I’ve left the Bay Area twice. First, to Colorado when I was in middle school. Second, to Baltimore for college. I don’t want to leave again. The weather is great, and more importantly, I have fantastic circles of friends and family. I love it here. With this, at least, I am content.
Strangely, I’ve never heard career advice that mentioned geography first. Interested in movies/TV? Move to LA. The “dream” comes first. But what happens if you have roots in a place, if you’ve already begun to build a life? Why leave? Why undo all that hard work?
Some suggest traveling to find who you are. However, the insights gained are often shallow and/or easily forgotten. A flash of insight isn’t enough to create behavioral change. That requires hard work and time. Sure, you can learn about other cultures and expand your mind, but habits and worldviews are reshaped through our everyday behavior. The real work doesn’t begin until you make sure you’re the person you want to be everyday. Otherwise, you’ll surely drift back to your old habits.
Place matters. Learn to be a better friend by seeing the same people all the time. It’s harder to build lasting connections without the benefits of geography. When someone lives further away, you see them less often. Want to be closer to your family, emotionally? Live closer to them, geographically. Eat at the same restaurants, shop at the same stores, get familiar with the people there. Forget travel. Build something, damnit. It’s something that can only happen when you’re in the same place for a long time.
Perhaps we have it backwards, then. Consider geography first and then career. Pick an industry that is strong where you already live (or where you want to live).
I’ve only stumbled into my current, still young career in software. I’m 26, and I still actually have no idea what I want to do with my life. I majored in philosophy, not CS. But it was way easier to find a job doing software. I have other interests. I was way into politics when I was in high school and college. I’m still way into television, and I would love to write for a sitcom. But I don’t want to live in DC or LA. I want to live here. Thus, working in the tech industry isn’t actually something I stumbled into, but something I have now chosen.
That’s not to say I don’t enjoy it. I definitely do enjoy programming. But I don’t necessarily find purpose in it. I don’t know if it was what I was meant to do. (I’m opposed to teleological thinking anyway when it comes to careers, so there isn’t really anything I was meant to do.) I could probably be just as happy doing some other things. And I would be just as clueless about what I wanted to do.
Want a good heuristic (if you’re rather privileged socioeconomically) for picking what to do? Do what your parent(s) did. Presumably, there are jobs doing what they do because they live here and can support a family. They should have some career capital they can expend getting you a job in their own industry; it’ll at least be easier than helping you in finding something unrelated.