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posted: 8/5/2012 7:21 AM

Work advice: Follow a spouse working a temporary job?

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  • It might make sense, financially and logistically, to not follow a spouse who's temporarily relocating for a job.

      It might make sense, financially and logistically, to not follow a spouse who's temporarily relocating for a job.
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Editor's note: Karla L. Miller writes an advice column on navigating the modern workplace. Each week she will answer one or two questions from readers.

Q: Because of a great job opportunity for my husband, we are temporarily relocating to a small, Midwestern rural town for about a year. I am unable to keep my current job, so I am hunting for a job in this new area. At what point do I need to tell prospective employers that I will only be in the area for a short time? Should I mention it in the cover letter, in the interview or when an offer is extended?

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A: Whoa there, Ma Ingalls. Before you set off across the prairie, let's make sure your horse is hitched to the right end of your covered wagon.

First: How confident are you of your husband's "great" opportunity? If it doesn't pan out, will you regret having uprooted both your lives?

Second: How realistic are you being about finding a job in a rural town in this economy? Are you looking only for something in your field? What if nothing's available? Are you willing to bag groceries or schlep beers to make ends meet?

Radical suggestion: What if you didn't join your husband? Might it make sense, financially and logistically, for you to guard the homestead while he explores the frontier for a year, and see where he lands? If you do decide to join him now, you should plan your move assuming that you'll have only his salary to live on.

Now, let's see, you had a question somewhere.

Telegraphing your short-term residency plans, even after getting an offer, may close the door on most full-time opportunities. Staying silent and bailing after a year or less is an option, but not ideal. I'd suggest you look for temporary, part-time or seasonal work that's compatible with transient living -- where it's not only accepted, but expected, that you'll hit the trail after a short time.

Q: I applied for an office manager position. The two owners repeatedly mentioned they weren't happy with the current office manager and were looking for a replacement. They interviewed me while the current manager was out of the office. Their ad said nothing about social coordination and housekeeping, but in the interview I was told I would also be required to empty the dishwasher, make coffee, get client lunches, arrange happy hours. The owners made me an offer; the pay was good, but I declined largely because of their sneaky behavior and the misrepresentation in the ad. Just wondering if I did the right thing.

A: Right? Wrong? I'm just trying to imagine the upside of accepting an offer to do work you don't relish for people you'll never fully trust. I got nothin'.

• Karla L. Miller has written for and edited tax publications for 16 years, most recently for the accounting firm KPMG's Washington National Tax office.

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