will I ruin my future if I turn down this job?

A reader writes:

I’m feeling very unsure about accepting a position I interviewed for yesterday and I’m looking for a second opinion.

I’m pretty much at the start of my career and I had an interview yesterday for a position out of town. The position itself is excellent and I would love to take it. However, the town it’s in is quite small and I’m really not sure if I should move there. I was enthusiastic about moving when I applied and even before the interview yesterday, but now I’m really hesitating on it. The town is almost 5.5 hours from where I currently live and very rural (I don’t have a car!). I have no family there and I’m really afraid that I’d be lonely and even bored. The more I think about it, I just don’t think I’d enjoy it.

On Tuesday I interviewed for a local position, and while that position isn’t an ideal position, I think I would enjoy it a lot more, just because I would still be close to family and friends. I would still be able to look for other positions (this one is more temporary), and who knows, I might actually really love the job and I’d have the opportunity to apply for internal positions.

I mean, this is all speculation, because I don’t have an offer, but am I a terrible person to ultimately decline the out-of-town position of it’s offered? I’m in a smaller field (libraries) and I’m really afraid that it would somehow “ruin” my future if I declined it. Is it silly of me to reject a position for my general quality of life?

Nope. Life is more than work. And while work certainly matters a great deal to your overall quality of life (a great deal, don’t get me wrong), it is rarely the case that it’s a terrible decision to turn down a single position that you’re not enthused about taking, particularly when that position would involve a move to a place you don’t want to live.

If you find yourself turning down multiple positions and not getting offers that you do want to accept, then sure, you need to take a fresh look at your decision-making. But unless this job is the one opportunity to support yourself in your field that you’re likely to have for the next couple of years, it’s totally reasonable to turn it down because you don’t like the quality-of-life changes that would come with it. (And even if it were that one and only opportunity, it would still be sensible to have real reservations about moving to a location you don’t want to live in — to the point that it would even be worth assessing whether you’d rather explore other fields so that you didn’t have to make that trade-off.)

So no, what you’re contemplating is highly unlikely to ruin your future, nor would it make you a terrible person. It would make you a sensible person with multiple priorities in your life, not just a single job opportunity.

{ 95 comments… read them below }

  1. soitgoes*

    Someone once told me that if you can’t negotiate your salary or benefits, you can at least mentally negotiate how you feel about your commute. IMO it’s the dread of the commute that makes you not want to get out of bed in the morning. Don’t take a job if you’re not prepared to uproot your whole life. On the other hand, if you desperately need a life change, moving for a job is a great way to make that happen.

  2. fposte*

    This is pretty common; it happens to my students a lot. It’s absolutely reasonable to turn down a job because it’s not a place that will work for you, and good libraries will want you to do that (sometimes they’re good about being very clear about culture and limitations to make sure they do get somebody who’s the right fit, rather than somebody who’s about right now).

  3. Ali*

    This is part of the reason why I abandoned my original dream of working with a sports team. There was too much of a chance that I would have to move to some nowhere town where I wasn’t sure I could be happy. I’m not against relocating, don’t get me wrong, but I’d rather move to a bigger city and have more amenities and job opportunities available than live in a small city or town. I felt bad at first about not wanting to make the sacrifice (not to mention jobs in this field generally do not pay well, and I didn’t want to deal with that either) and thought it said something negative about me that I didn’t want to move to Iowa (for instance) and work for low pay. But I have other goals now and don’t really think much about these experiences anymore, even though the phone interviews I had were all great ways to build relationships and learn about the field.

    Great advice!

    1. fposte*

      Heh. The librarian that I first thought of with this question turned down a job that wasn’t a good fit for her in another state and ended up happy in Iowa :-). It’s all about personal fit.

      1. ILiveToServe*

        What Alison said with a “yes, but” It is standard the the “good” library jobs in desirable locations often require two years experience in seemingly entry level positions. It is understood that being willing to relocate or accept assignments in less desirable locations to gain experience is “paying your dues” in the profession. So the real question may be…is this the work you want to be doing>”

        1. Kinrowan*

          Yes if you look at library job ads, there are some that you see every year or two – the jobs are in sometimes even very large universities but perhaps not in ideal locations and people get their entry-level experience and move on after a few years (at least, I think this is true for academic libraries).

          1. Andrew*

            I moved to Japan for a library job. But it was one of my dreams to go to Japan, so I’m happy with the decision to move here.

  4. TOC*

    OP, it might help you feel a little better about turning down this “perfect” position if you think about how your potential unhappiness in this town would affect your work life. You’d probably find it tough to really dig in and fully embrace this job. You might always be looking for a way out, rather than looking for opportunities to move forward in the organization. Feeling isolated and bored would probably carry over into your work life as well, making it hard to feel awesome about your job. You might not really be able to be the best employee you know you could be in a place that offered a better out-of-work life.

    1. Nelle H. L.*

      This is 100% correct. That was my exact response to living in a very small college town in Ohio. I got recruited away after a year, but I wouldn’t have lasted much longer in any case.

    2. A. D. Kay*

      +eleventy. If you live in a stultifying location, you could become depressed and that will definitely affect your job performance.

    3. College Career Counselor*


      I currently have a great job in a community I don’t like. I have had to force myself to engage and participate, which is not my MO. (Everyone has either been here less than 2 years or more than 20, so it’s kind of polarizing. And people are leery of engaging with you until you “stick,” so I guess it goes both ways). I’m making it work, but it has been harder than I would like. The right job AND the right place for you is critical. Best of luck in your decision.

