Chris Salerno | Crain's

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Chris Salerno

Background:  

Kennywood amusement park has been a Pittsburgh attraction since it opened in 1898, and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987. Director of Marketing and Sales Chris Salerno is an experienced hospitality and entertainment industry executive who has worked for Six Flags Inc., Caesars World, Starwood Hotel and Resorts, Great Wolf Resorts and Palace Entertainment.

The Mistake:

I jumped too quickly at a relocation opportunity.

I was working at a large theme park company and had been with them for several years when they started to dabble in a new line of business. It was very exciting when they asked me to help get this new business started. It meant moving from Philadelphia to Baltimore, but I jumped at the chance.

My wife, who was pregnant at the time, quit her good-paying job in Philadelphia and we made the move to Baltimore with our daughter.

But almost from the beginning things did not go well. It turned out the product was not good, and the expansion didn’t work out as planned. Everything was over budget because the company didn’t know enough about this new business to budget resources.

The company ended up terminating 13 people, including me. So less than a year after moving I was in a new city unemployed with two kids.

I was in my 20s at the time, and I got caught up in the excitement of a promotion and relocation. I was a little blinded and didn’t really think about what could go wrong.  For companies that keep their focus, a relocation can be a great opportunity, but for me it meant a new area where the company didn’t have a lot of experience.

I got caught up in the excitement of a promotion and relocation.

The Lesson:

While you don’t want to lose out on a good opportunity, you really have to look before you leap. People want to jump jobs because they think the grass is greener on the other side, but what happens when you get into the job and it’s not what it’s cracked up to be?  

Changing jobs or relocating for work is like meeting a new boyfriend or girlfriend. You go through the honeymoon phase when everything is great, but if you rush into things too soon you might end up married to someone who’s a bad fit.

Even though we skinned our knees, I learned from that experience and made sure I had a waiting period before relocating for any job. I ended up getting another position and for almost three years, I didn’t relocate my family. I’d go home on Saturday and come back on Sunday.

When I first came to Pittsburgh two years ago, I lived here for six months before brining my family along. I didn’t want to turn down a relocation because I was afraid, but I learned how important it is to dip your toe into the water and make sure the job and the location are a good fit for you and your family.

So even though it was hard at the time, it was a valuable lesson that I still learn from even 35 years later.

It’s not unusual for millennials today to jump jobs, and not just in the tech industry. Even if you don’t have a family to consider, try to get as much information as you can before you move to a new job. Startups are great but once the company has started up what comes next?

Try to determine what the company’s plans are and whether it’s stable. For anyone considering a job relocation what I’d say to them is be careful; the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know. Like I tell my daughters: the only guarantees in life come with toasters. 

Follow Kennywood on Twitter at @Kenny_Kangaroo.

Do you have a good story you’d like to share, or know someone we should feature? Email jscheibel@crain.com.

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