Not long ago, I attended a NEW New York Metro event featuring two rockstar leaders who are incredibly accomplished today and have a long runway in front of them: Lauren Brindley, vice president and general merchandising manager of Walgreens, and Ukonwa Ojo, senior vice president of Cover Girl.
These senior executives offered career advice every ambitious woman needs to hear, including, “When making a big career decision, especially one that requires relocating, rather than asking ‘Why?’ ask ‘Why not?’”
Originally from the United Kingdom, Brindley relocated to Thailand for a role with Alliance Boots, later moved back to England, then relocated to the United States when Walgreens and Alliance Boots came together. Ojo spent the first 13 years of her life in Nigeria before her family moved to London. She relocated to Minneapolis for a position early in her career, moved back to the UK several years ago while working for Reckitt Benckiser, and now lives in the United States for her role at Coty Inc.
Talk about unpacking boxes. Yet both women recognized the great opportunity in front of them and trusted that it was worth the risk to say “Yes!” to all the challenges that came along with it. Finding a new home, considering schools, making new friends, locating the closest grocery store and wondering if it will sell what they like — just to name a few.
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As an executive search consultant, 90 percent of my searches require relocation. Our firm reaches out to an average of 150 potential candidates and referral sources when we begin a new search — a number that can easily double before a role is filled.
Yet as intrigued as a candidate may be by the role, the company and the career opportunity, many women shut the door because it requires relocating. By far, women say “No thanks” more quickly and more often than men do, even if they are the primary breadwinner.
Before saying “No” to relocating, consider these facts:
Your kids will not die. Give your kids some credit. I recognize I’m making light of a complicated decision. But to a person, job candidates I’ve interviewed who moved more than once when they were in grade school and high school, who had to make new friends and faced challenges have been the best candidates. They come across as grounded, flexible, tolerant and willing to overcome challenges. Not only will your kids not die, you will invest in their future when they interview for jobs.
Nothing lasts forever. Relocating doesn’t mean making a commitment for the rest of your life. You could stay in the position for three to five years, gain great experience and move back. You will be more attractive to a potential employer because you’ve relocated for a role.
Saying “No, thank you” to a position involving relocation without understanding more about the opportunity is the first mistake people make. You’re aren’t making a commitment until you sign an offer letter, so do your due diligence. Ask for a detailed position description, talk to people who have worked at the company and who work there today. Explore the geographic area via the many online research tools.
Many people assume the worst, that a new city is going to live up to all the negative clichés. It simply is not true. Of the hundreds of candidates I’ve hired who made the decision to relocate, I can count on one hand those who have regretted doing so. As I often say, there is a reason Bruce Springsteen still lives in New Jersey.
Relocation is complicated, daunting and uncertain. It can also be a thrilling adventure for everyone involved. And it will be the most significant step you can take to advance your career.
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