  5. Dasha*

    I wholeheartedly agree with Alison. I moved for a job and although I love my job, I HATE where I live. I second not moving and listening to your gut.

  6. LMW*

    I completely agree with “your job is not your whole life” — but make sure that you’re not holding yourself back because you fear change either. I’ve been in that position a few times: I see an opportunity that might mean a big change and at first I get excited, but when it gets closer to reality, I have second thoughts. Sometimes these are solid, rational second thoughts, and sometimes it’s just fear of change. Knowing the difference is something I still struggle with.

  7. Mike C.*

    I don’t know know the OP’s world very well, but in many of the circles I run around taking a job in a small town ends up being a dead end for many people. It’s more difficult to move back to the areas with work (since they want local hires) and there is the risk of not having much in the way of advancement opportunities.

    On the other hand, in many of those same circles you can only get those great jobs after spending a few years getting experience anywhere. So unless you think you can’t get that experience anywhere else and there are some opportunities to work hands on with stuff that’s going to make your resume look awesome, trust your gut.

    Either way you chose, you aren’t going to permanently kill your career. Unless there’s something crazy special about this library, you’ll be just fine.

    1. NoPantsFridays*

      “taking a job in a small town ends up being a dead end for many people. It’s more difficult to move back to the areas with work (since they want local hires)”

      Yeah, this was my primary concern for OP as I was reading the letter. Moving now might limit OP’s future opportunities to only those in the small town. That might be fine with OP, but if not, she might not be able to move back to a more urban area easily in the future.

      1. Kerry (Like The County In Ireland)*

        Like the question in a Friday chat a few weeks ago where the writer was asking for ideas of career change and skill upgrade for his wife–she’d worked in a place with outdated technology so that while she was the “systems librarian” what her actual experience was in was out of date.

      2. SCW*

        However, a lot of times working in a smaller library system allows one to get experiences that are harder to get in larger systems. For instance, it is easier to get supervisory experience in a small library, which makes it easier to get higher level library positions in larger systems. I work in a large library system, and our supervisory positions all require previous management experience, which you can’t get in the system. I came from a small system, where I was assistant manager in my first position out of library school.

  8. The IT Manager*

    There’s so much to be said for being happy where you live.

    I’ve got nothing against small towns, but it really sounds like you’re not in the stage of life where you will be happy in one. You are definately not a terrible person to value your quaility of life over the “ideal” job.

    Also if it is as rural as you say, then you will need a car (maybe bike) to live there. You would need to plan that into your thinking too.

    I just read the book Who’s Your City? which I didn’t think was that well written, but it makes this point well. People spend so much time thinking about a spouse and a career, but rarely give the same consideration for where they live which does not make sense because where you live can factor as much into your overall lifetime happiness as spouse and job. Especially as a young single, you’ll want to live somewhere where you can have a social life – not necessarily an existing one but the potential for one. It doesn’t sound like that you think there’s one in that rural community.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Also if it is as rural as you say, then you will need a car (maybe bike) to live there. You would need to plan that into your thinking too.

      That was definitely what caught my eye. I’ve lived in a very small town without a car and it stinks. Riding a bike in the snow is no fun! And without a car, OP won’t be able to go out of town very often.

  9. Glorified Plumber*

    OP, I am curious if by “libraries” you mean, “Library Science.” If this is the case, I might disagree with Allison.

    My experience with the two library science folks I know tell me that you take ANY library science job… no matter how rural. They are so exceedingly rare, and experience is so exceedingly important, that it is paramount to pounce on them. This is at least what both of these ladies told me… whether it is true or not, I know not.

    OP, I understand the small town portion very much. I grew up in a small town, and worked in a small town for 4-5 years. I just wanted to say, that, the feelings of isolation and loneliness doesn’t HAVE to be there. There are people in these places, it just takes a little extra digging, and a little movement out of your comfort zone. That digging can be a lot of work, and moving out of your comfort zone is fun for no one, but they are there… probably wondering where people like you are, and the ability to operate freely out of your comfort zone is a great skill! If this small town job dramatically increases your opportunity for a larger, big town job in 2 years, it might be a very good idea. If it takes LONGER than 2 years to do this… then yeah.. might be better to tough it out.

    I don’t know how different or off your chosen career path this local position you talked about is, but, if it is too far off, and won’t help, you should consider the effect of that vs. how many years this small town position would require.

    Good luck! I hope the local interview pans out, and I hope that local position acts as a springboard for something more career orientated as you suggest may happen!

    1. Spooky*

      This. It’s the “library” part that throws me, too – I’ve heard so many people who are desperate for a library job, ANY library job, who are willing to move to any part of the country to get one, that makes me rethink this. The economy is terrible and most people in their 20s are having to make sacrifices like this, doing a few years working jobs you don’t like in order to advance your own prospects. If your alternative offer is temporary and this one is full-time…I don’t think I’d turn that down. Those jobs are few and far between.

    2. fposte*

      And I’m in library science, and I disagree. It’s one thing if you’ve struggled to make it to an interview after tons of applications, but that’s not the OP–she’s gotten two interviews in a short timeframe, suggesting she’s a pretty strong candidate for the places she’s applying to.

      The job market in librarianship is tough right now, I’m not disagreeing with that; however, in my experience with my students, strong candidates with reasonable flexibility, at least in some areas of librarianship, still don’t have to leap immediately at a job they’ll be miserable at.

      1. Kerry (Like The County In Ireland)*

        I also disagree. The ratio of entry-level librarians to jobs and the changing employment landscape means the skills and experience you get from the beginning of your career are going to have longterm impact–you are going to get pigeonholed and find it difficult to transition to another part of the field.

