Home > Career Advancement, Dating and Relationships, Job Hunting, Live Well Live Wisely, My First Time > The Relocation Decision: It is Not About The Job

The Relocation Decision: It is Not About The Job

You probably have heard of this before: I am relocating to Hong Kong because I got a really exciting job opportunity. But when you heard this too many times, you might start asking yourself: I have opportunities to relocate as well, but why the decision is so difficult for me to make while it seems so seamless for everyone else? 

But probably you did not dig deeper into their reasoning behind the relocation. In fact, it is hardly ever about the job, or at least not the job alone. Well first, to take a step back, let’s suppose that as a competent professional as yourself, you are capable of landing a job anywhere in the world. 

So if it is not about the job, what is it about then?

To be closer to your significant other and/or family

It may sound surprising for someone just starting their career, but it is even more surprising how many people are willing to relocate to be closer to their boyfriend or girlfriend, or move back to their hometown to be with their parents.

Actually one of the most popular reasons you hear from people leaving their current job/position is: I can’t do long distance anymore, I am moving to San Francisco to be with my fiancé. Or: I want to be in Hong Kong because my family is there and I really want to be able to see my parents whenever I want to as they are getting really old.

If my colleague’s fiancé is not in SF, or my friend’s parents are not in Hong Kong, would they still relocate that willingly? At some point the value of relationship and family will strike you and some of my most ambitious friends/coworkers are actually relocating to places out of nowhere (definitely none of the metropolitan cities), and without exception they choose to do so for their significant other or families.

Here is an interesting article on relocation decision made by working couples.

To be at a place and with the people who share your same life style

If it’s not about the job, and not about your significant other, it is probably about the city itself and the people there. Actually you already want to be in that city before finding your next job.

Some people claim that with all the modern civilization all the cities have become more and more similar, but I still firmly believe that each city has its distinct characters and legacy that have raised a distinct group of people sharing some distinct values and culture.

There are job opportunities everywhere (at least I would like to think about it that way), but why would you choose Shanghai over Tokyo, or Spain over Mexico? Location, location, location. At the end of the day, it’s not about what your job entails, but about how would you want to commute to work, what kind of schooling you’d like your kids to receive, where you want to go for shopping, or how often you’d like to see your friends.

The wrong attitude:

It is worthwhile to talk about attitude: There are two wrong categories of attitude you do not want to fall under because if you make a relocation decision based on that, it will not make your life happier or easier. 1) You think you can go somewhere far away so you don’t need to face the same people or the same type of work, so you think you can “escape” from the responsibilities or the burdens. You will be proved wrong. 2) The relocation is your partial-goal not your end-goal.

Let me explain why the idea of a partial-goal will not work (unless you are an expat, in that case you know you will come back in a few years). Otherwise, do not plan your next goal before this one, because chances are the next goal will not be as relevant or favorable by the time you cross that road.

Think about it: if you are in investor relations and you spend the next 2 years of your life building up connections with investors in London, why would you willingly want to come back to NY and almost completely lose all the relationships you have developed, both at work and outside of work ? Note that if the company decides to hire you for another separate position back in the US or anywhere else, that is a different story. But again, this is something you cannot plan ahead of time.

The right attitude:

If you have nothing else to worry about (family, girlfriend), you can choose to ride with the new adventure with the relocation and see how it goes. It is something fortunate to be able to work abroad for some time to broaden your horizons and to understand other cultures and to also look at your own culture from a different perspective.

If you have something to worry about, meaning you want to relocate to be closer to someone, or to be at a certain city or region, make the relocation decision as your end-goal: I made this decision to give up what I already have in order to achieve something bigger. I have weighed my options and I know the trade offs, and I am not looking back. Because if you do look back, you will never achieve the bigger things you want for your life. Does that make sense?

There we go, and good luck!


P.S, just wondering do you have any relocation stories to share? Or any interesting reasons not included above?


  1. August 16, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    Thanks for this, this is actually very interesting! I love your site, as my blog’s pretty much titled I need a job – self explanatory there. I am planning on relocating for either reasons a and b, but for me the decision still comes really heavily.

    • August 16, 2010 at 8:37 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, and I am glad you found my post interesting. Yes it is a heavy decision, because it’s a relocation after all. It means letting go of some part of your past to embrace a new life in a new place, it does not meant to be a easy decision for anyone. The good news is, if you have reason a or b already in mind, it will definitely make the decision much easier than without those reasons.

      In this market it is not easy to find a job anywhere to be honest, it demands a lot of hardwork, patience, and consistent networking. but I am sure something will work out soon, good luck!

