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Pursuing a new job or career often means moving to a new city. That can be scary for some people because the familiarity of the place you have called home is comforting. However, the U.S. is blessed with many great cities, and more than likely, you will learn to appreciate the opportunities and excitement that are part and parcel of any move.

It is simply a fact that opportunity is where you find it – even if that is across the country. If you really want to avail yourself of the most potential career growth, it is wise to at least consider other markets to move ahead. There are many vibrant metropolitan areas, but we will focus on five markets that seem especially ripe with opportunity in the immediate years ahead.

Portland, Oregon

It’s easy to see why Portland, Oregon is officially labeled The City of Roses. A mild Pacific Coast climate creates wonderful growing conditions for flowers, and pleasant living conditions for inhabitants. It is situated near the picturesque confluence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers.

The city has a metro area population of over 2 million, and an energetic and beautiful downtown area. Portland ranked  #1 as greenest city in America  in a recent study.

Portland is an ideal place for a new job and professional growth. A study this year by Forbes magazine ranked Oregon as  #6 for business and careers  – up from a ranking of  #10 last year.

These above factors and many more make Portland an ideal city for work, play and to enjoy the good life.

Orange County, California

There is a reason sunny Southern California continues to be one of the most popular areas to live in the U.S. The climate, opportunities, and a host of other factors keep this area foremost as a career destination. Orange County is arguably the best of the best in Southern California.

Tourism attractions are outstanding with many inviting beaches and destinations like Disneyland.  It is also home to many Fortune 500 companies. A Mediterranean climate creates warm summers and comfortable winters. If you are into outdoor recreation, Orange County has year-round opportunities.  And if you like sports, concerts and other cultural activities, Orange County is home to many professional and college sports teams as well as scores of other wonderful entertainment venues.

With the recent downturn in real estate prices, this also might be an ideal time to latch onto a California home.

Washington, D.C.

For some reason, Washington, D.C. doesn’t seem to make the short list for people considering a job location change. However, that is a mistake because Washington – our nation’s Capitol – is an outstanding place to live.  In fact,  a recent 2010 survey  ranked Washington as #2 for quality of life!

If you want to immerse your family in culture, history, politics, education and scores of recreational diversions, this is definitely the place. There is no shortage of things to see or do when friends and relatives come to visit you here!

Not only is Washington, D.C. ideal for quality of life, it is also outstanding for business. In fact, Washington emerged as the #1 Best City for business in the  MarketWatch Annual Survey  that looked at 102 metropolitan areas in the U.S.

Located near the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean, Washington has warm summers and winter high temperatures that average in the 30s and 40s.

Omaha, Nebraska

If you are looking for a smaller, yet still major metropolitan area in the central part of the country, Omaha should be at the top of your list. Omaha ranked #2 on the MarketWatch Annual Best-Cities-For-Business Survey (see above) right behind Washington, D.C.

In 2008, Kiplinger Magazine awarded Omaha as the  #3 best city to live, work, and play . Much of Omaha’s appeal comes from its midwestern work ethic and friendly people. The downtown area is vibrant and eclectic. Its location, in the heart of our country, makes Omaha an easy crossroads for business travelers. That location also contributes to a milder climate, although true to its midwestern location, Omaha occasionally gets its share of prairie thunderstorms or winter blizzards.

While the insurance industry is a major force in Omaha, it also has strong representation in other business sectors.

Kiplinger Magazine also characterized Omaha as an outstanding city of opportunity for young professionals.

San Francisco, California

Last, but certainly not least there is the City by The Bay, San Francisco. This city is a perennial favorite and iconic destination for travelers from all over the world. And, of course, it is a place that millions of people love to call home.

San Francisco has it all. There is a beautiful downtown with immense cultural diversity. There are sports teams, educational opportunities galore, and outstanding cultural attractions. Wine country, winter skiing, the Pacific Ocean and national/state parks are just a short drive away.

San Francisco also has an energetic business scene and is always a favorite for convention planners. While it never seems to receive the very top rankings for business or quality of life, it is often in the top third of lists for both of those categories.

Mostly, what makes San Francisco such an ideal location is not any one thing – it is a whole bunch of things that add up to an interesting place to live, work and enjoy the good life.

Yes, America is blessed with many great places to live, and our intent here was to give you a brief tour of some favorites on that list. Remember, when opportunity knocks – even if it is in an unfamiliar place – there is a great deal to gain by opening yourself up to consider possibilities for continued career growth in a new location.

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