How to Deal

Finding a new job to maintain a long-distance relationship

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By Lily Garcia
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, December 30, 2009; 11:45 AM

Hi, Lily.

I am planning on moving this spring to live with my boyfriend while he goes to grad school. I am going to start my job search come January, but I've run into a problem --- how do I explain my job search in a new city? It's easy enough to say in a cover letter, "I am currently employed in Washington, D.C., but here is my local address in XYZ City." But how would I explain it in an interview? What if someone casually asks me "Why XYZ City and not Washington, D.C.?" since I have no connections to XYZ City, and I'm leaving a pretty decent job here in Washington, D.C. I definitely don't want employers to know that I am following a boy and most likely to move again in one-and-a-half years. What do I say?

Thanks in advance!

Following Love?

Dear Following Love:

Why wouldn't you want employers to know that you are moving to be reunited with your significant other? For that is the definition of a boyfriend for whom one is willing to leave a "pretty decent" job in a familiar city. The prospect is exciting, romantic and universally appealing. The chances are good that interviewers who hear your story have either been in the same spot as you or is close to someone who has. Whether their story ended happily or tragically, they are sure to understand the compelling emotional reasons that have led you to your choice.

When I was a graduate student looking for a job in the economically depressed early 90s, my classmates and I were forced to expand our job searches well beyond the geographic limits of our family ties. I researched the socioeconomic data of cities like Minneapolis, Denver, Austin and Philadelphia, preparing richly detailed and wholly unconvincing speeches for my interviewers regarding why I was so interested in moving thousands of miles from my home state of Florida. Oh, to have had a half-sibling, an eccentric great uncle or even a godmother residing in their metropolitan area! The emotional connection would have been more believable. But being able to say that I was moving because of love? Now that would have been the ace of spades.

I suspect that your discomfort with sharing the reason for your move is rooted in your own ambivalence about what you are doing. Your heart is telling you that you cannot wait a moment longer to be with your guy, but your rational mind is judging you a fool for leaving so much economic security behind for a less-than-sure thing. Before you open your mouth to explain to a perfect stranger why your decision makes sense, make sure that you yourself have fully bought in to the idea. Practice telling the story in front of a mirror and ask yourself honestly whether you would be persuaded to hire such a person.

Regarding the likely duration of your stint in XYZ City, I think that is pure speculation. Between now and the end of your significant other's graduate program, you may both fall in love with the area and decide to stay a while. You may find the perfect job and choose to give it another year or two before considering a move back to D.C. or elsewhere. It is also possible ¿- although, I hope not, probable ¿- that your romantic relationship will end and you will be left with sensible independent reasons for adopting XYZ City as your home. The truth is, you never know. So I do not think that it would be dishonest of you to keep the expected duration of your boyfriend's graduate studies to yourself during interviews.

But do not keep quiet about your boyfriend. Even if your interviewer neglects to ask the obvious question about why you are relocating, volunteer that you are eager to move to solidify an important long-distance relationship. Your story will make you memorable, sympathetic and more likely to achieve your objective of moving in with the man you love.

Lily Garcia has offered employment law and human resources advice to companies of all sizes for more than 10 years. To submit a question, e-mail HRadvice@washingtonpost.com. We reserve the right to edit submitted questions for length and clarity and cannot guarantee that all questions will be answered.


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