Job Searching? Factor In The Commute

One of the key things to consider when you’re on the hunt for your next position is the distance, time, method and cost of both getting to work and home again. Why more people don’t think about this I don’t know, but getting to and from work is a given as long as you’re employed, so it should be a key consideration. And yet, every so often, I encounter people who interview for a job, receive a an offer of employment and only then turn it down because, “it’s too far”.

The first thing you’re wise to do is remind yourself of your transportation options. If you’re in a metropolitan or urban area, you probably have an option of taking public transit. This can mean subways, buses or trains. If on the other hand you live in a rural area or a small community, none of these may be an option for you. And of course, if you live in an area where there is public transit but you’ve broadened your search to other municipalities or towns, the transportation link you rely on now might not range to another community, leaving you to either pay two separate fares or have to make alternative arrangements. There are taxis to consider as well, but the cost of hiring one on a regular basis isn’t a viable option for most.

Should you own a vehicle, you’re not bound by schedules and routes public transit limits you to, nor does rural or city living limit your ability to get around, but now you have to factor into your decision the cost and availability of parking, gas and ongoing maintenance.

For those who don’t drive, don’t own a vehicle and/or for whom there is no public transit option, your geographical area in which you can work might shrink considerably. You could be limited to walking distance or find yourself reliant on others to drive you to and from work. While the generosity of others might be something to get you going, you may find yourself wanting to eventually change your situation so you become self-reliant, such as obtaining your licence and buying a car.

Let’s assume for a moment that you have a licence and a vehicle. Given you have the means to get wherever you need to be, ask yourself if you’re in favour of a long or short commute. A short commute definitely saves money on gas, reduces your maintenance costs, and the less you travel, the less likely you run the risk of having an accident, encountering delays and you can leave for work later and get home quicker too. However, some people like longer commutes. Driving for an hour for example to get to work gives a person time to catch up on news, listen to music or a podcast, or just unwind a little before walking in the door at work or home.

Time however isn’t the only factor when you map out a potential route to work and back. Considering the nature of that drive is important to your mental health and well-being. There’s a huge difference between 45 minutes spent in bumper-to-bumper traffic on snarled streets with stoplights every block, versus a 45 minute commute on paved country roads where traffic moves at the posted limits all the way. While two people might have an identical commute in terms of distance or time, they may have a completely different experience. The inner city driver may have to be constantly looking in every direction for aggressive drivers, changing lanes to make progress and watch for inattentive pedestrians, while the country driver watches for the progress being made on some farm building they pass or hopes to spot the odd deer or fox.

Costs of commuting is also a factor to consider. If you can ride your bike, walk or jog to work, you’ll appreciate the cost savings of working locally. For slightly longer commutes than you’d like to walk, you might consider an electric bike or scooter which still gives you independence but of course you need to determine what you’ll do during inclement weather or wintery conditions.

If you’re really fortunate, you might find that the boss is willing to swing by and pick you up along with a few other employees at some central location and drive you to rotating job sites. This happens sometimes with construction or road crews. This is very much like a carpool, and carpools are an option for many. While you spend less to get to and from work, you’re no longer in charge of whether you travel in silence (unlikely) or constant conversation (probably). If you like your solitude, this won’t be a happy time for you twice a day.

Of course, if the next job you go after is your dream job, you might consider relocating altogether so you cut the commute down. This is a viable option if the pay is good and the length of employment is long enough to make the move sensible.

Having had one-way commutes of 2 hours for 6 years, 1 hour for 18 years and now having a 4 minute commute, I’ve had both extremes. I like both for different reasons and would never rule a job out simply based on the commute. But that’s me.

What’s your own view?

Disconnecting On The Commute In

Today as I drove in to work, (a mix of 80% rural and 20% urban) I started by doing what I usually do; turned the radio on to a talk and news station and then sat back and listened. I do this each day so I can arrive at work and know what’s going on in this big beautiful world we live in.

It’s important to me I suppose to know which country some gunman originated in and which faith he’s associated with; which religious group is claiming responsibility for the murders he committed. Then there’s the people who were flushed out into the streets in the wee hours of the morning I guess it’s important I hear about in another city. And of course, I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t hear about the night club that had a shooting just outside its doors at 2:00 a.m.

Do I need to know all of these events? My usual answer must be yes because this is my daily routine; listen to the radio, stay up on local, national and world events on a daily basis so I can intelligently contribute to discussions at work. Without consciously intending to, I’ve developed a reputation at least with a few people, of being informed about such things. This is usually great advice by the way, so you can network, connect and talk with others in your circles without having to always say, “Gee I didn’t know that” when others are talking. The radio is a great source of information that can turn your experience into, “Yes I heard that. Here’s what I think…”.

If it’s not the radio, some other drivers turn their time into learning opportunities. They have CD’s, MP3’s, Bluetooth – a multitude of services that provide access to podcasts, language development and just about any topic they feel is of interest to them. It occupies their thoughts; the driver is in control of what they hear, experience and learn.

Today however, about a third of the way along my commute, I did something that I should do more often. I disconnected entirely. I turned off the radio and with a couple of windows down, I didn’t control what I heard, I let the great outdoors bring me its sounds. Now in the country drive along a secondary highway, I heard the silence, birds, passing traffic and silence. The silence was outstanding. I became aware that my thoughts were shifting from one thing to the next, it was as if there were conversations going on and all I had to do was let go and allow my brain and its thoughts to wander aimlessly; shifting, moving, in and out, coming and going.

