities to get a higher profile within her company were worth it, despite the fact that she wasn't getting promoted, while on the personal side, she found out her kids could attend an even better school district with more activities.

It was a bit of a leap of faith that the risk would be worth it, but the move wound up working great for her - she gained a tremendous amount of exposure to important people at her company who were very impressed by her, and was soon selected to serve on a task force that helped get her quickly promoted into a more powerful position. She's now considered one of the top talents at her company, and all of this happened within the space of about four years.

Note that if you had to turn the opportunity down, it doesn't necessarily mean the end for your advancement at your company. In today's work world where there's so many flexible work arrangements, you can usually cite family considerations for declining a request like this, but you should communicate that you would be willing to move for the company under the right circumstances. So you can say no, but you need to reassure your bosses that it's not necessarily a long-term issue of your ambition and desire to sacrifice to advance there. But all this depends, of course, on your goals, too, for where and how you want to live, and how far you want to go at this particular company. Good luck.

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