They say the best things come in small packages. And while the old saying is usually used in the context of gifts, the proverb can also ring true for your career. Case in point: when Jeffrey DeSarno was contacted by a headhunter for job opportunity that would see him move from Regina to Brandon, Man., he was skeptical.
“I remember thinking, ‘isn’t Brandon just a place you drive through to get to Winnipeg?’” he said of the city, population 49,000. Eight years later, DeSarno, now chief technology officer for Westman Communications Group, has bought his dream home in Brandon, and his wife and children have made a life for themselves there. They’ve never looked back.
What can we learn from DeSarno’s experience? Here are five reasons why moving to a smaller city might be the best move for your career.
See results tomorrow from work you do today
Having worked at larger companies like SaskTel and CIBC, DeSarno was accustomed to long-term projects where results and implications weren’t always immediate. One of the major advantages of working with a smaller company in Brandon is being able to see the impact of the work he does from day to day. “Every day I’m able to see the difference I’m making in my company, and isn’t that what it’s all about?” he said.
Make a name for yourself
One of DeSarno’s primary concerns before moving to Brandon was a perceived lack of opportunity, particularly in the telecom business. But in the eight years he’s worked at Westman, his career has progressed from management to executive officer.
“There are always opportunities in larger organizations, but it often involves moving laterally and then being forgotten about,” he said. In his current role, DeSarno is hobnobbing with the same peer group as he would in larger cities and companies, but the level of recognition is much greater.
“The one thing people tell us time and time again is that others actually recognize their contribution,” added Sandy Trudel, director of economic development for the city of Brandon. “Even if it can’t always be rewarded, contributions can be recognized — Brandon’s small enough that you’re not lost in the fold.”
Achieve that mythical work/life balance
Forget the hour-long commute and rush hour traffic in a big city. For DeSarno, the drive to work takes seven minutes, meaning he can not only spend more quality time with his family – he has more energy when he gets to work in the morning.
Living in a smaller city also means his skills and energy can be used outside of his nine-to-five job. Sitting on several boards and volunteer organizations, DeSarno said he doesn’t just feel like he’s part of the city of Brandon — he’s helping to create it. And with a tight-knit community, he’s often volunteering with the same individuals he sees in the office.
Make meaningful connections
Employees working for a company in a large city can sometimes feel like a faceless cog in a machine. For DeSarno, one of the draws at Westman was that he not only has daily face-to-face time with his own team (“who are like family,” he said), but also the CEO and upper management.
“One of the comments I frequently hear from Brandonites is that people can have much more meaningful connections within the workplace in smaller centres,” Trudel said. “We found that this generated more opportunities. Whether employees stay or move, their reputation transcends beyond their current workplace.”
What are you looking for?
Young professionals can often be entranced by working for a big-name company. But ultimately, a passion for your job comes down to loving what you do and the people you work with — not from working for a company people recognize.
A mentor of DeSarno’s once told him to always take a close look at an opportunity before saying no. Once he took the time to visit Brandon and the company, he realized that, small as they may be, they were exactly what he needed for personal and professional fulfillment.
“Most people come to Brandon kicking and screaming,” he said. “And they tend to leave the same way.”
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