        Also that “grasp any job” mindset is bad when there’s not a lot of activity and churn amongst jobs–of there’s nowhere to move up in the system, and no way to crosstrain and get a variety of experiences, you are stuck.

        1. Glorified Plumber*

          Quote: you are going to get pigeonholed and find it difficult to transition to another part of the field.

          Interesting, the two folks I knew definitely did not have that level of forethought towards their library positions. It was very much a “I’ve sent out XYZ applications and seen 0 responses.”

          Is Library science really one of those fields where, 2 years of experience doing NOT EXACTLY THE SAME THING as another place is looked upon poorly?? That is so ridiculous… to use an analogy out of the industry I work, it is like saying, “So I see you have 10 years of experience designing piping that run 500 PSIG gas… but unfortunately all of our processes run at 125 PSIG or less. We’re going to go with someone who has NO EXPERIENCE or an H1B. Thanks!”

          Of the two people I knew, one person was a pretty strong candidate (At lease I would guess… she is an amazingly awesome person in general, I have NOTHING to do with Library Science but I bet she rocked it), but the other was basically a completely worthless human being. This sounds unnecessarily harsh… and I apologize for that, but my harshness has been verbally rebuked by many only to be immediately vindicated by the same people once they met her. Some people are just awful. She needed to take ANY job offered to her.

          OP sounds like he/she has a solid head on her shoulders and is, as other suggest, probably on the higher end of the good candidates! It sounds like they will be unlikely to experience the overall library deficiency many others have experienced.

          OP, curious to hear your decision when it all pans out!

          1. MLIS holder*

            Library science is much more broad than the example you gave – it’s not like designing piping for 500 psi vs 125. It’s more like studying business: once you start specializing in marketing, it’s a lot harder to make the switch to human resources.

          2. fposte*

            Seconding MLIS holder. It’s not so much about being pigeonholed as it is about competing with people who have focus and experience in the specialty you’re trying to get into. I’m thinking of the OP several months ago who’d focused only on adult services and was looking at job where youth services was a big part; somebody like this is going to find it tough to compete with the talented candidates with experience and skills in youth services.

            1. Andrew*

              Thirding! Although I’ve heard from a lot of fellow librarians that shifting from public libraries to academic libraries can be pretty difficult, in general, I think it’s more about other candidates having more directly relevant experience.

      2. Kyle*

        I was in library science, and I’m not sure having a offers now counts much in terms of having offers six months from now.

        I don’t know, I feel like I got some decent offers in the first few months after I completed my MLS (but in places I ultimately didn’t want to be) and then they really dried up. I think part of it was the stigma of being underemployed (I was at least in a paraprofessional position in the kind of library I wanted to work in, so I had that going for me). But part of it was probably also that I got pickier and pickier about what kinds of jobs I wanted to apply to – the more libraries I got familiar with, the more libraries I crossed off my list of places I was willing to work! I did land a professional library position eventually, but ultimately I decided I’d rather just start over on a new career path.

    3. MLIS holder*

      When I graduated with my MLIS in 2008, some of my friends spent two years looking for a library job. One only just found one – now, in 2014. If you are very particular about the type of library work you want, for example, you will only consider public reference positions, then you may have to be open to leaving your geographic area to build experience. However, if you are willing to consider non traditional positions, such as prospect research, corporate research, etc., then you will have an extended pool to apply to; however, once you start along that path, it may be more difficult to go back to traditional as you’re not really building a traditional skillset.

      Having said all that, I went the non-traditional route and found a job in six weeks, without ever leaving home.

    4. Steve G*

      It’s hard to say without seeing the salaries, the exact cities, and differences between the two libraries, but I err to agree with AAM because of the type of job/location OP would be giving up.

      I think your early 20s is the exact time to be moving around and trying new things. I went to Prague, my sister to Kansas City, and my other one to NYC (from a small town 70 miles from NYC). My sister going to KS was the best move, she wanted to be a graphic designer and the jobs there paid more than NYC (lots of low starting salaries in NYC for graphic design) so she lived well and travelled middle America and had money left over to come home every few months. If she had stayed here, she would have had to stay at my parents or live a poverty-level lifestyle in NYC for a year or two.

      In my industry (energy) I’ve known people to move to what seem like the boonies to work at utilities or system operators. Those jobs are great experience, great pay, and have support for non-locals moving to the area to work for them….

      What made the early-2os jobs so exciting though for my siblings and I was that we were all in new, bustling, and exciting cities with lots of nightlife and opportunities for day trips, and jobs that would be stepping stones to better jobs one day. If the OP is just getting a “regular” job in that other city, I don’t think the move would be worth it.

    5. Melissa*

      Seconded for the second paragraph! I currently live in a small college town that’s 3 hours away from the closest major city, and I actually really love it. The college is the key part because the university is huge and attracts a lot of highly-educated talent to befriend, but I have a small and growing social circle and there’s actually a lot to do here, plus everything is dirt-cheap! This is a welcome change from NYC, where I was living before. If you had asked me 3 years ago if I’d be happy in a small college town I would’ve laughed long and hard. It’s surprising what you can come to like.

  10. Meredith*

    I also work in the library field, and faced this same situation just out of grad school. I made it to the final round of interviews at a small liberal arts college in a teeny tiny town – more of a village. I didn’t end up getting a job offer, but I was a bit relieved – I definitely would have taken it, because it was just around recession time and was applying for archivist jobs. If you do end up taking the job, I suggest you seriously consider buying a car, unless there’s a reason you can’t drive. Many of the people I talked to who worked at the college commuted regularly to the nearest big city (an hour away) to access better shopping, cultural events, and restaurants. It was a small enough village that the nearest grocery store was about 15 miles away in a nearby (also small) town, and no public transportation to speak of – so a car was pretty much a necessity there.

