Career and Money Advice At The Intersection Of Business And Technology

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Job first or location first?

August 10th, 2012 · No Comments

This is a question I have been thinking a lot lately.

I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for a long time. I attended high school and college there. After college I worked in the Silicon Valley for several years. For a long time, like many bay area residents, I felt that bay area was the best place to live in the United States. The weather is great. There are two great higher education academic institutions. Plenty of employers, both large and start-ups. The VC and start-up ecosystem is the best in the world.

However, something is missing. In other words, I wasn’t happy. In the weekend, I  drove to San Francisco or Berkeley. I missed the vibrant, intellectual, diverse, and cultural feel of San Francisco and Berkeley. I didn’t enjoy working and living in the Silicon Valley. It was really boring to me. Office parks after office parks. Most people worked in high tech. We were all chasing after the next home run IPO.

When I decided to apply MBA programs, I didn’t apply either Stanford or Berkeley although both program were excellent. I wanted to live in a different part of the country.

I ended up spending two years in Chicago. My friends in the bay area think I’m crazy – why moved to the mid-west? They didn’t understand why I could leave the best place on earth to move to the cold and windy Chicago.

Well, I personally liked Chicago better than San Francisco. I liked the four distinct seasons. The restaurant scene in Chicago was unbelievable. Lake Michigan was absolutely stunning. Downtown Chicago was magnificent. And the cold weather didn’t bother me – I actually liked the four distinct season.

After business school, I ended up taking a job in Seattle. I have mixed feeling about Seattle. It’s not a top tier metropolitan area. It’s not New York City, Chicago, LA, or San Francisco. It’s a small and compact. The people here are friendly but tend to be provincial. The start-up scene in Seattle is like minor league comparing to the major league of SF Bay Area.

But, Seattle is much cleaner and greener. Housing price is much lower than the bay area – Seattle is not cheap, but comparing to the bay area, it’s much cheaper. Many family can still afford to live comfortably with one income in Seattle. In the bay area, I don’t know any one-income family among my friends – everyone is working to afford a house.

School is another differentiator. The schools in WA is in much better shape. The state of California is basically broke. The public school system in the greater Seattle area are much better.

As you can probably tell from what I wrote so far, there isn’t a perfect place. Each city/state has its own strengths and weaknesses. But, to balance all of the factors, for me personally, Seattle is a better choice in term of raising a family and quality of life.

However, as my career progressed, I also need to think about what to do next. The higher you go, the fewer opportunity is available. Seattle has a few large employers such as Microsoft and Amazon. But, there are not that many small-to-medium sized publically traded companies in this area.

This poses an interesting challenge – should I be open to relocate for an attractive job opportunity? A friend of mine recently made up his mind to leave Seattle and moved to the mid-west. It wasn’t an easy decision.

I think this boils down to job first or location first. If I decide to put location first, then I’ll have to figure out how to support the life style/quality of life decision I made – it could mean that instead of continuing to climb up the corporate ladder, I need to choose a different path so that I can have more control over where I live in the next 10-20 years.

This is not an easy decision. I’d love to hear from you my dear readers. What do you think? Location first? Job first?

Tags: Career Fast Track · Work/Life Balance

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