I’ve had this conversation so many times it’s painful. A friend calls me up from “you name it” city: Boston, New York, Chicago, San Francisco and says, “I’m thinking about moving to Los Angeles (or SF, NY, etc) and I’d love to start interviewing. Let me know if you hear of anything interesting.”
I guess when I hear things like this I revert back to my shock jock instincts and say, “Don’t bother. If you’re committed to living in New York then move there. Otherwise you’re not serious and you’ll never get the right job so don’t bother.” Definitely gets shock value. At least I have their attention.
Why do I give this blunt advice?
Lots of reasons. Let’s start with the obvious. Finding the best jobs takes a lot of commitment to taking many different networking meetings with executives, recruiters, entrepreneurs, VC’s, investment bankers, etc. The best jobs (as you know) are found through personal connections. The best jobs are the ones that have not already been put on a job board. The best jobs are the ones that certainly haven’t gone out to an executive recruiter. The reason these are the “best” jobs for you is that once it goes to an executive recruiter there will be a stack of 100 prospective recruits, 20 amazingly qualified resumes that will have phone or in-person interviews with the recruiter of which the company will meet 5-6. So unless your last job is a mirror image of your next then good luck with those odds.
So it takes “spade work” to find the right job. And that ain’t gonna happen from your LinkedIn messages to buddies you haven’t spoken to in 3 years. It’s not even going to happen from your 3-day exploratory trips every 6-8 weeks. It takes a sustained effort to get the right job. Sure, you can land “a” job, just not “the” job.
And there are other reasons.
If you REALLY think you’re committed to Los Angeles – then just move there. Make a life decision. None of this wishy-washy hedging your bets. I’ve heard every excuse – believe me. ”Well I don’t want to move to LA only to find out that I get a job in San Fran and now I have to move twice. I mean I’d love to live in LA but what I really want is the perfect job wherever that is.” Yawn. OK, so you’re going to sub optimize your job opportunities in both LA and SF? That’s a great strategy.
Now, I will give a carve out for young execs who really don’t care about geography and are junior enough that the perfect company or job doesn’t always matter. You can look remotely. But if you’re more senior fuggetaboutit. I recently spoke with a 40 year old who was thinking about moving back to LA. Really charming guy with great experience. And he had some complicating factors that didn’t make it easy to just move here. But here is what he told me, “I know that eventually I want to live back in LA. 100%. That’s where my family is.”
So my feedback was, “Then taking a job in NY right now is really life dumb. You might find a great job but it might keep you in NYC for the next 7-10 years if it goes really well. At least 3-5. Why do that if you KNOW you want to move back to LA. Choose life. Carpe diem.”
And there are more practical reasons. Anybody who has any operational experience and common sense will never want to hire you anyways. Why? If you have operational experience then you’ve likely already been burned by somebody else just like yourself wanting to get hired for a remote job. Here’s a few flavors:
- “I’m going to move to LA but my kids are in school. As soon as the school year ends they’re going to move out.” Code for, “I’m going to see how I like the job for 6 months. I can’t drag my family to LA and then have to drag them back again if I don’t like the job.” Fair enough. I can understand the logic. But I want people that I KNOW are committed to living in the city I’m hiring. If I’m interviewing and your resume doesn’t say “California” on it somewhere I’ll always ask, “did you grow up in CA? Do you have family here? Why would you want to live in LA?” No plausible motive = no job. And if I can find an equivalent candidate already living here you can be sure you’re on the bottom of that stack.
- “I’m going to move my family to LA but I need to sell the house first. I can’t afford to take a loss on it. So I’ll commute for the first 6-12 months.” Code for, “OK, I really DO have to sell my house but I also have a great excuse to hedge my bets and see whether I really like the company. Yeah, I know I could probably rent the house out – but why should I do that? I don’t mind commuting.” Long distance, long-term commuting usually = unhappy family life = unhappy employee = less productive employee = unhappy you.
- “My wife is finishing up her masters at University of Chicago. So I can’t move until she finishes.” Again, understandable. If she’s not up for transferring to UCLA – that’s fine. Call me in 2 years when she’s been graduated.
But wait, there’s more!
Moving when you have a family is a big, fat hassle. If your husband is going to relo with you to Boston then there are many hassles. He’ll need to find a job. You’ll need to find a nanny. You’ll have to figure out where your kids will need to go to school. You won’t know the other parents so you’ll have to put in a huge effort. You won’t know which parts of town to live in and you’ll be in temporary accommodations for a couple of months while you search for your permanent spot.
Your wife doesn’t work? You sure are going to enjoy those nights you have to stay in the office until 10pm and then come home to your wife who has no friends locally and is bored. And that business trip to SF for a week to meet customers? Fun.
How do I “know” all this? I’ve been burned at least 3 times by people who were moving. I’ve moved enough to know how distracting the first few months are. I tell people all the time and, like many of you, they kind of doubt me. I met a company who was raising money and was going to relo the CEO from the US to the UK and they wanted me to invest. He and his young family had never lived abroad. NFW. I said to them, literally, “Your wife won’t be able to work there easily – no papers. She’ll enjoy the first 2 months of exploring around and then you’re dead. She’ll be bored and unhappy. You’ll be under pressure every night to get home early. After a year if she hasn’t been able to work she’ll be angling for you to move back to the States.” And guess what? Obvious, huh. It happened exactly this way with this company.
Some things are so predictable.
If you’re deeply committed to living in a city you’ll move there. If you really care about having the “perfect” job (not everybody does) then being in-market increases your probability 100x. Choose life. Choose your location. Move there. Get settled in. Take the time to know the city. Get your partner bedded down and comfortable with the place without the stress of your new work hours. And then set out to shake every hand and kiss every baby in town until you’ve networked yourself into the idea role.
UPDATE: Just since the comment is coming up repeatedly in the comments section – I specially carved out “young people” from my argument. Most young people are infinitely mobile. Also, I need to carve out mid-level developers. They tend to be fairly mobile. Finally, I should carve out international people. I talk about that in the comments.
So that leaves senior execs: Directors, VP, CEO types. This is the group I’m mostly talking about.