    On the plus side, since the place was so small, there was clearly a built-in sense of community. I figured I could stick it out for two or three years if I wasn’t too into it, but if it’s not something that appeals to you it might be a good idea to stay away. The library world is one of those with jobs that are not super plentiful, but if you’re already getting offers I think you can be a little more choosy.

  11. Ann Furthermore*

    I agree that you should go with your gut, but on the other hand don’t be afraid to take a risk. Great advice, huh? What I mean is if you truly feel that this is not the job for you, then don’t take it. You’ll be better off and so will the employer. But you did say that you were enthusiastic about moving when you applied, so don’t completely ignore those feelings either. Are you ready for a change of pace and/or scenery? Maybe you’ve always wanted to try living in a smaller town? It sounds like you’re young and single, so it’s easy to pick up and go someplace new (compared to moving a spouse and kids as well).

    Can you do some research on the town? Find out what the demographics are? Find out more about local culture, events, and so on, before you make a decision? Maybe go spend a weekend there and explore the area?

    What I’m trying to say is don’t immediately close yourself off to new opportunities and experiences due to fear of the unknown. And that’s hard to do — I’m very much a creature of habit and don’t normally do well with change. But for me, very often, change — whether it’s something I’ve initiated or something that’s been thrust upon me — has worked out better than I ever imagined it would.

    1. Meg Murry*

      Yes- if you were enthusiastic before, is this just cold feet about making a potentially big change? First, I wouldn’t make any decisions until you get an actual offer. Then, if you get an actual offer, can you ask if you can make one more visit to have someone show you around town before you accept? You may find that living in the small town might not be a good fit for you, but maybe there is a larger town within a half hour drive that would be better. Or you may confirm your gut instinct that no, this isn’t a good place for you at this time.

      Either way though, don’t burn this bridge – if you reject the offer, do it politely and in a timely fashion. You never know when or if you may cross paths with the people that are on the hiring committee for this position again, and you don’t want them to remember you poorly.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      I had similar thoughts. While I think the OP will be perfectly fine if the small-town job is passed up and I would support whatever decision was made, don’t immediately discount the small town. The OP says it’s 5.5 hours from home, but we don’t know that that means 5.5 hours from ANY metro location, or just home. It could possibly be rural, but on the outskirts of an area with more opportunities.

      I live in flyover country and an area most coast people would not consider moving to, but it’s a greater metro area of ~2.5 million people that is often on the “up-and-coming” cities lists. It’s a nice place to live, but most people have an image of it that’s about 100 years outdated. : )

      If anything, trying it out for a year gives you something interesting to talk about.

  12. matcha123*

    I might be the lone dissenting opinion, but I don’t think that the OP should give up what could be a good job so soon. We can’t stay in our comfort zone forever. If she moves to this place, she’ll have (?) to learn how to drive, get by without help from a network of friends and other skills that can be very useful in life and at work.

    I know it’s scary to move somewhere new. I’ve done it myself. But, there’s no guarantee the family and friends will always be in that area. I think that getting in a year or two of full-time work in will give a more solid foundation for moving onto the next job.

    Of course you have to do what’s best for you. But, personally I’d put getting experience in my field over not.

  13. Kyle*

    Oof, I did this for a library job – moved to a town I didn’t really want to live in because I knew that jobs were thin on the ground and if I wanted to advance as a librarian I was going to have to take what I could get. Three years later, I left librarianship, probably forever (and am now a very happy software developer living and working in a city I love).

    So, if you’re like me, moving for this job will really help you clarify what’s actually important to you! For me, being a librarian turned out to be less important than living in a place I like.

  14. Cristina in England*

    Second what most have said. There is no right answer for where to live, only the right answer for you. I also don’t have a car, and even where to live within a city is such a big deal. Trust your instincts.

  15. Carrie in Scotland*

    OP, you mention that it’s 5 and a half hours from where you currently are. Is there any other town/city between the job’s location and your own at the moment?

    1. Chinook*

      “you mention that it’s 5 and a half hours”

      I look at this from a different perspective – only 5 1/2 hours away? Sometimes that is a good distance because it is far enough to still visit your family and friends for a long weekend (if you have a car) but far enough that they won’t expect you every weekend and you can work on trying to belong to your new community. This is good if you are tempted to try and spread your wings but still want some security.

      I speak from experience (but also from a place where driving 2 hours to get Big Mac or sushi was not unheard of). But, most vital for this, is having access to a reliable car.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          But really, a car is not so hard to get. $2000 15-year old cars are a lot more reliable these days than they used to be. If the OP has a job & needs to take out a small loan, it should be feasible. The bigger issue would be learning to drive.

          1. Nashira*

            You assume that the OP *can* drive. It could be that they have a condition that precludes driving, like my migraines functionally do or my friend’s epilepsy does.

            1. Treena Kravm*

              I’m going to have faith in the OP that they wouldn’t have been excited over this job/location for so long and be so naive as to not realize how impossible it would be without driving.

        2. Kathryn T.*

          but which she will probably need if she moves to a rural area — so factor that into your decision making, OP.

