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Friday, June 20, 2014

Vocation, vocation... location?

It’s not something we really consider when we've got our eyes on the target. Job-hunting tunnel vision means we end up focusing more on that joy-upon-joy goal of actually getting a decent job when we graduate, rather than ponder the practicalities of which bus route we’ll need. 
On the move again, find my way around Scotland
These days, more graduates are taking the big steps, or rather several plane journeys, to go abroad for work and most of us wouldn't bat an eyelid at the thought of moving to a new town. I do think employers appreciate flexible candidates who will consider relocation, but for many jobs, it’s not a matter for consideration but a standard requirement: Oxford is the publishing ghetto and everyone knows London is the natural habitat of bankers and brokers. I guess I've been a bit unconventional by living abroad so much but I've learnt a fair bit about relocation along the way.

For one thing, when you move to a new place, you might not know a soul. When I moved to Spain, rather naively, I presumed that because I’d made friends quickly at university, the real world would be the same. It’s not. Making chitchat in your second language is hard, especially when you’re working with people from another generation. Sometimes you enter an office where everyone already knows each other and in-jokes that you’re not in on bounce around the room. My mum’s trick is to go into the staff room and ask everyone for the best way to get to Castleford (although I doubt this works in Barcelona). I've also taken art and dance classes and found language exchange partners to meet people on the weekends.

The second time I moved abroad, I went to the Netherlands. This time I didn't speak the language and it’s not something I would advise. Although the Dutch are famed for speaking English as well or even better than us, it’s embarrassing to admit you don’t understand a word; you don’t want to look like an ignorant Brit abroad. So I tried to pick up bits here and there (mostly I smiled and nodded). Lots of countries offer free basic language classes or ones with a reduced price for students, which is worth looking into.

This time I've stayed in the UK and come to Oxfordshire (I originally hail from Up North). I work in a business park in Midsomer, genuinely, as in Midsomer Murders. It’s very picturesque. There are cows. It’s a pig to get to on public transport. I was lucky to find one of the few rooms available in the area, so I chose not to live in Oxford or Reading and commute. Of course, there are pros and cons: I can walk into work and avoid an hour’s commute but it takes longer to find civilisation at the weekends.

So my last piece of advice – and probably the most important one – is to really research what your commute and the accommodation opportunities are like before you commit to the job. Avoid having to catch two buses if you can and if you do have a long bus or train journey every day, look up flats near the station or on the route to avoid a hike after the long stint on public transport. You might want to think about the timetable too, and whether you’re going to have to get up at the crack of dawn to catch the one morning bus. Plus, it’s a good idea to work out the costs; will your starting salary be seriously bruised by petrol or a bus pass? Is the price of accommodation in, say, London going to make your bank card weep? It can all be a bit of a balancing act trying to work out which option is the most economic yet the least agonising.
All in all, I think the logistics of relocation is something we should really give more than a passing thought. It’s exciting to try out life somewhere new and work has taken me to some really great places; I certainly wouldn't take any of that back. Still, maybe it would have been a good idea to look up the bus route first.