During a job hunt, many job seekers find themselves considering a possible move to a new city. A list of questions comes up when evaluating their options: Are there many jobs available in my current city? Am I near my family and friends? Would I rather be on the coast or near the mountains?
Very often, I hear from job seekers who have always dreamed of living in a large city, such as Los Angeles, New York, or San Francisco. These are all beautiful locations full of jobs in hot industries. They have no shortage of culture, food, or interesting people. In many ways, they can be a dream come true.
But I’d like to argue that there’s also quite a lot to be said for taking a job in a small or midsize city.
I am originally from Oklahoma City, and my career has given me the opportunity to live in a number of places, including Albany, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Memphis, and Los Angeles. All of this moving has given me a unique perspective on where the best places to live and work are.
It is generally accepted that companies in larger cities pay higher salaries. While this may be true to some degree, consider this: In a market like Los Angeles, there may be hundreds or thousands of people who are qualified for a particular specialized job. Those candidates are competing against one another for that job. Because of all this competition, the company may be able to pay a bit less to the eventual winner. However, in a smaller city, specialized workers are harder to find. Companies are often forced to pay very competitive wages in order to lure in the unique skill sets they need. In fact, these companies may even pay more than the typical market rate.
In addition to the financial benefits, smaller cities can have other career perks. For example, it’s not uncommon to be promoted to a higher position of management within a company at a younger age. I’ve observed people work their way up to a director title 5-10 years faster in a smaller market. It’s easier to be a big fish when you’re in a small pond.
In small cities, it’s also easier to network. There are fewer layers between you and the top business executives. This is helpful when it comes to expanding your network, getting an interview, and landing a job. You’re less constrained by the online application process when you have a list of in-person connections at your fingertips. You may even know the hiring manager personally.
Don’t get me wrong – I really do love big cities. But I’ve never felt more at home than I do in a small one. Career-wise, small cities have given me a crack at more opportunities than I would have had in a larger market, and they have allowed me to climb the corporate ladder faster. I’ve been able to maintain a low cost of living and, as a result, a higher quality of life.
As much as I enjoy the bustle of a big place, I’d much rather visit on vacation – using a little of the money I’ve saved on rent to fund my trip.
A version of this article originally appeared in the Memphis Daily News.
Angela Copeland is a career coach and CEO at her firm, Copeland Coaching.