        3. M-C*

          But the OP does not have a job. Yes, it can be hard to leave family and friends for a job, but some jobs are worth taking all the same. Only the OP can make that painful decision. However I’d like to give the OP a bit of unsolicited advice here :-). As a lifelong city person, I had a license but no practical driving skills. When I moved in my 40s to a small town with unreliable/unuseable public transportation, I learned to drive and got a car. In much of the US, it’s just not an optional thing, unless you want to live as a recluse (a hungry, bored, health-care-less recluse). And even then you may not be able to get to work many times if you don’t have a car. So OP, be sure to figure the cost of that in your salary comparisons. And really, I also second the thing about cheap used cars being a lot more reliable than they used to be..

          1. Melissa*

            Yes, I was a licensed driver but never really owned a car or had to drive – I lived in cities with reliable public transit or access to other people with cars for most of my adult life. I recently moved to a small town where living without a car would be very difficult, and bought a car and have to drive it every day for the first time. I learned to drive better *shrug* it’s one of those things that you learn by doing it a lot. And yes, in the majority of the U.S….it’s simply something you have to do.

  16. BRR*

    I’m happy to hear you’re considering this at your current stage in the hiring process. I know a lot of people who hope to land jobs in fields that are very selective (academia, libraries, and full-time classical musicians). In their desire to get a job in their field they usually disregard location and work environment and often times end up miserable. These other factors are super important to a person’s happiness.

    I just urge you to figure out if you would not enjoy living there or are you afraid to step out of your comfort zone.

  17. De Minimis*

    I work in a rural area and can say from personal experience it is very tough to move to a rural area just for a job, and it seems like most people who try it don’t make it long term. Most people here stick around until they find a job closer to home or in one of the bigger cities. The only people who really do well are the locals, or those who make enough money to where they don’t mind commuting a longer distance. And we actually are better than many because we have a somewhat larger town just over 30 miles away [most employees commute from here] and a larger city a little over an hour away. Even then, we have a hard time retaining people who move here just for work.

    My mother has made her career in libraries, and is currently working part-time at the local library [also in a very small town.] Even what seem like good library jobs can be tough to fill in a smaller town, her previous boss had moved and was pretty unhappy there.

    I’ve found with a lot of these small town jobs [including my current job] the expectation is more for someone to take the job and remain there for their entire career, so many of these jobs would not be the best move for someone starting out who didn’t intend on staying forever and wanted some type of career advancement.

    I also would highly advise against moving to a small town without a car. You will have no way to get around at all, and many small towns are limited even on basic things like groceries.

    1. Helena*

      Yes, I was in this exact situation earlier this month. I just got my MLIS and interviewed for one of the few full-time jobs within my area – in a rural part of another state. I didn’t have quite as many misgivings about the small town itself, but it was made pretty clear in the interview that the person leaving the job was retiring and the new person would be expected to be there for a long time, which I was not really on board for. I ended up bowing out of the interview process.

  18. FluffyPup*

    When I was applying and interviewing, it was mostly in two large cities that are nearest to me. But as the process went on, I realized that I significantly favored one city over the other. I lucked out that my job offers came from the city I liked better so I didn’t have to turn anything down, but I would have been really torn if I’d gotten an offer from the other city.

    Do whatever feels like the best fit for you and good luck!

  19. aNoN*

    Hello! As someone who moved to a rural location for a job, the feeling of loneliness you fear became very real for me. However, my situation was different in that I was only there for a year long rotation. I was 5.5 hours away from my home in a big city to living in a small town. I experienced culture shock because the work environment was different in some ways good, in some bad. While I was out there I got to know myself and developed a strong sense of self-reliance and confidence because everything I needed had to be provided for myself by myself. I also started taking additional classes to qualify as a candidate for a certification in my field. Part of this was out of boredom to be quite honest but it was a good time to start given all the time I had to focus without distractions. My fitness became a priority because there were few sidewalks to walk and I had to drive everywhere which was such a drag considering I had the option and convenience of public transit at home.

    In the end I was miserable because the work environment was toxic and I had no family or friends to come home to. The only light at the end of the tunnel was that I was on a rotation and knew I would be coming home eventually. With that being said, I urge you to consider your long term plans. I will say that taking the position was good for me in the sense that I developed my skills but I don’t think I would have ruined my career by not taking it. I took a risk and learned a lot. I think your mental and emotional happiness are strong things to consider and I don’t fault anyone for not taking a position over it.

    1. aNoN*

      I should clarify what I mean by “Long term plans”- I would consider what stage in life you are in such as relationships, career plans, are your friends moving away too? Is it easy to find a job in your field in other cities? Salary potential – does it increase/decrease depending on where you live. I work in finance and I will say that I make a lot more money in a big city working slightly fewer hours than when I was in that small town. Actually, my salary was matching a lot of managers there because I was getting paid as if I still lived back home and negotiating a higher salary when I got a different job was much easier than if I were to get paid as someone who permanently relocated to that tiny town.

  20. ExceptionToTheRule*

    I live in the largest city in the state that Ali didn’t want to move to (which would still be a small city to most) and I would concur with everyone’s advice. Where I live is right for me, but it’s certainly not right for everyone and that doesn’t make those who don’t like it here terrible people. It just means they don’t want to be outnumbered by livestock.

    The one caveat I would offer is that if the job otherwise excites you, try to visit the town if you haven’t. Places can have reputations or perceptions that don’t always match the current reality.

  21. anon o*

    OP, keep in mind that you don’t have to move to the other town forever. You can always take the job, move out and try to get experience for a few years and then move back to where you are now (or somewhere else). You might find you get more senior or broader experience in a smaller location. Good luck!

