Bestselling author Martin Yate, a career coach and former HR professional, takes your questions each week about how to further your career in HR. Contact him at the e-mail address at the end of this column.
I got divorced and then laid off in the same month. I desperately need to make a new start somewhere—anywhere—but I've only had the one job in my whole career. I don't know where to begin and would appreciate any help you can give me.
I empathize with your situation, as will the many peers you've never met who will read this. Many people experience the same confusion about deciding where to go when, suddenly, so many options are available. Fortunately, you work in HR, so there are opportunities for you in any metropolitan area in the country, but there are certain considerations that will influence your decision.
Location, Location, Location
Like in real estate, location is of paramount importance in having a successful career and enjoyable lifestyle. Yes, you can go anywhere, but it would be much more helpful to narrow your options to a list of places you would really like to go. Not doing so invariably leads to a job search without focus, which takes longer to execute with success.
To make the list, you need to consider this information:
Where is opportunity going to be greatest? The bigger the job market, the more opportunities there will be in good times and bad. Some metro areas have healthier business climates than others. Go to www.bls.gov (a mine of information) using search terms like "metropolitan areas greatest growth." Vacation destinations usually have lots of employment opportunities and often offer greater diversity to meet your quality-of-life preferences. But they can also have a higher cost of living, so you should also search "cost of living by metro area" using Google and www.bls.gov.
Metropolitan areas that have a wide diversity of industries offer both opportunity and stability. A region with a diversity of industries will offer more employment opportunity at times of disruption than an area with one or two dominant industries and little else. Being in HR, though, makes it much easier to change from one industry to another. Search Google and www.bls.gov with terms like "dominant industries by metro area" to gather information.
You can also use www.bls.gov and other resources to identify business-friendly states. For example, South Carolina is booming because of its commitment to attract expanding companies.
Personal values are also an important consideration. Ask yourself, "Is this area tolerant of my political and religious values? Will my ethnicity and sexual orientation be accepted or reviled?"
You might like snow, or you might prefer palm trees or the desert. Whatever climate you prefer, factor in that choice to maximize your quality of life outside of work.
- Likewise, you might want to consider the quality of local public transportation, or perhaps the convenience for business travel. For example, Savannah, Ga., is a beautiful place to live but a nightmare if you have to fly anywhere.
Organizing and Executing Your Job Search
It's more likely that while you could live anywhere, you'd really prefer to live in a handful of areas. When this is the case, be sure to prioritize your list. Then target your job hunting in each of these areas sequentially, starting with your No. 1 choice. Once you schedule one interview in that area, you can turn it into many. How? You approach all the other companies on your target list, saying you are coming to town for an interview with another employer and you'd like to seize the opportunity to meet while you are in town. They will read your message as, "Your direct competitors are interested in me"—and what one person wants, others want, too.
Have a question for Martin about advancing or managing your career? From big issues to small, please feel free to e-mail your queries to YourCareerQA@shrm.org. We'll only publish your first name and city, unless you prefer to remain anonymous—just let us know.