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When kids move on, many boomers more open to job relocations

Posted: Friday, October 11, 2002

NEW YORK (AP) -- A distant job opens up, and your resume makes you an ideal candidate. Your spouse works from home and the new location seems exciting.

Do you move? More often than not, the answer hinges on another: ''Got teenagers?''

''When the children are high-schoolers, there is a reticence to upset that apple cart,'' said Donna Friedman, chairman and chief executive of Tower Consultants Ltd., a Stuart, Fla. search firm that specializes in human resources management positions.

Now, however, many baby boomers are reaching the stage in life when their children are growing up and moving out. They are finding that their ''empty nest'' years are a prime time -- even better than when the children were small -- for a major job relocation.

Having the kids move out, while a sad time for many parents, also can be a career boon. And with retirement approaching, many are eager for the better salary and benefits a new position might bring.

The quality of schools in a new city becomes moot. Kids' bedrooms won't be an issue in house hunting. The (first) love of your teen son's life -- and his absolute conviction he'll DIE if forced to move -- won't influence your consideration of that lucrative senior management position in Phoenix.

Experts say boomers have permanently altered the landscape of corporate recruitment because of their unrivaled mobility and career focus. Rare is the boomer who stays in the same job 30 or more years.

''We're talking about a segment of society that has always been willing to relocate,'' Lane said. ''They brought a whole new culture to the executive level.''

And executive recruiters are routinely finding that the same 40- to 55-year-old executives who, while the kids were still in school, were not interested in talking become far more open to new opportunities in another state, or country, after the kids' high school graduations, said Donna Malinak, executive vice president of the MIGroup, a New Jersey-based relocation consultancy.

''It's much easier to relocate once the kids are off to college,'' she said.

Even having younger children can make a relocation difficult, if not impossible. Many are reluctant to move from grandparents, in-laws and siblings.

Such was the case with Corey and Sandy Heller, who struggled over a new job offer last year. Sandy Heller, an Austin, Texas attorney, was nine months pregnant when her husband was approached about a vice president position with Lexis-Nexis Group at the legal and media research firm's Dayton, Ohio, headquarters. The couple also had a 1-year-old son.

''My wife is from a very strong, close-knit family in Texas, and (we) went through a lot of trials and tribulations trying to decide,'' said Heller, 37.

The couple finally decided that the position offered too many advantages not to take it.

''It really boiled down to professional and personal objectives'' for the family's future, Heller said. ''It really wasn't just compensation. It was looking at the breadth and depth of opportunity.''

But, Heller is quick to add, ''there's something to be said for the quality-of-life and what I'd call the non-tangibles -- and having family close by is one of those intangibles.''

Another key factor in midlife job switches concerns the erosion of trust between employers and employees. As corporate layoffs have become de riguer over the past two decades, worker loyalty has shriveled as fast as an Enron-loaded 401(k).

With most Fortune 500 firms condensing their organizational charts, many boomers have been left working for much smaller companies. Promotions become more elusive.

''They realize that the only way up is out,'' says Tony Valone, president of UniQuest International, an executive search firm in Tampa, Fla.

''The other factor is geography,'' Valone said. ''Where are you trying to get to and where are you trying to avoid?''

Recruited boomers tend toward the places that have attracted retirees -- the coasts, mountains and states that offer some of both -- typically California and the Carolinas.

''It isn't just the employment anymore,'' Malinak said. ''It's much more of a wholistic decision for these people.''

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On the Net:

National Association of Executive Recruiters, http://www.naer.org



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