  22. Nelle H. L.*

    I took a job under just those circumstances and it was a ghastly mistake. It was every bit as miserable as you think your situation might be. Work -life balance is everything it’s cracked up to be.

  23. Adam*

    I’ve felt like this at times. For me it was more along the lines of not believing that “there are other jobs out there”. Being a person who had little experience (recent grad) and not being in any sort of high demand field, for the longest time it felt to me like there were no other jobs out there and I should give thanks and readily snatch up whatever bone the job market decided to toss me. There is something to be said to being new to the working world and having to pay your dues, but there are MANY jobs out there you can do and you do not have to feel beholden to one if it puts you in a situation you’d rather not be in just because you need a job.

    It’s ok to so no. It really is.

  24. Katie NYC*

    I took a dream position in a city I didn’t like right out of grad school. It was pretty miserable, came home crying after work a few times. But I was employed, and I hadn’t been able to find a job in NYC right out of graduation. I started looking for something new 6 months into the job, and ended up leaving after 8 months there. Funny thing, when I started looking I only had 6 months more experience than I did right out of grad school, but I got a lot more responses to my job applications. The job in the other city really helped me get a job in NYC that I loved, stayed there for three years, then took a promotional position at a larger organization in my field. It was a bit of a circuitous start – but it worked for me.

    1. Emma B*

      My parents always said that the first job is hardest one to get, because you don’t have any experience to your name. I’m currently ‘paying my dues’ at an entry level position that is not a dream job by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m hoping will give me the experience I need to move on soon. So thanks for your comment, it gives me lots of hope to see my parents’ advice in action!

      1. Katie NYC*

        I’ve always found that being employed is a good career strategy. If you’re not in love with your job, keep looking. For me, just the act of looking helps me figure out where exactly I would fit in, and helps me polish my interview stories. You don’t need to stay in that position forever.

  25. QC*

    My husband had the same plus and minus going through his head 2 months ago. He got 2 job offers in very different areas of his field, two very different cities, and very different company vibes. He thought about what would make him happy, from the work, location, company fit, and what would work for me career wise. He ended up taking the job with the lower pay, but more the direction he wanted to go and most importantly (to me expeshally) it was in the city I was/am working in and we both love the area. Turns out it was the correct job for him and so far hasn’t harmed his future.

  26. Rural Librarian*

    I respect you a great deal for thinking about your whole life, not just your job prospects. It isn’t easy to turn down a job in such a tough market, especially for a librarian. But I also want you to know that it’s possible to be pleasantly surprised. I moved all the way across a state to take a library job in a very rural area- 4+ hours away from friends and family. At that time, my idea was to take the job for a few years to build my resume, then return closer to home and a more ideal job. That was over 7 years ago, and I couldn’t imagine leaving now (although I will say that I believe people within the community would be supportive if that were my ultimate decision). It turns out that a small library gives you a lot of opportunity to learn all aspects of the job rather than just one component and, in my case, it meant moving up in the organization very quickly. I became enamored of the community and it really became the place I call home.

    Again, it’s not for everyone. If you truly don’t feel like it’s for you, then you’re making the right choice by turning it down. But stay open to the possibility that really cool things can happen when you take that chance. Good luck!!

    1. fposte*

      This is a really nice point too. (As it happens, the student I’m most thinking of chose a more rural job over an isolated industrial-down job, and is very happy with her choice.) I’m still thinking about the OP’s not having a car, though–were you able to do this without a car, or do you know people who have?

      1. TL -*

        Oh, gods, if the OP is going to move to a rural area, she needs to get a car.

        I grew up in a rural small town in an area dominated by rural small towns, and you need a car. There’s often no public transportation, and unless you’ve very lucky, walking will not be feasible because of both weather and distance. In a small towns/rural areas, cars mean freedom.

        1. Meg Murry*

          Yes – OP, do the math and make sure the salary you are being offered would cover a car payment and insurance costs. Unless this is some kind of unicorn rural area with amazing public transit, OP is going to want a car or the feeling of being stuck in a rural area will be even worse. At a minimum, she will probably want a car to do typical errands like buying groceries, but she will probably also want one to be able to make trips back to visit family and friends for long weekends, etc.

      2. Rural Librarian*

        Not having a car could make it a bit more difficult. I did have a car; however, I also walk or bike to work and the grocery store (it’s actually easier to walk in winter than to drive!!) I only use my car once a month or so for things like going out of town to visit family- which admittedly might be enough of a sticking point for someone without one. I know people in the area that get by without a vehicle, but it would be tough if there were needs beyond what the community in question could meet (no grocery store, doctor’s office, dentist, etc.) Mine has everything I NEED… even if it is a little sparse on entertainment (but hey, I work in a library!)

        Perhaps another pertinent question would be how supportive the OP’s family and friends would be? Would they be willing to come visit?

    2. SCW*

      I think that is actually something people often overlook about working at small libraries–you get experience in a wide range of things. I work in a small branch in a large system, and I get to do a little bit of everything. I know the smaller the library the more this is. Also it can be a good way to really shine–you are able to try new things, which can help you move to the next position!

    3. Amber*

      I just want to +1 this comment. I’ve been a librarian (reference) in a large city library (multiple branches etc), and I’m currently the assistant director of a small town, rural library, and hands down, I prefer the rural library. I can do so much more – I’m not limited to a narrow job description. I have much more freedom to learn different aspects of librarianship, and it’s made the job so much more appealing.

  27. SH*

    OP – I grew up in a small town so I understand your apprehension. If you already know that’s not suited to your personality and interests you should turn down the job. I could have gotten a job in my hometown but I was unhappy so I moved to NYC. Finding a job here was much harder but I’ve never been happier.

