Lower cost of living, more relaxed lifestyle…there's lots to like about rural and regional living. But is it a realistic proposition for Australians who want to climb the corporate ladder? Or is staying in the big smoke inevitable for ambitious professional types?
Graphic designer Scott Robertson has found a small town shift no impediment to doing well, since moving from Sydney to Wagga Wagga two years ago.
Co-founder of the creative agency Sunday Collective, he and his wife and fellow designer Michelle service around 30 Sydney-based clients, plus a string of new ones in Melbourne, Canberra and the Riverina region.
Long distant relationships
The couple had some concerns about the disconnect which physical distance between themselves and their clients might have created but, thus far, they've been unfounded.
"We were a bit nervous about it but it doesn't seem to be an issue," Robertson says.
"We've still been able to maintain our relationship with clients and pick up new clients."
The bush telegraph has helped generate business in Wagga and surrounds, without the pair having to spruik for it.
"It's been really helpful," Robertson says.
"[In a] small community, you do a good job and the message spreads by word of mouth a lot quicker.
"We've found [because] we are in a smaller community, a smaller network, a lot of people like to spend their money locally as well…Before they thought, 'we need to go to the city to get what we're after'…people are happy to have people like us working locally so they can spend their money locally."
Establishing your credentials in the city first makes a country move less risky from a careers perspective, Robertson believes.
"It would be quite difficult to form relationships with clients if you were regionally based [from the outset]," he says.
"It's not for everyone – our circumstances and our industry it seems to have worked quite well. I can't imagine if you worked for a bigger corporation – if you're trying to climb the corporate ladder you might encounter a few more challenges."
Going regional can provide people in the health and education sectors with opportunities to fast track their careers but it's generally a different story for lawyers, accountants and those who hope to make their mark in the world of finance and big business, according to executive coach Virginia Mansell.
"If you're a doctor or teacher, go out to the regions to experience being away from the city, to build up your skill set, and you usually are given a lot more responsibility a lot sooner," Mansell says.
"As opposed to, if you really want to become a partner in a major law firm, then you can't stay in a country practice for too long. You need to get back to the city to accelerate your career."
Think outside the career box
Corporate opportunities are constrained outside the major capitals, with most regional work likely to be in small to medium organisations, careers specialist Dr Edwin Trevor-Roberts agrees.
Small towners with their sights set on something bigger need to 'relentlessly pursue' the few larger employers in their region.
"Think laterally about working with these companies, even if you have never considered them [before]," Trevor-Roberts says.
A solo performance
Starting a business can be an attractive option for country dwellers who are willing to swap the challenges of the corporate climb with those of running their own show.
It's a strategy which has paid dividends for Liane Sayer-Roberts who founded Sauce Communications in Leeton in country NSW in 2004.
Today, the firm employs a staff of nine and services national clients in the agri-business, construction and public sectors.
She's upbeat about the opportunities that regional Australia can offer for individuals who are prepared to find a niche and work hard.
"There's often still that stigma that if you do want that high flying corporate career or you really want to progress then your future lies in the city and that's just not the case anymore," Sayer-Roberts says.
"It's just about being open to opportunities because there's opportunity and potential everywhere. I never thought, right back at the beginning, that I'd have a business that was national and had won a stack of awards and worked with some of Australia's biggest agri-businesses but I also didn't think I couldn't do that.
"You can build really successful, scalable global businesses here. Everything's connected these days, there's really no limit, providing you've got that good connectivity and a good idea and that willingness to back yourself."
Would you consider relocating your career from the city to a smaller town? Or have you managed to move up the ladder in a regional or rural role? Share your experience in the comments.