Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Perspective: Qualification and Job Hunting

Since I last posted, I've become a qualified solicitor (Celebrations with cake and champagne? Well, if you're offering...). However, if you've kept up with the sheer, erm, (non-)flurry of posts - admittedly most of them were more like half posts drafted in my head, whoops - you will be aware that I wasn't going to be staying at the firm where I trained and that I was adding 'find a new job' to the to-do list.

Before we went on holiday (more on that when we're slightly less jetlagged) I had an interview with a firm down in Bristol. I really liked them. I liked the work they do and was attracted by the sectors they specialise in. They liked me too, enough to ask me back for a second interview.

On my way back from Bristol, I suddenly wasn't so sure. Alan and I had talked about how we would make it work should I get an offer; it would involve weekly commuting, having lives in Bristol and London... and a lot of time apart.

Accepting such a job in Bristol would be a declaration that the south-west was where my career was going to be, at least for the next few years. That in itself wasn't unthinkable. The legal sector is expanding in the region, and a lot of big firms have chosen to base themselves there.

However, despite the cosy EU notion of freedom of movement of workers, simply relocating so far for a permanent role is not so easy - not when there's two of you to consider. Alan is pretty entrenched in the London market, and, while not tied to insurance, catastrophe and risk modelling is relatively London-centric for the time being. On the personal side, we've been looking forward to starting our lives as newlyweds and have enjoyed starting to make plans for Life Post-Wedding, things that we want to explore and experience in the couple of years before we even consider things like starting a family.

So although at first it felt like moving to Bristol could be an opportunity for an adventure, in reality it would mean that we would spend those precious years snatching time together at the weekend, while perhaps losing touch with other friendships through wanting some time to ourselves. It worked for six months with my secondment to Paris - the idea of doing this with no end date to aim for (or, the end being that we would want to start a family - and isn't THAT a minefield for working women to negotiate?) seemed less and less palatable.

This afternoon I spoke to the recruiter and withdrew my application for the role, explaining my predicament and emphasising that if the firm should have a similar role in London, I would jump at the chance. Whether or not I live to regret doing this, I am grateful that this situation has made us revisit conversations about how we see the next few years - we have obviously talked money and children before now, but it's important to keep talking these things through.

While this has made me reassess and focus on what I want and currently need from my career, it has also made me think: is this one of the base differences between men and women in a couple? Is it an advantage of being female that I feel that I can afford to turn down a job in order to put our family life first right now? Would it have been easier to make a decision in the other direction if it had been Alan with a job offer elsewhere? I can't help thinking that the answer to both these questions is yes...

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