After 3 years on the market I just received an excellent offer. Big start up package, low teaching load and a competitive salary. It's the job I've been waiting for. The only problem is that it is far from home, and far from anything really. The job is in a small town and the nearest cities are 8+ hours by car. I am a bit anxious about moving to such a remote location because I have never lived in a city with less than a million people. Has anyone been in this situation? Did you take the job? How was the adjustment? Any bits of advice?
Date: 31 Dec 2014 22:18
Number of posts: 11
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Ultimately, this is a personal choice and I suggest you consider how much you think you would enjoy the remote location and if the awesomeness of the school would balance out any reservations about the location. In just my personal experience — here is my opinion. I have a little bit of experience with having lived in a remote location, in the context of a visiting faculty position. I worked for a great school for a few years — high salary, low teaching load, great research space, etc. in a small town. The nearest city was about an hour away. When I accepted the position, I had only lived in cities/suburbs before but I didn't think it would be too jarring as the town had basic needs fulfilled — a Target, some restaurants, etc. For me though, with each passing year, I started to dislike the area more and more. Not because of anything being terrible, but just LACK of stuff (limited rental market, few restaurant choices, few activities like concerts/plays) and some things (like going to the airport) became super inconvenient since it was an hour away. For me personally, I learned that location DOES matter. Even though I adored my visiting job in terms of the school, the balance between work and life become off-kilter just because the location became a problem. When looking for a permanent position, I then limited myself to schools in cities or within a half hour of cities (as then it is actually feasible and likely to go to the city for events, restaurants, etc.). That said, there are some perks about small locations that my colleagues seemed to enjoy — cheaper housing, safer area for raising kids, etc. Just my two cents. I am sure there is a diversity of opinions on this topic. Good luck!
I had a horrible experience as a new Ph.D. in a 25-50K person town (R1) that was 3-4 hours to a big city. I left in year 5 even though I was a "lock" for tenure. I recommend you avoid if possible.
- No good medical in town so we almost always had 4 or more hours of driving for specialists (incl. OBGYN, Peds, etc., same for vet care, eyes, etc.)
- Was hard to find a house, even harder to sell it…
- ZERO job options for spouses/family
- Lots of salary inversion, which created MAJOR resentment, check the AAUP survey
- Faculty who could leave did. Most senior faculty were "trapped" yet highly opinionated (e.g., "you should do XZY with your students/research").
If you take it:
GET EVERYTHING IN WRITING
BE PREPARED TO LEAVE BEFORE TENURE
Thanks for the detailed response. I have a lot to consider over the next couple of weeks!
I think that until you actually live somewhere, it is very difficult to evaluate just how remote/inhospitable a place may be. You might consider reaching out to some junior faculty and straight up asking them how they have found living there. I
Personally, if I'd been on the market for 3years and finally had an solid offer like you are describing I'd go for it, go with a big smile and make the best of whatever the town/school can offer.
Maybe they'll end up scraping the smile off your face, or maybe like anon2, it will slowly wear you down… but then again maybe it'll work out great.
I think a big factor is: what is the alternative? What will you do if you do not take the position?
I realize that this is a dilemma on several levels. I think the key things to consider, based on what you (i.e., anon) said:
1) Feel great - after 3 long years, you finally have a decent/good offer!
2) Can you do the research you want to do at this more "remote" locale? If "yes", and you do it successfully, there could be an opportunity to move in the future. However, if it works out for tenure, but not much past whatever their "bar" is, you may have a hard time leaving in the future should you not like the location for personal reasons.
3) I agree with another poster in that it may be hard to figure out how much you might like or dislike it unless you actually take the position and make the move. That said, the job market is hyper competitive these days; you already know this because it took 3 years to receive a good offer. In short, if you decline the offer, be prepared for the worse case - you never receive another one……
I realize that this is an extreme worse case, but I don't see the job market becoming less competitive in the next couple of years, and it may become more competitive. Programs have their pick of very solid candidates these days. They can't even interview them all.
4) If you are nearly 100% certain that your current position would allow you to continue to improve your vitae, making you more competitive, then this might be a reason to decline the offer if you decide that it is not the right fit for personal reasons.
