Losing a Career When Youre Moving for Love

Those who watched HBO's Sex and the City (SATC, now available on DVD) know the last eight episodes were less about sex and more about city. And the last three episodes, taken together could serve as a case study for a decision faced by many clients Should I follow my heart or hang on to my job?

Whether you want to move to be closer to aging parents, or follow a lover into a new life, the stakes are extremely high. Some people really do live happily ever after, but others end up divorced, broke, and stuck in a place they really hate. Here are some tips to become part of the first group and avoid the second.

1. Test the move.

Before selling your home, resigning from your job, giving up your apartment, or getting a visa, spend time in your future environment ­ and watch for changes in yourself and your relationship. SATC fans noticed that Carrie's lover, Alexander, began to act differently once he was on his own turf. And a two-week Paris vacation would have saved her lots of misery (although the story would be less fun to watch).

2. Recognize that relationship dynamics will change once you've moved.

A common scenario: Hal and Sallie fell in love and married while both were in graduate school. Hal was offered a tenure-track position at Prestige U on the west coast; Sallie was offered a similar job at Elite U the east coast. Sallie considers giving up her own career to follow Hal. After all, she reasons, she can start a part-time job at Prestige U ­ and who knows?

Hal and Sallie met and married as professional and financial equals. They earned small stipends as graduate assistants ­ but the stipends were identical. Now Hal emerges as the major breadwinner. Sallie might rejoice in her freedom to pursue creative interestr that would not be possible on the tenure track. Hal might proudly embrace his role as family provider. Maybe they would have children and Sallie would be a stay-at-home mom.

But let's move to a parallel universe. Hal resents being the major breadwinner. Now that Sallie's bringing in far less money, he wants her to do more around the house. He's gone a lot, attending meetings and colloquia where Sallie's not welcome, even though she's at least his equal in scholarship. Sallie doesn't really want new creative outlets: she wants to pursue academic research, and once she's branded as a part-time "adjunct," that route will be closed to her at this university.

3. Replace "sacrifice" with "strategize:" find creative ways to join head and heart.

While researching my book on moving, I talked to Joyce, who'd moved to Texas to be closer to her growing grandchildren. After a few months, Joyce reported, the novelty wore off. The grandchildren had their own friends. Soon they'd outgrow baby-sitters and begin charging the neighbors to mind children, pets and lawns. She could go to their games and performances, but what would she do the rest of the time?

I've met at least half a dozen people who moved to spend more time with their relatives ­ only to discover, after the move, that the relatives were doing just fine, thank you very much! Even after begging you to come, they realize they didn't know what they really wanted.

Long-distance relationships can be brutal -- but it's not much easier to feel like a fourth-class professional while your spouse's career soars into the stratosphere. And if you build a name and reputation on the east coast, after awhile you may be able to move to the west coast, on your own terms and in your own right.

4. Discover flexible options that you're willing to consider.

Ursula "trailed" her successful new husband from Chicago to Los Angeles. Before moving, she decided she was willing to abandon her own highly successful career in market research and begin a new career in sales. At first, Ursula seemed to be failing miserably. She had little aptitude for sales ­ but she really loved the "click" when someone said yes. And she believed deeply in her product. Encouraged by her husband, Ursula persisted and, five years after the move, became "Salesperson of the Year" in her firm.

Not everyone is cut out to be an Ursula and not everyone lands in a lucrative alternative career. Bill, with a PhD in history, decided he could find happiness as an underpaid, overworked adjunct professor, focusing on teaching rather than research. He grew to love teaching and working with students, while his wife built a lucrative career as a vice president in a financial management firm.

When you know you'll be moving for one partner's goals, often the second partner chooses a portable career: freelancing, coaching, computer programming. Portable careers often require an initial investment in one location, where you build relationships with potential clients and employers. But they often bring new rewards and open doors to exciting adventures.

5. Begin with honesty.

Once you recognize you don't want to move, or you really resent giving up your career, you can begin to focus on solutions. I often encourage partners to visit a couples counselor to deal with the emotional challenges. Denying feelings can lead to a major collapse of the job or the relationship. Opening up can lead to creative synergies you never anticipated. And you may feel deeply relieved to learn your demanding family really doesn't mind if you remain in your job, two thousand miles away.

About The Author

Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D., is an author, speaker and career/business consultant, helping midlife professionals take their First step to a Second Career. http://www.cathygoodwin.com.

"Ten secrets of mastering a major life change" mailto:subscribe@cathygoodwin.com

Contact: cathy@cathygoodwin.com 505-534-4294

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