One of the first things every job seeker considers is what city to live in next. A list of questions come up when evaluating options. “Are there many jobs available in my current city? Am I near my family and friends? Would I rather be on the coast, or near the mountains?”
Very often, I hear from job seekers who have always dreamed of living in a large city, such as Los Angeles, New York, or San Francisco. These are all beautiful locations. They’re full of jobs in hot industries. They have no shortage of culture, food, or interesting people. In many ways, they can be a dream come true.
But, I’d like to argue that there’s also quite a lot to be said for a small to mid-sized city. Originally from Oklahoma City, my career has given me the opportunity to live in a number of cities, including Albany, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Memphis, and Los Angeles. All of this moving has given me a unique perspective on where to live.
First, there’s a rumor that companies in larger cities pay higher salaries. While this may be true to some degree, consider this. In a market like Los Angeles, there may be hundreds or thousands of people who are qualified for a particular specialized job. Those candidates are competing against one another for that job. And, because of this, the company may be able to pay a bit less. However, in a smaller city, specialized workers are harder to find. The company is forced to pay a competitive wage in order to lure in a unique skillset. In fact, they may even pay more than the typical market rate.
In addition to the financial benefits, smaller cities have other career perks. It’s not uncommon to be promoted to a higher position of management within a company at a younger age. For example, I’ve observed people work their way up to a director title five to ten years faster in a smaller market. It’s often easier to be a big fish when you’re in a small pond.
And, in small cities, it’s also easier to network. There are fewer layers between you and the top business executives. This is helpful when it comes to expanding your network, getting an interview, and landing a job. You’re less constrained by the online application process when you have a list of in person connections at your fingertips. You may even know the hiring manager.
Don’t get me wrong – I really do love big cities. But, I’ve never felt more at home than I do in a small one. Career wise, I’ve have had my crack at more opportunities than I would have, and have climbed the corporate ladder faster. I’ve been able to maintain a low cost of living, and in turn, a higher quality of life. So, as much as I enjoy the bustle of a big place, I’d much rather visit on vacation (using a little of the money I’ve saved on rent).
Angela Copeland is CEO and founder of Copeland Coaching and can be reached at CopelandCoaching.com or on Twitter at @CopelandCoach.