Career vs. location: How important is where you live?
Where you live can be very important, but it can also limit your career options. Although many foreign scientists may not think of the location when applying to university positions, this could still be an important consideration since any temporary position may become permanent. My husband and I have decided to live in our home country and away from large cities. Although this still leaves us with lots of options, our avoidance of large population centers also means that we have neglected the places with the highest probability of us both having regular professor positions as cities usually have the largest and the most universities. This may be why I ended up with the unique career that I explained in my first blog post. Yet our choice of residence makes our family and career situation worthwhile. Some people do not care where they live; the ideal job is their number one priority. Others do care but have different criteria; they may prefer to live in large urban centers. There are many factors to consider when deciding on where to apply for career jobs, which will ultimately decide where you live.
- Country. The first question to ask yourself is whether you want to stay in your own country or look for job opportunities in other countries. In addition to deciding on how devoted you feel towards your country, other things to consider include how close you want to be to your family, medical systems and options for career advancement.
- Urban vs. rural. Some people feel more at home in large cities, while others are only comfortable in rural areas. But you might also want to consider factors such as traffic (commuting time), pollution (effects on health), green space, number of job opportunities and cultural activities. Small cities, especially those that are regional centers, often present an alternative that can combine the positive aspects of urban and rural life (or perhaps the negative aspects).
- Surrounding environment. Cities or other urban centers may be located in densely populated regions or surrounded by vast expanses of undeveloped land. If hiking or other recreational activities are important to you, think carefully about your surrounding environment. Being close to mountains, the ocean, agricultural areas or large expanses of forest may be indispensable to your well-being.
- Work environment. In addition to the physical environment, think of who else will be there for potential collaboration or friendship. Do you want to live somewhere where there are lots of people to interact with in your job? For example, if you want to work at a university, does it matter if there is only one university? Or if it is small or large?
- Family considerations. Whether you already have a family or may eventually start one, family issues may be necessary to factor into your decision as to where to live. This is especially true for single parents who are separated. Criteria for where to live will undoubtedly change if or when you have kids, especially when they start school. The neighborhood, school, friends and transportation options for kids may become priorities.
When my husband and I started looking for faculty positions, we discussed these factors to come up with regions where we would and would not apply for jobs. However, it is important to remain flexible. You can find out more about the location during the interview; you might change your mind. Your list of possible locations also depends on the number of opportunities for your career and your success at applying for jobs. Good luck!
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