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Home  > Article

Dream Date or Dream Job?

By Martin Lieberman

What do you do when your dream date and your dream job are in different cities? Every year, hundreds of twentysomethings must decide whether to be closer to their mate or a job opportunity. Most of them wonder: Is it right to prioritize one over the other? Here are some guideposts to help you make the decision.

Juggling your personal and professional lives will be a career-long challenge.
What do you do when your dream date and your dream job are in different cities? Every year, hundreds of twentysomethings must decide whether to be closer to their mate or a career opportunity.

When he graduated from Tulane in 1997, David Goldschmidt, 26, was torn between his girlfriend, who was tied to a job in Atlanta, and a career move. He wanted to use his architecture degree in another city where he could work in a "cutting edge" firm. But Goldschmidt and his girlfriend agreed that he would move to Atlanta, and that she would move with him when it came time for his graduate education. In the short term, Goldschmidt prioritized his personal life over his professional goals-a decision that many young professionals struggle with.

"I wouldn't want to make a recommendation either way. It's really an individual thing," says Teri Bump, assistant director of career services at Oberlin College in Ohio. "People should know very clearly what is driving their decision, and should be making choices around their priorities."

The decision is clearly an individual one, dependent on your career goals and your personal relationships. No one can assess the situation better than you-and even then, the answer isn't always clear. After she graduated from college, Stacey Cook, 22, thought she would like to be a teacher. Rather than try out the profession as a substitute in her hometown, she chose to go immediately to graduate school so she could be near her boyfriend. A year later, however, she realized that neither the relationship nor the career was meant to be, and she returned to her home to begin again.

Cook's situation illustrates why it is so important to have solid reasons backing up your decision. If you can answer the following questions confidently, you should be on your way to a sound decision:

  • What is your short-term career plan?
  • Can you accomplish your short-term career goals in any location, or only in a specific place?
  • Are there career opportunities for you near your significant other?
  • If you move to be near your significant other, would you stay in that location even if the relationship ended?
  • Do you have any friends or outlets other than your significant other in the new location?
  • Would your significant other be willing to make sacrifices for your career, either now in the future?
  • Even if you are certain that your personal life takes priority when making professional decisions, have you made plans to earn a living separate from your significant other?
  • If your relationship can't withstand some distance-at least in the short-term-is it worth it?
  • Do your professional plans include time for a personal life?
  • Are you willing to sacrifice your personal life to achieve a professional accomplishment?
  • Where is the relationship heading? Is there a long-term commitment?
  • Is there a compromise that satisfies your personal and professional needs?

In the end, the name of the game is balance. Juggling your personal and professional lives will be a career-long challenge. Determine your priorities and let them guide your decisions. Be sure to reassess your situation as your priorities change.

For Goldschmidt, his decision to relocate to Atlanta worked out professionally and personally; he and his girlfriend were married in 1999. "For me it worked out fine, but for others it hasn't," he says. "If you're going to do it, you have to be confident that it's the right thing."

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