For many students, the call of the big city beckons upon graduation. It has much of what many desire when starting a career. Money. Prestige. Night life after working hours. And a feeling that you’re launching your career in a big-time market.
All of the above may be true, but there’s another route which can propel your advancement with greater velocity into a bigger market — if that is your goal.
Smaller communities are an attractive place to get your start for many reasons. We’ve all heard that cliche question: Where do you want to be in five years? The better question should be: What path will you take to ensure advancement to where you want to be in five years?
Sometimes starting smaller can actually pay off bigger in the long run.
Here are five reasons to consider starting your career in a smaller market:
1. Job diversity: In bigger cities your career title and duties will likely be very narrow, especially if employed by a larger firm. In smaller communities, employed by a smaller company, you are more likely to have multi-duties surrounding your job title. Multitasking is a reality with smaller employers. For example, a GIS analyst may also be the company’s IT specialist. This means rapid growth in terms of on-the-job skill set.
2. Cost of living: Don’t be too quick to judge a salary by the numbers. Remember, earning $30,000 in a smaller community could be equivalent to earning $45,000 with a bigger employer in a larger city. Why? Don’t forget to factor in cost of living. You may actually be further ahead in a smaller market once you crunch some numbers.
3. You can easily become a go-to person much faster: In a bigger city with a big employer, how far are you down on the pecking order? It might be very low. In a smaller community, you are more likely to be closer to the top than the bottom, or at least more involved in contributing to decision making both internally and externally. Why is that important? Externally, you’ll build your list of contacts much faster.
4. The hidden connections: Many smaller eemployers in small markets understand one obvious reality: they are often first stops on the career journey of many fresh graduates. The newcomers arrive, gain experience, and then move on. This means that some companies often gain reputations as terrific ‘farm systems’ for producing skilled employees. It also means that these companies will be well known by larger employers who regularly turn to these companies to scoop up the best and the brightest. (P.S. Your boss in the smaller market will have invaluable connections with these large employers.)
5. Potential rapid advancement within smaller communities: Within just a few years, it’s possible to jump several positions from employee to supervisor or even manager. Why? In smallern communities staff turnovers can be higher due to people moving on. That means opportunities can open up, both within your own company or other companies. Always remember that internal promotions continue to be a major force for career advancement. In a larger city, quick career advancement and promotion is far more rare because there are usually many more people ahead of you on the depth chart. It could take you many, many more years in a large city to get ahead, compared to the potential in a smaller market.
We’re often advised to think big. But in the case of starting your career, thinking smaller can actually be thinking bigger for the long run.
Gregg McLachlan, senior communications consultant at WorkCabin Communications, founded WorkCabin.ca, Canada’s Environmental Job Site, in 2007. Today, the eco site is the leading source of high-quality green jobs from Canada’s best green employers.