The stimulation was all around me. The sun was dawning over me all along the drive and as I passed through small communities, even pausing at intersections waiting for the green lights wasn’t unpleasant but relaxing. As I moved into the urban city nearing the end of my commute, I heard the beep, beep, beep of construction vehicles backing up, the voices of workers communicating. I heard the sounds of large vehicles as they struggled to move from fully stopped and proceed through intersections; their engines resisting the process of gearing up.

It was a relaxing, enjoyable experience and when I arrived a work and parked the car, I was very much aware of a sense of calm I was in. It had been a great drive in and had taken exactly the same amount of time – no slower or faster. This disconnecting thing was pretty cool.

So what’s this got to do with jobs, with work, with employment advice? Well, perhaps it’s a good thing every now and then to consider disconnecting yourself. Do you really have to be listening to music, the news, a podcast or whatever you do listen to during your commute. What if you disconnected and just listened; let your thoughts tumble around without consciously trying to focus on solving a problem, resolving an issue or mentally going over your daily agenda? You can look at the daily agenda when you arrive at work.

I’m not saying disconnecting is something to do everyday. There’s a lot of time on your commute to be productive, to be inspired and to be entertained. That’s good for you if that’s your aim. Can you disconnect however and be comfortable with the silence and the lack of activity? Have you got so programmed yourself that you can’t go more than two minutes without checking your phone for messages? If nobody texts you even though you’re online can you survive? Hmmm…look around you and there’s a lot of people who appear to need to be connected. Notice their eyes are on a screen in a subway or on a bus when they could be looking out the windows and taken in different kinds of stimulation.

Disconnecting and just looking around on a commute in or back home can change your frame of mind, alter your mood and maybe put you in a better place as you walk in the door at home or work. This is where the connection lies between disconnecting and your workday.

Have you had a similar experience on your way in to work? My experience isn’t life altering, it’s not nirvana realized or paradise gained; it’s just a small change that created a different experience; one for the better.

Try it.

The Transportation Problem

When it comes to transportation, there are two types of job seekers; there are those who have their own transportation, and then there are those who rely on public transportation or the generosity of others. Both groups will tell you there are pros and cons of their situation.

The owner of a vehicle will cite rising gas prices, insurance, repairs, snow and all season tires and parking fees as problems. Those without cars complain about having to confine their job search to transportation routes, late pick-ups, overcrowding, schedules that make it inconvenient or impossible, or if relying on others for rides, lack of dependability. Transit of course isn’t free, so they share money concerns with drivers.

Very little of this is of concern to the employer. In a market where there is a large pool of job applicants, if one person is unreliable in getting to work on time, they can quickly replace them with any number of other people who will commit gladly to showing up on time if hired. You may be more qualified than others, but if you can’t get to work in the first place, they’ll pass you by.

So with this transportation issue in the forefront, it’s interesting to me the number of people who make some errors when it comes to job searching. For one thing, I’ve seen job seekers who apply for a job in another city, and then when they actually get an interview after going months with none, will bemoan the traveling time it will require to get to the employer. Surely it would be wise to either only apply for jobs within the geographical area you are comfortable traveling in, or at least consider alternatives like relocation or exploring options like carpooling with existing employees who may live in your area and drive.

And yet, there are numerous people who go to the interview, get offered the job, and then turn it down or worse yet, accept it and quit after two days because it was too much time to get to work. Without ever having explored other options like carpooling, it always strikes me as peculiar that someone wouldn’t have checked out public transit schedules when applying to determine exactly how long that ride might be if they worked at a company. Too much time and inconvenience? Don’t apply in the first place.

Another scenario that occurs often is when someone relies on buses to get to work, and with a changing shift schedule, the bus operates when going to work, but then doesn’t run when the person gets off and wants to return home. This is a genuine problem as no one wants to get out at 2 a.m. in the dark off a bus route, and face a long walk to a bus that is running. But why immediately quit without exploring the option of hailing a cab to run you to the bus route on the way home? If you call ahead and make arrangements, the cab could be waiting at the door when you get out, run you to the bus line, then one fare and you’re on your way home. And again, you might ask around on your first day and see if any other shift workers live either in your area or could run you to a bus route that is running and eliminate costs here altogether.

Now myself, I once held a job for 3 years where I drove two hours to work and two hours home. I did it but eventually moved to another town closer to work, and then I looked in to another job doing the same work closer to home and shortened the distance therefore at both ends. But I didn’t quit the job without having the other job to go to. My commute now is one hour to work and one hour home. Sure gas prices are higher than I’d like, but I switched years ago from an SUV to a SMART CAR and cut fuel costs as much as I could.

One fellow I worked with two months ago took a job in the City of Toronto but lives in Oshawa. His commute using transit is about two hours and he hates it but likes the pay cheque. He won’t move closer for reasons of his own, but is sticking it out for the present. He’s communicated a traveling issue which is causing him to arrive late by ten minutes every single day and the employer and he have come to an arrangement where he can keep arriving late for work but the employer has given him notice that he’ll be replaced in a months time. So he doesn’t quit but will be laid off, and in the meantime is getting work experience and a valuable lesson in negotiation and commitment. He’ll have a great story to share at future interviews – which I for one hope are closer to home!

If you are on transit, use the time to read, rest, listen to music, keep up on the news of the day, plot your strategy for the day ahead, chat with other riders, watch the progress of construction or enjoy the changing seasons. Rather than grumble about your commute, get what you can out of the time you’ve got.

How you view your commute is up to you. How you solve your transportation problem defines your problem-solving abilities.