These are all questions we either have or will face on our career journey. As I have taken my own steps and engaged in countless conversations on the topic of relocation, I have whittled my advice for a young person weighing options down to four steps.
Step one is to say, “Yes.” That’s my ultimate advice to a young person wishing to catapult their career, either straight out of college or along the way. You don’t have to compromise your long-term aspirations, but I guarantee your long-term options will be much reduced if “yes” is not part of your vocabulary.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard career professionals give advice to college students that if they really want to have a meaningful career, you have to be willing to say, yes. Say, “Yes,” to new job responsibilities. Say, “Yes,” to a new role. Say, “Yes,” to relocation. In all cases, you show a willingness to stretch yourself. That puts you in a better position to:
Think of the equity you build like an investment – more equity = more value. More value can equal more power in future career discussions. This might seem crude, but it makes sense if you think about it.
Step two begins with your mental outlook. I would contend this is one of the most critical steps in opening doors and preparing yourself personally for success. If this step is not done well, your mental and physical well-being can be seriously compromised.
I recently observed some feedback a young professional was giving some students on this topic. She had moved several times with her current employer (She had said, “Yes,” several times already!), and she shared two thoughts I thought were profound:
This doesn’t mean you will love where you land, but you should go in expecting to. What she shared is that ultimately, she did love aspects of everywhere she had lived. Did she want to go back and live in all of those places? Not necessarily, but her mental outlook going in is that she could, and her positive outlook prepared her to gravitate to what she loved about everywhere she had lived and worked.
This comes down to your figuring out what you value. Is it a faith/church community? Is a service club or organization such as Rotary International, Lions, Kiwanis, etc.? Maybe its youth-serving organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Club, National 4-H, etc. Whatever it might be that brings you personal joy, there are often easy ways to plug in no matter the community where you find yourself. It’s up to you to seek those opportunities and not spend your evenings all alone wondering how to meet people or build your own community.
Step three is to do it all again, at least once. Even if it’s not physical relocation, it could be taking on additional roles or responsibilities. The same concept applies. You stretch yourself to learn new things and show your willingness to step up when supervisors ask you to. The number of times you repeat has a lot to do with your own individual aspirations. The higher you wish to rise, the more steps you likely need to take. If you wish to be CEO of a multinational company with offices all over the world, you’re going to need to spend time on international assignments. If you aspire to lead a smaller shop, a mere few stops in a larger organization could likely get you the kind of experience you may need. It all depends on your own aspirations, which leads to the final step.
The fourth step is to start engineering your runway. You may have already thought long-term about where you want to live, how much money you want to make or what job title you want to hold, but now you’ve got some experience under your belt and it’s time to refine your dreams.
You’ve built clout, credibility and profound work experience at this point. Of most value, you have a tremendous network at this point – prior coworkers, old neighbors, former supervisors – these all hold tremendous value to you at some point in the future. Much like experiential learning throughout college, you have learned what you do and do not like about the various roles and geographies you’ve been in. It’s time to start formulating your why, which starts with aspirations. That ideal job, the ideal home and what you hold to be most important. Now you should have much more clarity about the final steps to take to get there, or more importantly how you’re going to respond the next time you’re asked the question!
This advice is in no way intended to suggest you say yes to EVERYTHING that comes your way. Think about every volunteer effort you’re approached about, when you’re asked to lead an employee resource group, etc. This concept was to apply mostly to the career trajectory and not the extracurricular. It is very important to make a distinction between the two, however, or you risk burnout.
No matter the opportunities that come your way, whether involving relocation or not, the single best approach is to come at decisions with a positive attitude. That will take your opportunities – and health – a long way in the right trajectory.