  28. Relosa*

    I totally agree with Alison. I work in hospitality/attractions/tourism/entertainment (namely attractions) and there are often positions I’m perfectly qualified for that I would love to pursue – but they are in locations I know I do not want to be in. I would be miserable there – it’s happened to me before.

    You work to make money to live the life you want. Sometimes we’re lucky enough that the work is also something we enjoy – but if it’s the only thing about where your life is situated that you like, then you will begin to resent it after awhile.

    I vote for the more local job.

  29. Christian Troy*

    Early in my job search, I removed myself from the interview process for a position I was a strong candidate for. The manager told me how disappointed he was since he really wanted me in the role, but I really did not want to live in the city and felt guilty and awful about the whole situation.

    It’s six months and 40+ interviews later, and I regret it every single day. I know this comment sounds like doom and gloom, but when you turn down a job offer, you don’t know when the next one is going to come along. For some people, something pops up a few weeks later and for other people (like me), it feels like you have ruined your future. I do think location is a valid concern when it comes to QoL, but I wish I would have sucked it up for the experience.

  30. Kara*

    I have a friend who was in a similar situation a couple of years ago, and let me tell you, moving to a remote town with no friends or family near can definitely affect your quality of life. My friend’s company closed their offices in the state where he was living, and offered to transfer him to a state a few thousand miles away to another location, which was in some tiny town an hour away from the largest city. He took the transfer, because he was afraid he wouldn’t be able to find anything locally fast enough, and was sooo miserable. He ended up quitting his job and moving back to his former state after a year (which, by the way, was difficult because he had the problem of long-distance interviewing while he tried to find a job back home – so keep that in mind too). He’s much happier now that he’s back near friends, family, and city life.

    I would definitely think hard about whether the job is good enough to make you happy so far from home, and what chances you’ll have of finding another job if it you get there and hate it. Good luck with your job search!

  31. Malissa*

    Just know that not all small town are created equal. Some you can live in for years, but never really be a part of it. Some welcome you with open arms and it feels like you’ve been there forever.
    Evaluate carefully and figure out what fits your needs the best.

  32. Sunny*

    I work in the same field. A lot of people in my state have had to work for a couple of years in smaller towns until they move on to some where they may enjoy more.

    If you did take this position, it would be hard for you to interview at other places near where you want to live.

  33. Cari*

    I’m in this field as well, and others have pretty much said what I would say. No matter what field you’re in, it doesn’t make sense to move somewhere you don’t want to live. If you are a strong candidate, you will find a job in an area where you want to be. Focus on making yourself the desirable candidate in your chosen specialty – or if you’re not specialized yet, see if you can get some volunteer experience in multiple areas so you can show it off on your resume. It’s very tough right now in my geographic area, so it is easy to be discouraged, but ultimately, your career is what you make it. Your happiness doesn’t lie with anyone else except yourself.

  34. Not So NewReader*

    I live in that rural area. There is an employer here who advertises for help. In his ad, he includes the following information: “This job is not for everyone. If you enjoy the night life do not apply. There are no bars, clubs, theaters, there is not even a pizza delivery place. We do not have taxis, buses, heck, there’s no traffic lights. We also do not have grocery stores, malls or doctors. There’s no bike trail, no community swimming pool and no cell phone service.”

    By the time you get done reading the ad, you realize the employer is pretty frustrated with people deciding that “this is too rural for me”. Not to scare you, OP, but it could be that you get asked on the interview how you plan to cope with all this rural-ness, because the employer knows that it is a huge transition. They want to hire someone who will stay, not someone who will leave in a few months.

    If I heard excitement or happiness in your letter, my answer would be different. Trust yourself to know what it is you need/require. Trust your gut to know what is right for you.
    And no, you won’t ruin your career. Very few people will know that you applied for the job and that you turned it down or withdrew your app. They won’t think less of you for it.

    1. Melissa*

      I also want to present the flip side, though, and offer than many people from cities don’t know what small towns and small town life is like and that small towns differ on their small-ness. Now OP says the area is “very rural,” so the town might be closer to what your town is like than mine. But I had only ever lived in cities and expected my small town to have nothing, and then moved here and found a thriving, wonderful, really happy little community in this area. The difference of course is that there is a humongous university that dominates the town’s economy and lifestyle (for which I work) so I have an automatic connection, but a lot of small towns are fuller than many city folk might think. But then, this town has everything your employer’s town lacks, so…it’s quite different. (Well, the cell service isn’t great, lol.)

  35. MR*

    Just a guess, but I suspect the OP hasn’t travelled much and went to school in his/her hometown and is unsure about things outside of a small geographic area.

    I would recommend the OP take this position if offered, because expanding those horizons would be a great thing to do for their overall well-being. Give the new location a fair shake. If you don’t like the area after a year or two, look elsewhere for a job, and use this first position as a building block.

    You can’t have second thoughts about a place if you’ve never been there once.

  36. SCW*

    Here’s the thing. If rural living is not for you, you probably shouldn’t be applying for positions that are in rural libraries. It isn’t like a big multi-national company where you could transfer to a different office. Rural library X is going to stay rural, and you might want to take a deep look at where you are focusing your efforts on applying. As a person who interviews for library science positions, I do want people to decide the location isn’t for them before they start, but even better would be for them to decide before they apply. You are a librarian, do some research on the area–figure out if it is somewhere you would be willing to work. If rural is a deal killer–please don’t apply. Working for the government, which most libraries are, makes it a pain when you have to go back to find more applicants because the ones you had dropped out.

