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By: Dr. John T. Self

What to Consider Before a Job Transfer

I once thought that I could live anywhere. I suppose I got that attitude because I grew up in a military family. My dad was transferred about every 3 years and so the family pulled up stakes, said adios to friends and looked forward to a new adventure. It really never bothered me to move and I always thought it helped make me more sociable and able to adapt easily to different situations.

My first job was with Steak and Ale way back when the earth was still cooling. My then wife and I were transferred 5 times in 5 years with Steak and Ale. Too much, but as far as the places we were transferred to, there was never any problem. We went from Houston to Dallas and back to Houston. Then to Amarillo and from there to Arlington and finally back to Houston. All good. We loved each place. Even Amarillo, which when we first heard about transferring there, I asked my district manager why was I being banished to Amarillo? But it turned out to be great. We found we loved the people, the city, and its western heritage of which they are rightfully so proud.

All of the transfers just confirmed our belief that any place was great. All it required was a good and open attitude.

I found that was not entirely true. I left Steak and Ale to go to what I thought at the time to be a better opportunity for my wife and family. This new opportunity was located in Cleveland, Ohio. I took the job thinking that we could live anywhere, even though I had never lived in the north or Midwest, I thought it would be just an adventure that my family and I would experience together and enjoy. We were positive we'd learn to love it as much as anywhere.

I'm not sure if it was the job or the place, but something wasn't right. The people were negative. The weather was bad and my job was terrible. To this day, I'm not sure which influenced the other more. Did my not liking the city spill over into my job or did my negative attitude of my job create a bad attitude about the place where we lived? We moved from the city and left the job within a year.

The bottom line is that I no longer believe that anyplace will always be a good place. Since Texas and Ohio, I have lived on both coasts of the US and have spent some time living overseas. I have loved 90% of the places where I have hung my hat. But there are some places that just have not felt right and it is important to recognize that being happy and proud of where you live are vital to a good attitude about life in general and your job specifically.

When you are considering accepting a transfer or a new job in a new city, consider the following:

  • Any move must be a joint, mutually agreed upon decision with your wife/husband/partner. The move must be that way or it is a no-go. If things go bad, you will need your partner's support. The last thing either of you need is for the other to say that they didn't want to go in the first place. Don't allow yourself to bully or be bullied into a move that is not right. There will be other jobs, I promise.
  • Listen to your gut feelings. If things don't feel right, they are probably not going to be right. Your gut feeling is made up of your experiences so listen to it and act on it.
  • Give the new place a chance by seeing the whole area as much as possible. Travel to the scenic spots, read the local newspaper, hang out at some of the parks, have a drink and just observe at some of the coffee and "adult beverage" places. How does it feel? Do you like the energy?
  • Match the location with your interests. Is Florida the best place for you if you love to ski but hate to fly? If you love what the culture, restaurants, ethnic diversity, theater and shopping that a big city has to offer and you're not ready to slow down, you're probably not ready for a move to a small town, no matter how great the job is. And vice versa. No matter how great the job in a big urban city, you will begin to hate it if you are not prepared to use public transit and have a commute. Sometimes a long commute.

I am very much for moving to different areas of the country and the world, but there are some places I would rather visit than live. It is better to know before rather than after you commit.

About the author:  John T. Self is a lecturer at The Collins School of Hospitality Management at California State Polytechnic University (Cal Poly Pomona). Prior to entering academe, Dr. Self spent fifteen years in the restaurant industry. While in the corporate world, he worked for several chains including overseeing six restaurants with sales of over twenty million dollars. He has also owned three independent restaurants. While at Golden Gate University, he started the partnership with Dalian University of Technology in Dalian, China and is continuing in that involvement at Cal Poly.

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