  2. August 17, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    Interesting post. Following graduation from college, I moved to Shanghai. I had spent 4 year learning Chinese and wanted the experience of living/working in a foreign country. After living in China for 3 years, I got a great job opportunity back in the U.S. After a lot of contemplating, I decided to take the job opportunity. While I didn’t want to leave China and I really enjoyed living there, I realized that my perspective had changed a bit. A city or geography wasn’t a career. At 21 or 22, I could make professional decisions based on where I wanted to live. At 26, that thinking began to change a bit. I also realized that deciding to leave China wasn’t deciding never to go back. Another interesting thing that I noticed while living in China is that my foreign friends that had been living there longer than 5 years had a much harder time returning to the U.S. than those who had been there a shorter period of time. It is interesting that on the one hand, it is good to have international experience. However, on the other hand, if you have too much international experience in a single geography, you can get pigeon holed there. Keep posting.

    • August 17, 2010 at 3:24 pm

      Really appreciate your comment David, and I am glad that you spent some time in China. Yes I totally agree with you as your age changes, your idea of a career would change. I will not be surprised at the age of 31 or 37 your idea will change again, and that will be the same for me and many others. I also agree with you the longer you stay at a certain place, the more committed and attached you are to the location. It probably has to do with “sunk cost”, you might have a great life too somewhere else, at some other firm, or even with another significant other, but who knows? You do know, though, that you will have to give up a lot of what you already have and everything you did up till now at this place will become a “sunk cost”. I believe that is why the decision of relocation gets harder and harder. Does that make sense?

      Btw, your twocentsnetwork is a great website. I will definitely check it out more.

  3. Yuqing
    August 28, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    I am in the process of a relocation. Part of the reason is that I have never done that before – to end a professional relationship unexpectedly. I find myself telling
    different people different reasons, Canada versus US, West Coast versus East Coast, stranded alone versus plenty of friends. It just seems fit. People tend to hold on
    to stuff they already have. I believe the contrary, one can always create something
    new and better if one is willing to give up the old and stale. I shall always remember the words of Roman poet Virgil, “People cross the ocean but they only change the sky.” I am not one of those.

    • September 2, 2010 at 2:26 pm

      Your story is very insightful and thanks for sharing. Yes I totally agree that we tend to come up with different reasons to differen people: coworkers, boss, good friends, parents, your significant others. This is probably natural or even required, because we need to find a good balance between all these relationships and we don’t want to say anything that will make other people feel uncomfortable or think unfavorably of ourselves.

      It is also great that you are willing to try something new, to be honest not everyone is up for that. I would like to mention that it is true that: the grass is always greener on the other side” though, sometimes you are expecting a total change from what you are used to given the new location or new position, only to find yourself stuck in the same type of job again. Again having a positive attitude is important no matter where you are! Good luck!

  4. Yuqing Deng
    October 26, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    Luck is unconsciously generated success. Some say that Napoleon said that. When oppotunity knocks, we should be ready.

  5. Daniella
    December 3, 2010 at 1:52 am

    I relocated few years ago from NYC to Philadelphia because of grad school.I thought that I would love the city and will live here. However,now that I am soon graduating,I changed my views on staying in Philly. Because it is very hard to find a jobs in my field, and my loans will come due right away, I cannot really be picky about the location as long as the offer is good. I have spoken about this to my fiance who lives in Philadelphia and is pretty much well rooted. He would prefer for me to stay here, and rather thinks about worrying about the situation once it happens. I know that it will be hard to 1. ask of him to relocate with me. 2. decline a good job offer that can help me pay off the loans and establish myself. I am in limbo right now. plz advise

    • December 3, 2010 at 9:43 am

      Daniella I want to first thank you for being so open with me and I appreciate your trust. Second I have to tell you that this is ultimately your decision and nobody else can make a decision for you, not even your fiance, because you need to weigh your options and figure out what is really important for you and what will make you happy in the long run. But I want to reassure you that your worry is understandable and common. I agree with you that if a job offer is important to you and earning the right money is crucial, you cannot be that picky about location. With limited information above I am not sure what other cities you are looking at. But if it is NYC or DC, I would hardly call that long distance. (long distance in this regard usually means across east/west coast or across countries) Since you call him your fiance I trust that you guys have a strong foundation for this relationship and it would be scary to think just a few hours will be powerful enough for either of you to throw that out of the window. There are many other ways you can potentially think about your job option: if I start working at this firm in a different city, down the road do I have a chance to relocate back to their Philly or NYC office? If the job offer is from a really good firm, does it mean having an experience there will give me better leverage when I move on to a new job back to the city?

      Nobody likes uncertainties but that’s part of life and you have to have the willingness to be flexible, in order to achieve better things for yourself. Does that make sense to you?

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