    I do think that getting the temp job in the system you want can work out–a lot of libraries prefer to hire internal candidates, because the learning curve is less, and you are getting a known quantity. However, some places there are gluts of librarians, so there may not be a lot of movement in the system. See if there are a lot of people with MLS degrees stuck in entry level positions, or if there are frequent opportunities to move up. Also, since you are at the start of your career–you might want to look and see where the jobs are–see what interests you, but if there are more than one area that interests you, better to go in the direction where they are hiring. In my system, there have been no FT public service librarian openings in a year and a half, while there have been numerous YS and PT positions.

    1. Melissa*

      Sometimes you don’t know whether or not you can be in a place until you visit. I applied to a place about which I wasn’t quite sure in a different but similarly tight, location-bound field (academia). I was pretty sure it would be boring and isolated and I was going to hate it, but I visited the town and actually found a lovely place that I really like. So sometimes you can apply to a place and make the decision in the hiring process – that’s why ideal, hiring managers will make a short list of candidates so if one turns them down, they can move to the next.

  37. Preston*

    I am just curious, I don’t know anything about library jobs, why would it hurt your future OP? Are library jobs really hard to get? If the job is in a really rural place and your a city person, that is something to consider. Also how would you get home or around without a car? Most rural areas have NO public transportion.

  38. Engineering student*

    I had a similar dilemma when I was in an engineering internship program that required us to work for 2 companies for 6 month periods. For my second internship, I was selected to work at a plant that was 1 hour away from the closest “liveable, lively” city. If I were to commute, it would take me 1.5 hrs one way, or I could move to this little town that was 30 minutes away from the workplace but the town would have no activities you could do at all. Nada. Zilch. No fast food restaurants, no Walmart, no mall, etc. You could drive through the town in 1 minute. I decided the hell with the commute and decided to move to the little town to cut down my commute. Now that I think back, I probably should’ve just stayed in my home town and made the 1.5 hr commute for 6 months but god, I think my body and soul would’ve died doing that commute.

    1. De Minimis*

      I had to make a similar decision…we decided to move to the city and have me commute the 120 miles round trip each day. We had the option of a college town that was located closer, but the housing market there was very tight and we were in a time crunch because my landlord was talking about selling the house I was renting from her. In the end, we probably should have tried to remain in the college town…I like a lot of things about the city but am generally too tired out from the commute to do much of anything on the weekend or days off.

      1. De Minimis*

        That brings up another thing…I’ve found that finding housing in rural areas can be difficult unless you are buying. Most rentals are found through word of mouth, and as an outsider you don’t really have a way to find out about places for rent.

  39. XLibrarian*

    OP, I wonder if something else about the interview is triggering your apprehension. I mean, you knew this was a rural job, and you were excited about it; I assume you researched the town before you even applied. It wasn’t until the interview that you started having misgivings. Was there anything besides the locale that made you uncomfortable?

    Although I’m no longer a librarian, my spouse and many of my friends are, and I follow the job market compulsively. I actually see quite a few entry-level jobs advertised (contrary to conventional wisdom), but they often require skills that you have to acquire outside of school. My guess is that you either have some of those or you write a really great cover letter (or both); if you didn’t, you wouldn’t be getting interviews. :-) If something about this job doesn’t feel right–whether it’s the location or something else–I’d say pass on it and hold out for something that does.

    1. De Minimis*

      I’ve been in that position a couple of times, having misgivings once the reality of what I was applying for/moving to set in….I think it’s easy for people to get caught up in the excitement of a successful job hunt [especially if it’s early in their career] and not think about things like relocation to a new place.

  40. OP*

    A bit has happened since I wrote the question and now! I didn’t get the position in the rural library, so ultimately I never had to make that tough decision! I did, however, end up getting the position in my current city. It’s is in an area of the field I hadn’t seriously considered (school libraries). The position I was first offered was sort of a temporary fill-in one, but HR forwarded my information to a school looking to hire a permanent librarian and I managed to get that position! I start in January and I am really looking forward to the opportunity. Even though it isn’t a role I would have seen myself 8 months ago, I’ve heard lots of positive feedback about the position/particular school board. I’m glad that I decided to broaden my search and look into different areas of the field!

    1. De Minimis*

      That was my mother’s career path, she started out teaching and then went to school in the summers and was able to get eventually get into school librarianship.

      Sounds like a great opportunity for you!

    2. XLibrarian*

      That’s great! Congratulations! School librarians make such a difference in the world. Good luck with your new job!

    3. Melissa*

      Hooray! I always loved my school library and it fostered my love for reading at a young age, so hopefully you can have the same impact. Congrats OP!

  41. Bunny*

    DON’T DO IT.
    I work in a very specific field in a small town. There’s no options work-wise in the town, and the employer knows it….so they abuse the heck out of the employees because they have no other options. Can’t wait to get the hello out of small town where, as a worker, I’ll have some bargaining power.

  42. Anastasia*

    I’m a hiring manager in the library field. It’s a very small world, especially expanding into a career. However,?interviews are a two way street. You are scoping the job out as well.

    I would assume you would do more damage by accepting and then leaving because you don’t like the town. If you leave after a few months, it looks bad on your resume and can cause harm to your reputation in the library world.

    I have been lucky enough to interview for different positions at the same time.

    If you 100% decide you don’t want to move or that it wouldn’t work I would pull your app. If you do get job #2 you can use that as an excuse. They don’t need to know it’s more temporary.

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