Decline a career move in tough times?

By Scot Herrick | Job Search

May 11

Back in the rocken’ world of business before the bust, pundits cautioned against turning down any career move. And turning down a promotion? It was like the kiss of death.

The common wisdom about turning down a promotion was this one:

“I do not think it’s wise to decline a promotion because doing so will stall your career,” she cautions. “Your company has an agenda. And to the fullest extent possible, it’s important to align yourself with it.”I’ll just pass on the need to align yourself with the company agenda to the fullest extent possible; I’m into making sure the company is aligned with my agenda when I join up. Otherwise, I’m just saluting whether I believe in the agenda or not.

But, what about the career move that made so much sense not so long ago? A move to another state. Or a promotion to another country.

Any career move today that takes you away from your current home to another has a few more considerations outside of your career. The environment has changed:

  • Two career couples is still a consideration. The ease of finding an equivalent career position for your spouse in a new city is gone with high unemployment.
  • Your mortgage is under water. With the housing bust, some 20% of mortgages are under water, meaning you get to show up at closing paying out cash to get out of your house.
  • Your house takes much longer to sell. More than one person I know back in the housing boom days casually took a position in another state, sold their house in a week and found another the next in the new home state. Now sales times are much longer, requiring you to pay for two homesteads while waiting for the other place to sell. And maintain with your family left behind or a vacant house you can’t supervise.
  • Jobs are found through your network. Chances are, your biggest business network is right in the town you are living in. There was a time when AT&T told all of their training people they were consolidating the function in Denver and you had to move or lose your job. Then, six months later, they decided to close the Denver facility down entirely. You moved your family and then got laid off right when you finally got settled down. And knew no one in the new town.

Turning down a career move is a big risk, for sure. If your management team doesn’t get the costs of moving away now and penalizes you for turning the move down, you are probably working in the wrong place anyway.