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I am going to join a new company in 3 months. It is quite a large company and they have provided us with over 10 office locations to choose from. I have to pick my top three preferred location.

Two of the cities are really close to my home town, and some of them are considered highly developed in terms of technology.

Now, I have to fill the preferences in order of preference, in which I want the best suited option for me.

My questions are:

  1. Does my location really matter in my career growth, even working for the same company and at same salary? Would it matter in the future?

  2. Should I ask for the same salary when located in smaller areas as are given in large areas? That is, the expected salary in larger areas is greater than the normal expected salary in smaller areas.

If that matters, I usually work on Java and Android technology.

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This isn't a duplicate question, however Location is mentioned in the answer to How can I determine a reasonable salary to ask for?. You may want to check it out what's said about it there :) –  Rachel Nov 30 '12 at 14:22

4 Answers 4

up vote 4 down vote accepted

1. Does my location really matter in my career growth, even working for the same company and at same salary? Would it matters in future?

Yes, and no. The most direct influence on your career is the work you are doing right now. The right location is the the location where you can do meaningful work, find good people to work with who can teach you and challenge you, and where you can learn new skills and technologies. Any job or location that does that is going to be better for your career than any job that doesn't.

It's usually hard to tell, without talking to people in a given company, what city is the best to live in for these sorts of opportunities. At first glance, it can seem like a big city, or a highly technical area, but in a given company, it could still be a smaller city, so long as the group and the projects they are working on are good. For example - in the US, there's a lot of great technology work in the smaller cities around New York, because New York is a very expensive place to host an engineering group.

One guideline is to know where the business is - often there are major laboratories, research centers, or development houses, where there are more opportunities. It may be connected to the corporate headquarters, but not necessarily. When I'm curious about this, I usually check the websites of the company and look for career positings and the products and services of each location, to see how much technical work the location offers and what they are making.

The other factor, of course, is other businesses in the area - which is worth checking similarly with job hunting in online postings to see if there's other work there in areas you'd be interested in working. Also, the presence of good schools and universities is a good sign.

2. Should I ask for the same salary when located in smaller areas as are given in large areas? That is, the expected salary in larger areas is greater than the normal expected salary in smaller areas.

You can try, but that would be unusual. Companies are usually quite sensitive to the pay rates in each location. When you're considering relocation, it is worthwhile to check the area to know what the cost of living will be. That'll tell you what salary will suit your needs. You can certainly aim high for any area if you get the option to quote a salary - but expect that the company will have a figure in mind and won't be interested in paying too much higher than the going rate for an engineer in that area.

One exception would be a corporate program where participants travel between locations, and where the salary is paid by a corporate standard that spans all the locations. Then it may be a negotiation against an abstract standard of the corporation, and where you choose to live will have a more direct affect on your standard of living, as the company won't change your rate if you move somewhere more expensive.

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Does my geographic locations really matters in my career growth

I don't think it matters directly. I.e. I can't imagine any recruiter paying attention to which city you got your experience with technology X in. Your choice has indirect consequences though. In big cities with busy IT life, you obviously have more work opportunities to choose from in the long run, but also fiercer competition. More challenges can help you grow, but can also crush you. Moreover, you have more opportunities to network with like minded people, participate in local user groups etc. which can help improving your skills and career chances if used wisely. However, now in the internet age, you can self study and connect to fellow developers from almost everywhere if you have the determination.

And one final point, which may actually be the most important in the long run: career growth and salary are good things, up to a point. But (IMHO) these shouldn't be the sole aim of one's life, rather just means to create and secure the life one desires. So the overall quality of life is important. Making a big career and earning lots of money via spending a large part of your life in a city which is polluted, ugly and hostile may actually make you burn out or even ill in the long run, which, needless to say, breaks your career too. Depending on your preferences, you may very well be better off living in a clean, beautiful and friendly place even if you earn less money and don't get as high promotions as fast. But happiness and satisfaction with your life makes you perform better at work too in the long term.

Should i be able to demand high salary that is not much frequent in small geographic location

Most probably not. In smaller cities, cost of living is lower and work opportunities are less, both keeping the average salary level lower than in big cities.

As a side note, I think the part of your post you dedicate the most words to is too localized - that is, which city to choose. You don't explicitly ask this, but without this, the list of cities with pros and cons is not very relevant for your two actual questions.

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@SahilMahajanMj, I think you could remove rather than add. Consider removing (most of) the details about the cities you are choosing from. Maybe you can keep some as illustrations to your two questions, but no need to have all. –  Péter Török Nov 30 '12 at 10:10

Yes location matters. If you work in a location that has 100 positions in your field (from entry level to senior level) that location will provide more opportunities for growth than a place that has 20 positions. And a location with 250 positions is going to have more opportunities for growth than your 100 position location.

Also if you stand out in a field of 250 it is more impressive than being the standout of 100 or 20.

However if you work in a smaller location you will probably get exposed to a wider part of the business. This can often help with advancement. If you work yourself into a niche it becomes harder to advance as there are less opportunities in a niche than in general process.

Depending on the company where work may determine what you do. If you work in a location that has the necessary but less exciting projects you are not going to get noticed as much as for work on the high visibility high profit projects. You will have to do your homework to find out which location is right for you.

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Yes, location absolutely matters to career growth.

Here are some quotes from Paul Graham's essay "Cities and Ambition":

Great cities attract ambitious people. You can sense it when you walk around one. In a hundred subtle ways, the city sends you a message: you could do more; you should try harder.

...

How much does it matter what message a city sends? Empirically, the answer seems to be: a lot. You might think that if you had enough strength of mind to do great things, you'd be able to transcend your environment. Where you live should make at most a couple percent difference. But if you look at the historical evidence, it seems to matter more than that. Most people who did great things were clumped together in a few places where that sort of thing was done at the time.

I highly recommend reading the whole essay.

So Paul Graham is really only addressing what benefits a city gives you in helping drive your own personal ambition; but there are other benefits, as others have pointed out:

  • More career options. You should consider the relationship between your industry and a city as an economy. As more workers of a particular type locate in a city, more companies move in. As more companies move in, more employees move in. So, if you pick a city that has a higher focus on your industry, you will by nature have more career options.

  • Better career options. ... and among those career options you will have better ones. More choice benefits both employees and employers. The best of each are able to match up.

  • Being a fish in a **"Big Pond". This relates slightly to Graham's essay. You are always going to be a small fish to start. If you start in a big pond, the big game will teach you more and drive you to learn and do more in your chosen field. In a small pond, you might learn cool things, you might not, but you definitely won't have quite the same credibility of being a player from the star city. And certainly, as Chad says, if you stand out in the big pond, you become the cream of the crop.

  • Higher salary. Higher cost of living will drive your salary up. My sense is that this will stay with you for your life. When you move to a cheaper city, you should be able to negotiate a smaller drop in salary than the corresponding gain you would need to negotiate when moving from cheaper to more expensive.

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