You have a hard decision to make, but be grateful to have an offer too! Good luck!
I am in an ok job that I like in a good location, but applied for jobs this year for an "upgrade," and because there have been some troubling things in the future outlook of my current institution (not for me personally - everyone says I'll get tenure - but for the direction of the school in general.)
I went on this one interview and LOVED the place. It was the dream institution and was great on basically every aspect for which my current institution is lacking. But it was pretty remotely located (over an hour from a city). At the end of the day I asked one of the search committee members if he was on the job market (he said his wife had no career in that location and was currently a stay-at-home mom, though she had a career previously). He said "yes" and that he would take a job hit in order to get a better location. That statement alone gave me the reality check that I ought to see it out where I am, at least for now. I was offered the position and considered it carefully but turned it down. Location matters, especially for family. If you have a spouse who doesn't care about location or might like remote locations (and has a telecommuting career or one that is amenable to the remote locale) then it's not that bad because you'll consume your life with your totally awesome job and the location won't be a big deal. But if your spouse is a more typical person you probably can't go. If you have no spouse/partner but might want one some day, well, I hope the school is very big because clearly that's your only source of potential partners.
All of that said, I think you could take the job with the idea that you'd leave pre-tenure. A sucky view to have, but if it's a dream job you'll thrive there and help your c.v. Either it will be too awesome to leave, or you'll boost your vita and then you can be more competitive later.
First, I'll note that you should never move to a location (or to an institution) at which you'll be miserable. You'll only end up stressed, possibly developing something like depression, and ultimately will take a hit to your sanity and ability to produce publications, teach well, and do well. Don't do it.
That said, each person's tolerance for urban versus rural varies. I moved from a major urban location to a rural community for my current position at small town SLAC. In my case, large cities are within a few hours' drive, but life in a small town is good to me. Yes, amenities such as a wide selection of fantastic restaurants, nightlife of any sort, and shopping malls are absent. However, I enjoy the fact that my colleagues and I are all friends on campus and off and that there are frequent informal social gatherings between faculty. If you feel like you could be happy at a rurally located institution where there are likely stronger connections between faculty, then this opportunity could well work out for you. If, however, you dread the thought of not having big box stores nearby, trendy restaurants/bars, or a 24/7 mega market or pharmacy, this position might not be for you.
Likewise, hobbies tend to change in rural locations to some extent. Expect to find more colleagues (or colleagues' spouses) who hunt/fish. If this bothers you, it might not work out - even if you don't hunt or fish, expect it to be a somewhat frequent topic at social gatherings. Home gardening may well be another common conversation topic.
As AsstProf and others note, you could well take this position with the mind to try to move to something else. From my observations on the job market and as a search committee member, it seems easier for people to move from one tenure-track position to another versus just getting in the door. If you're considering this possibility, you should also consider that it will very likely take you at least a full year, if not two, to get research off the ground and yielding entrees for your CV. This means that if you opt for the present position, you will likely need to stay there for a couple of years at least to build your CV to be a more competitive candidate for other positions. But, landing a position elsewhere is of course no guarantee.
Let me conclude noting that I made the jump from an urban, very desirable location to a college in a small town situated in a rural area perceived as quite undesirable by many academics. I have no regrets. I've come to love the area and my colleagues.
Wishing you a great 2015 regardless of your decision!
I think it's hard to say without knowing where you are coming from and where you are going. If you grew up in Brooklyn and are moving to a small town in North Dakota, be prepared for some culture shock. Same thing (though opposite direction) if you grew up in Omaha and are moving to Hanover. If you are moving from Boston to somewhere in Connecticut, the change it probably a lot less radical.
Personally, I've lived in small towns and big cities and like both. And disliked both. It depends on what part of the country we're talking about.
One thing that previous posters haven't mentioned: If you are single, there's a good chance you'll stay that way. This is particularly true in parts of the country where someone our age most likely already has three children. And if the local culture is very different from your own, your dating pool may be restricted to single faculty members (which, depending on the size of your school, may number in the low teens).