Part two of a two-part series written by guest blogger Dr. Phil Ryan, Director of Student Services at the Office of Intramural Training and Education.
I mentioned in a previous post that I had used LinkedIn to promote my candidacy for a position that I was offered, but ultimately decided to decline. I wanted to share with you some of the factors I had to consider and how those factors made me change my priorities for my next job. We all have our own priorities — I listed and rank ordered mine. I learned through this experience that my listed professional priorities did not even contain my highest priority.
Throughout the interview process for this particular position, I absolutely loved the people I interacted with. The director of the office seemed like a fantastic boss and mentor. The people in parallel positions would have been fantastic coworkers. The few people that the position would supervise were hardworking and dedicated to the students they served. There was passion from every person that worked in the office. The position itself almost felt tailor-made for me. I left the on-site interview very excited about the position and preparing myself to share the good news with my wife and children.
The job fit all my listed priorities. It would be a great next step in my career and would put me in an institution with lots of opportunities to continue to advance my career. The benefits were outstanding, which is especially important for my family as we have two young boys and a third child due very soon. I felt confident I could negotiate the salary to be fair based on expected cost of living in that area. The job was a pretty standard 40 hours a week with limited travel. This is a must since being home with my family is important to me. Also, it was closer to both my family and my wife’s family and number of our best friends. Based on these critera, I would be a fool to turn down the position.
So why did I turn it down? After my on-site interview, I drove around the city in which the job was located. I realized the city really lacked energy. It was a nice day and yet, there were no people outside talking to one another. Businesses were not busy. Schools were just getting out and children were not playing in the parks. Parents were not talking to each other. I did not detect a sense of community. I am a scientist, so I realize that all this was basically an n of one and thus, I couldn’t make a conclusion based on two hours of observation. Luckily, I had a friend who lived in that city for seven years and had recently moved away. I gave him a call and while he did have nice things to say about the city, he confirmed that my observations were pretty consistent with what he and his family had experienced while they lived there.
There was one more factor that initially seemed like a big advantage. The city was two hours from everything! It was two hours from a major metropolitan area with all the culture, life and experiences that comes with big cities. It was two hours from a renowned national park and other outdoor adventure opportunities. It was two hours from snow skiing, water skiing, fishing, hiking, camping, professional sports teams, etc. It sounded great on paper. However, those two hours were a very lonely two hours. It was that city and then two hours to anything else. I tried to justify that while we may not have the most exciting life and community to live in, we would be two hours from all that excitement and all those friends. But the truth is, when you have small children, two hours is a long time. I realized that we would not be traveling those two hours very often and the city we would live in was the city that would help shape my children as they grow up. It would be the community that would support my wife and me. It would be the atmosphere that we would celebrate in good times and depend on in bad times. I know my wife and my children better than anyone and it turns out that my number one priority is providing the best life possible for and with them. This city was not that. So while the job and the people I would work with were amazing, it turns out my top priority is my family. My list of priorities in a job now reflects that.