How Early and Involved Should a Spouse be in a Job Move?

There is an old joke when one is married: “You are only as happy as the least-happy member of the household.” There isn’t anything much that’s truer than that, in this world. Career moves, along with a possible geographical dislocation, significantly affects everyone in your family. The impacts can be enormous, both positively and negatively.

First, never make any assumptions about what your spouse or children will say about a possible job move or relocation. Far too many times, I’ve tragically heard the phrase, “They’re all on board.” Whenever I hear this, the first thing I say is, “Please be more specific. What did each person say, and when did this discussion occur?” Sounds easy, but you’d be surprised at how quick quality professionals get caught up in an exciting new hiring process without doing their “ ‘family’ due diligence.”

My suggestion is to start the conversation early and without a pretext. What I mean by this is that you don’t begin the discussion with, “I’m really excited about this opportunity in Dallas,” and then proceed to ask what each family member’s thoughts are. The issue here is that family members don’t want to ‘rain on your parade.’ Often a spouse or the children will think, “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. It is not serious yet, so there is no need to truly voice my opinion.” It is simply human nature. Take the road of least resistance. With your opening line of being excited about Dallas, this could turn into an argument, with feelings being hurt. Imagine if quality professionals thought about a launch that way? Just like APQP, you need to have the discussion of the positive and negative ramifications as if it just happened from the actual packing of boxes to finding a new home.

The thought and discussion process must be open and thorough. All you need to say during the first meeting is, “A recruiter called me with some interesting options in warmer climates. I wanted to get your input on this very real possibility.” The most important aspect is to listen and repeat back, to show your understanding. For example, a spouse might object about leaving friends behind. Your response should be limited to just this in the first meeting, “If I understand you correctly, you are worried about moving to Dallas because you will leave all your friends here? I can understand that. That is an important consideration.” Once you get all your feedback, set up a family meeting for the next day (don’t wait longer than this since it will diminish the importance and immediacy of the issue) to discuss your side. Let everyone (including yourself) sleep on it.
In the above example, on first blush, your spouse REALLY said, “Anywhere on this green earth that I move, I will leave my friends behind. I’m not going.” After a night of sleep, the real answer might be, “I’ll miss my friends, but I won’t miss the snow falling. And, besides, it’s only a three-hour flight.”

As a recruiter, there is no right or wrong answer. Everyone has to be clearly and completely on board. Life is too short and enjoyable. I want all of you to make the right moves and be proud of yourself at how well you handled those moves. Not only will there be a better career outcome, but also you will receive respect and admiration from your family. If a ‘Yes’ decision has been made, make sure to do, what is called, a Summary Close, as in this example: “So, if I understand all of you correctly, and this opportunity in Dallas comes out as a winner, we are, as a family, ready to pack our bags and move to Dallas. Is everyone in agreement?”

While you’re saying this, just think ‘APQP . . . APQP . . . APQP’, and the end result will be just the way you and I planned it! You see, I’ve learned something from all of you, too.