On ‘Location’

Ian Tuck commented on how I choose to describe some locations, and it seemed worth talking about in longer form, in more detail than I could really address in a comment. 

First off, it’s important to be clear that the value of a location is clearly a very subjective thing.  What’s a good location for one might be a bad location for another, and it depends on a lot of factors, including:

  • Where you live
  • How you prefer to commute to work
  • What you do with your time before, after, and during work

There’s no way for me to assess a location’s interest for a given candidate without knowing a lot about that candidate, because location is so subjective.  As a result, I absolutely cannot give an objective evaluation of a location that will apply to all candidates.  Instead, I have to evaluate the condition against the aggregate; what percentage of the candidates will like this location, and what are the reasons for liking and disliking the location?  Since I don’t know all of those specifics even for my readership, I have to essentially stab in the dark about what factors matter to you based on how I might perceive those factors.

With that in mind, I’ve increasingly been moving my comments about location into the Your Mileage May Vary section; this allows me to comment on the relative merits and disadvantages of a location while still being fairly clear that this is something that each candidate should assess for themselves.

But let’s talk specifics.  What aspects of a location are appealing or troubling, and what kinds of things might a candidate consider about a location? 

The Deal-Breaker
There are many aspects to consider about a location, but most of those aspects simply factor into your overall job decision.  There’s only one aspect of location that is likely to be a deal-breaker, and that’s the Commute.  Depending on where you live, what modes of transport you prefer and consider acceptable, the time and nature of the commute can vary significantly from employer to employer and from candidate to candidate, and I’ve seen people turn down interesting opportunities on that basis alone with great regularity.

There are a couple ways to look at the commute — there’s simple proxmity: I’ve worked with people who live in the core, have walked to most of their jobs, and would like to continue to do so into the forseeable future.  Even if you’re taking transit or driving, the closer a potential employer is to your house, the more likely it is that the commute will be painless.

There’s also proxmity to preferred forms of transport.  I know people who commute several hours by GO Transit, and want something that’s very convenient to Union Station.  Others consider the proximity to the highway system, to the subway system, to the streetcar lines that they have easy access to.  Sometimes this can override proximity — one employer might be closer than another, but much harder to commute to by transit or highway than another.

The Fringe Benefits
Once you’ve found an employer with a viable commute, you can start looking at the other aspects.  If you purchase food for breakfast, lunch or dinner from local restaurants, what are the choices?  Are they good?  Are they expensive?  Is there a lot of variety?

If you find yourself running shopping errands from work, you’ll want to imagine what kinds of shopping you’ve tended to do, and whether or not those kinds of shops are conveniently located.  Pharmacies to pick up medicine for your family?  Grocery stores and markets to make food purchases?  Clothing stores for when you cycle into work and realize you forgot to bring a belt for your slacks, which have a tendency to slip off your hips at inopportune moments?  These kinds of convenient stores aren’t likely to make your job decision for you, but they may make your life a little easier.

If you find you go out after work with friends, family or co-workers, what are the options, and what do you like to do?  Are there movie theatres?  Restaurants?  Pubs?  Where’s the nearest place with a good selection of beers?  Is the location convenient for said friends and family to meet you?

If you’re walking, or waiting on street corners, what’s the neighbourhood like?  Is it sketchy, with people begging for your change, with bars on the windows, and not a lot of people around at night?  Or is it brightly lit, densely populated, and a fun place to hang out?

As above, these aren’t the kind of choices that will directly make or break a job, but they’re the kind of thing that you might use to evaluate one job against another if they’re equal in many other respects.

Good and Bad Locations
As I’ve said above, there’s no ideal location — there’s no location that will work well for everyone.  What works well for someone commuting in by car from Brampton isn’t the same thing that’ll work well for someone who likes to walk into work from Little Italy.  That said, in aggregate, I’d say the core area tends to work fairly equally for many.  Particularly the area bordered by, say, Lakeshore, Church Street, John Street and Dundas street.  Works reasonably well if you’re driving, taking the TTC of various forms, or taking the Go.  There’s a lot of jobs, restaurants, shops and things to do in the area, and many people are used to working there even if it’s not terribly convenient for them.

Once you head North of Dundas, say up to Dupont, you start to get into an area that’s pretty painful to get to by car or GO, but might not be too bad for those of us who tend to use transit.  From Church to a little past Jarvis and John to a little past Spadina, you’re getting into areas that might be somewhat more inconvenient by transit, particularly in the dead of winter.  It’s not totally out of the realm of question, but I can tell you that some people will just not bother applying to a job that’s at King and Sherbourne.  It’s not a horrific walk, and it’s covered by the King streetcar, but it’s just inconvenient enough, particularly if it’s going to take you an hour or more to get to the core, and then a little extra time to get a little farther off.

Similarly, if you’re near the Yonge and University lines or on Bloor/Danforth but outside of these boundaries, you’ve got some options, but they’re reduced.  If the candidate doesn’t typically take the subway system, you might be plain inconvenient.  If they are subway-riders, you might be convenient to the subway, but still require a longer ride or more transfer points.  It’s also probably true that your location is less convenient in other ways — there are fewer restaurants and shops about, their friends all work in another area of town, so they can’t meet up for lunch, there isn’t as much to do in the area.  Again, not necessarily deal-breakers, but they’re factors that candidates are going to consider.

Once you get outside of those boundaries, then you’re in the final category where mostly people are going to consider if you their particular location and/or mode of transport is convenient.  If you’re located at King and Dufferin, at West Mall and Eglinton, in Brampton, Markham or North York, you’re mostly going to get interest from people who either live near your place of employment, or who can drive there easily and who already tend to drive to work.  That’s still potentially a broad spectrum of people, but it’s definitely a subset of the overall market.

Bias and Feedback
Is that perhaps a little centrist of me?  Certainly; I’ve worked in or near the core for most of my career, and I expect that’s not terribly likely to change.  I’ve occasionally seen interesting jobs in Markham, Brampton, Mississauga and Waterloo, but I’ve never seriously considered them.  If the right factors were there, I might, but it’s not terribly likely.  Some of you have different motives, and you live in different places and commute in different ways than I do, so I try not to completely ignore those options.  At the same time, Toronto Tech Jobs is certainly about subjective opinion, and I can’t really offer up much of an opinion about the relative merits of various locations to work in Mississauga, because, frankly, I don’t know the areas well enough, or the traffic and transit routes that would make a location good or bad.

Anyway, I hope that helps to explain a little about the hows and whys of location commentary in Toronto Tech Jobs; I’m interested to understand:

 

  • Are there areas where some of you totally disagree with my location analysis?
  • When you’re reading the postings, do you find the location analysis helpful, or is it too subjective to be useful?

 

Comments welcome.

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