With the number of people relocating from suburbia to rural locations on the rise, Vivid Optical’s Danny Alaimo reached out to Derry O’Brien who moved to North Wales 18months ago to pursue a career with Boots Opticians to see how it’s all going since they last spoke and why Derry chose North Wales to settle.
(DA) With a blank canvas what is the best way to decide on a part of the UK to live?
(DOB) It sounds so simple, but just take a step back and see what you want from life and from your career. I have made a couple of moves myself. Exploring what was important to me in terms of my day to day life and the direction I wanted for my career was very useful in deciding where to move.
The first big move I made was just over three years ago. I was just out of a long-term relationship in Northern Ireland and wanted to move to the UK mainland to explore the opportunities here. I was doing my PGCert through Cardiff University at the time and it seemed sensible to be close to there. I have always been a financially driven person so the potential salary and cost of living was important, but I also wanted to be in a place that felt somewhat like home – I grew up in the rural West of Ireland. When I looked at all this it seemed that South Wales was an ideal place to look and when the right opportunity showed up, the decision to move was an easy one to make.
Two years later my focus naturally changed; I wanted to buy a second property as soon as possible so suddenly the salary was very important to me and I felt more confident to consider places that were less familiar. I also wanted to have easier airport links to home and be closer to cities larger than Cardiff. Once I started to think in this way, North Wales became attractive.
In both instances it seemed sensible to keep the focus on Wales because of being familiar with the Welsh Eye Care Service and Low Vision Service here also. I enjoy the more involved and clinical aspects that both these schemes add to a role within Optometry and like how the services are delivered in primary care rather than being hospital based.
It may seem facile to say it so simply, but I think exploring what motivates you makes creates an awareness that makes such decisions much easier.
Once you had decided on a place to live how do you find a job?
There are so many ways to find a job and it is difficult for me to choose any approach as being the best. I think it is very helpful to have at least a basic profile on LinkedIn. Many recruiters have contacted me from this site. I do admit that only one of these (Danny Alaimo at Vivid Optical) came up trumps in terms of placing me with exactly the right position for me personally, but it is powerful to have this exposure.
Have a look at pages such as Optician Jobs to see what’s available and don’t be shy in terms of applying for positions that appear attractive.
In my experience there is also a lot to be said for “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” When I first moved to Wales it was through a colleague I knew through Cardiff University that put me in touch with the director of the store I moved to. Having real conversations in person with people and simply talking about the fact that you may be interested in a new job can prove very useful. Don’t underestimate the power of real networking with colleagues.
Finally talk to a recruiter. It is important that you find someone who you are comfortable with and who you trust to find you the best position. I have been put off a couple of times when I felt that a recruiter was too keen to place me anywhere and didn’t really pay attention to what I wanted. If you have found someone that you are happy to work with then by all means tell them what you want and what your true priorities are. Be up front about all of this and give your recruiter as much detail as you can. Finally on this point I think it is only decent to only work with a recruiter if you actually have the intention of taking the right opportunity when it shows up. No one likes a time waster and you must remember that a recruiter earns their living from placing you in a job.
Once you have secured a job where did you look to reside?
I like keeping it simple and just looked for a decent place to live on SpareRoom.com. For me house sharing makes a lot of sense as it is generally much cheaper and offers you a great chance to easily meet new people which usually makes moving to a new location much easier. Common sense here – but try to find a house that is in a good location – do your research where you can – and give a lot of thought to whether you’d be happy living with the other people in the house. Also look at the things you’d like to do in your free time; be close to gyms/pubs/restaurants etc if these things are important to you.
Of course, you can always use estate agents etc to find your own place, but this is a less attractive option to me.
Is it easy to make new friends when you are settled?
Everyone is different. For me it has been very easy. I hadn’t considered myself to be a particularly social person until I first moved to Wales. For both big moves I made, I knew no one in the place I was moving to but meeting new people has been easy. There are lots of ways – clubs, the gym, housemates, work colleagues even some people I have met through dating have become lifelong friends. It has been easier for me that I ever would have expected. I believe it would be easier for most people than they would expect.
Would you recommend anyone to try living somewhere previously unknown at some point in their career?
Absolutely! Moving away has been one of the best things I have done in my life. It has massively increased my income and overall financial wellbeing, brought great people into my life and has added greatly to my career. I feel I have also become a more confident and well-rounded person through moving to new places.
It is hard not to be money motivated when deciding where to settle?
Yes and no; this goes back to my original point about knowing what motivates you. By all means chase a great package, but you must remember to imagine yourself living in a place and how your day to day life would look. Would you be happy living in, for example, a relatively isolated location? If so- great! Go for the £80,000+ package in the middle of nowhere. If not, pay careful attention to how life would be in the area you are considering.
What is the most pleasant surprise you found living in NW Wales?
It is hard to isolate the most pleasant surprise. Possibly how easy it is to get to other places – I had expected to feel a little isolated up here but in fact I can be in the centre of Liverpool in 40 minutes or the centre of Manchester in 1 hour. Other than that, it’s a really beautiful place – I love it here.
Are you happy you made the move?
Yes 100%. Like I said before moving has been one of the best things I have done.
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