I’ve spent my entire career in the small(ish) city of Saint John, New Brunswick, which has a population of just over 67,000. I’m totally convinced the experience of starting out a corporate career in a smaller city comes with its own unique challenges and opportunities. Here are five things that I've learned and that you’ll only understand if you started your career in a small(ish) city.
1. Networking Is next-level.
Unlike big cities with really large companies and complicated hierarchies, in a smaller city, you might just be a phone call or two away from meeting a CEO. Chances are you know someone, who knows someone, who knows someone, that can get you in front of a decision maker for that upcoming job vacancy. The opportunities for a warm introduction means that networking can be a lot more intentional and a key practice to securing your next gig, a whole different experience than the typical stale and cold events that are hosted in larger city centers.
2. Anonymity is rare.
Because people are typically connected in some way in a smaller city, it can be really difficult to keep things confidential. For example, you’ve had a job interview for your dream role at your dream company. Imagine you wanted to keep that private (just in case it didn’t work out as planned). Chances are, you will see someone inside that office that knows you. And just like that, the cat’s out of the bag and the whole darn town knows you were in for an interview. This can be really troublesome if you’re seeking another job while already employed... yikes.
3. You expect a really short commute to work.
When I hear big city folks talking about a commute to work that was well over an hour, I just can’t relate. In a small city, anything over 20 minutes door to door just seems ludacris. When road work hits in the spring and traffic is delayed by 10 minutes, you’ll definitely hear small city dwellers complaining.
4. Keeping your personal life out of work is hard.
Since people in a smaller city are often connected in some way — big or small — it can be difficult to keep your personal life out of the office. Chances are, someone heard from someone about something that’s going on with you. I think it’s great practice to set a firm boundary around your personal life. Commit to yourself that you won’t share private details at work — no matter what. In the event that someone confronts you with a piece of information you don’t want to chat about at the workplace, be prepared to push back; have a couple of key speaking points in your head that you’re comfortable drawing on when the time comes to tell that coworker that it’s none of their business. Politely, of course.
5. Landing Your First Gig Can Take Some Time
In small(ish) cities, those entry level positions can be difficult to get. They’re limited, and quite often have a lot of candidates. While it can take some definite time and patience to get your foot in the door, the time and trouble could be worth your while. Smaller cities see lower turnover rates. So, you could be with that company (and city) for years to come.
Shauna Cole is the Founder of The Method To Your Mat Leave© - an online course that helps moms manage their careers through maternity leave. Shauna is a Career Expert and ex-corporate Human Resources Pro. She’s got an MBA, is a Chartered Human Resources Professional and Senior Certified Human Resources Professional. A high-energy Mom of two boys, she’s obsessed with finding the balance between career and mom life (and also, wine).