Location, Location, for Jobs

Korn Ferry CEO Gary Burnison says candidates tend to gloss over a critical part of any work offer.

Gary Burnison is CEO of Korn Ferry and author of Lose the Resume, Land the Job, from which this is adapted. For more information, see KFAdvance.com.

Heads Carolina, tails California

Somewhere greener, somewhere warmer

These lyrics, from the chorus from the country hit, Heads Carolina, Tails California, always remind me that, as adventurous as it sounds, where we live and work shouldn’t be a decision left to the flip of a coin. But you’d be surprised by how many people don’t put enough consideration into location when deciding on jobs. Over the years, Korn Ferry recruiters have encountered this frustrating problem with hundreds, maybe thousands, of job candidates.

Mary, an executive in Denver, was interviewing for a once-in-a-lifetime dream job in Los Angeles. From the first conversation with the recruiter, Mary gave ample assurances that the move was no problem. She loved California – or at least the idea of California: the weather, the ocean, the lifestyle. What could be more perfect? At the first in-person interview, Mary was asked by the human-resources and hiring managers if relocation was an issue. Once again, her assurance was solid: “No problem.”

Through the second and third interviews all systems remained a “go” for Mary. The company made an offer, but she didn’t respond right away. When the recruiter called to see if there were any issues, Mary came clean. “I didn’t tell my partner that the job was in Los Angeles and we’d have to move,” she said. “He doesn’t want to go.”

Unable to come to an agreement with her partner, Mary had to decline the offer. It was a tremendous inconvenience for all involved, especially the company, which had been assured all along that Mary was willing to relocate. When I spoke with Mary a few months ago, she was still in Denver but separated from her partner. She could never get over her resentment toward him for being unwilling to relocate.

This true story is a cautionary tale. Think before you act. The implications are greater than what is happening in the moment. If you turn down an offer at the last minute, that news gets around and could hurt your chances of being hired someplace else. Industries are more tightly knit than you think. Equally important, you don’t want to waste your time and energy on opportunities that aren’t going to work for you. You need to focus and target the best opportunities. If you want or need to stay in a certain region, state or city, don’t look at jobs that require you to live and work elsewhere.

Commuting is another major issue that people often don’t give enough thought to. Before you take the job, you might convince yourself that a 90-minute or two-hour commute each way is doable. But over time, it can become a serious lifestyle problem. A long daily commute will distort your view of your job and your employer. Resentment will set in, and your performance will suffer – and so, most likely, will your personal life. I know of several executives who left rewarding jobs in organizations they admired simply because they couldn’t take the commute any longer.

Some people think working in one location and commuting home on the weekends can work, too. While it might work for a while, I don’t know anybody who can do it indefinitely. Years ago, I knew an oil-industry executive who took a job at a Houston-based trading operation while his family stayed in Connecticut so his young children didn’t have to change schools. He commuted for a year, then simply couldn’t do it any longer and left his job. He told me, “After my last flight, I threw my suitcases away. I literally couldn’t stand the sight of them.”

A final note: While more companies are offering employees the flexibility of working remotely, don’t assume that this will be an option for you. Employers still usually require their workers to spend some time in the physical location in order to promote collaboration.