What to Consider When Relocating
Things You Need to Know Before You Move
What are two of the most stressful things you can do?
Moving house and changing jobs are probably high on most people's lists.
Trying to do both at the same time can be even more traumatic! But you might have to switch cities, states or even countries to keep a job or earn a promotion. So, relocating for work is something you may need to deal with.
In this article, we'll explore why people choose to relocate for a new role. We'll also look at the factors you'll want to take into account when deciding whether to do it yourself.
Why People Relocate for Work
Between 2012 and 2013, 19.4 million Americans moved location for job-related reasons, according to a study by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The reasons why people move vary. Your organization may transfer its office to another city, perhaps to do business more cheaply, and you might have to choose whether to move with it.
You may have the opportunity to earn a promotion if you change role. Perhaps moving would allow you to take a once-in-a-lifetime position that would increase your salary and push your career forward. Or maybe you've always wanted to live in a different city or country, or you're looking for a change in lifestyle, and now seems the perfect time to make this exciting move!
Maybe your reasons for relocating are personal. Perhaps you want to move closer to family members, or maybe you plan to marry someone whose family lives elsewhere. If you have children, you might want them to be closer to their grandparents, or in a different school system.
Things to Consider Before You Relocate
Relocating means taking a leap into the unknown. So, consider the possibility that even your dream job might not work out. You may feel homesick and miss your friends or family back home. Or you might not get along with your new boss or colleagues!
If you move to a new location for personal reasons and you're without a job, you may find it difficult to get a new position. And, chances are you won't have a network of people to support you.
So take the time to research your options thoroughly when deciding whether to move. Here are just some of the things you should think about before you relocate.
You may find decision-making tools such as Decision Matrix Analysis useful as you consider different options.
Friends and Family
When you're single, it's easy to pick up your life and move to a new city or country. But when you have a family or a close-knit group of friends, the decision is more complex.
If you have a partner, consider his or her job prospects. What is his employment situation now? If he has a good job with excellent benefits and a chance of a promotion, it may not be the right time to go. Also, think about how well you both deal with change, and how the move might affect your relationship.
A move could also be disruptive for your children, particularly if they're in education. Investigate the local schools to make sure that they have good reputations. If not, you may need to consider private schooling.
You should also check out childcare options. If you currently live near family who take care of your kids for you while you're at work, you'll probably miss this convenience when you move away.
Have you considered how much moving might cost? Once you hire movers, ship your belongings, or rent a truck, it might be more than you expect.
Many organizations offer relocation packages if they require their people to move to a new office location. Typically, these cover the cost of professional movers to pack and unpack your belongings, and some employers cover the cost of shipping items and storing them, if necessary.
Your organization may also pay for you to go on a house-hunting trip. Be sure to take advantage of this, as it will give you a feel for your new location. Check it out at different times of the day and night to make sure it's what you expected.
You may be eligible for other benefits from your employer. For instance, it may pay your living expenses until you find a permanent home. Your partner may also benefit, as some organizations offer networking or outplacement services for spouses.
If you're moving abroad, your organization may cover the costs of filing immigration paperwork, or getting you a work visa and employing an attorney. It might also provide cultural training to ease you into your new surroundings.
If your organization doesn't offer relocation benefits, it doesn't hurt to ask whether it would cover some of your moving expenses.
Cost of Living
You may find it comfortable to live on your salary now, but how will your finances stack up in another location? Even if you get a raise, it may not cover the costs of living in a more expensive place. So, it's important to think about the difference.
When you calculate the cost of living, include all your potential outgoings. For instance, consider housing. Whether you buy or rent a home, the monthly repayment will depend on your location.
You may find it prudent to rent a home for at least a year until you get a better sense of the location, and whether you intend to stay long-term.
Other housing-related expenses could be high. Utility costs vary widely, especially if the location has extreme seasons and you need extra heating or air conditioning. Or, you might have to buy more expensive insurance. In certain areas, you will need special cover for natural disasters, such as floods, hurricanes or tornadoes.
If you're moving to a different state, consider your potential tax liability. Seven U.S. states have no income tax. However, the majority do. You may even move to one with state and local income or sales taxes.
You'll also need to think about everyday expenses, such as transport. How far will you be from your office? How will you get there? If you'll commute by car, consider the cost of gas. If you'll take public transport, factor in the daily fare. Other costs you should take into account include groceries, leisure activities and childcare.
Another consideration is whether you could afford to move back, or to go elsewhere, if things don't work out. It's sensible to have several months' savings in the bank, just in case you have to return home unexpectedly, or if you have an emergency you hadn't planned for.
To get a better idea of your potential outgoings, use an online cost of living calculator. If you know someone who lives in the area, you can also pick her brain about expenses and the local economy.
Location, Location, Location
Before you move, think about what you like and don't like about where you currently live. Does your potential destination offer the same benefits? Does it solve any of the problems?
An important criterion for many people is safety. Will you be able to walk around the area where you'll live and work? You may want to investigate the crime rate and other related statistics.
You'll also want to consider the weather. Find out what the climate is like, and how it suits your preference for warm or cold temperatures. You may want to investigate how many days are sunny versus rainy, which could affect you if you like outdoor activities.
Another factor is the location's culture. What are your entertainment options? Is there an active nightlife? If you like sports, are there opportunities to play or to watch professional teams? If you're a "foodie," does it have a variety of restaurants? Are there museums and theaters? Can you continue your hobbies there? Is it "child-friendly?"
Finally, consider your social life. If you like to have a large network of friends around you, are there opportunities to meet new people? Does your college or university have a strong alumni base there, for example? How easy will it be for you to make connections and develop a new circle of friends?
Your Future Employer
Think about the organization you might be moving to. You'll want to make sure you fit in, so consider speaking to people who already work there to learn more about the company culture.
Is there anyone who's moved to the organization from another location that you can speak with? This might help you get the "inside story" from someone who's unbiased, to help you make up your mind.
You'll also want to check out your future employer's finances. If it's a start-up, or has recently reorganized, are you sure your job will be safe in the future? What is the outlook for your profession generally, and specifically in the location you might move to?
If you aren't comfortable with reading a company's accounts, ask someone you know who is – they may be able to give you a good insight into the stability of the business, and what you'll need to pay attention to if you work there.
You should consider how easy it would be to get another job in your new location, if the one you're moving to didn't work out. Would you be able to transfer to another role in your location, or might you have to move back home to find comparable work? Would you be able to telecommute, if necessary?
Your decision should also depend on how likely you are to get a similar job where you live. If your role is specialized, and opportunities in your field are rare, perhaps you should relocate. Also think about whether you'll learn new things and expand your expertise, so you can advance your career in the future.
If you're going to move with your partner, you'll also want to consider his options. What is the job market like? Is the unemployment rate high or low? What would be his chances of finding a new position there?
Think about language requirements if your new job is in a different country. If you speak the local language, how proficient are you? How quickly could you pick it up if you don't?
If you don't speak the language, consider how this might affect your ability to communicate with colleagues. Are you willing to put the time and effort into learning the language before you arrive in your new country? And, if you're traveling with your family, think about the impact this might have on them, too.
You'll want to look at how conservative the society is, and what role women play in it – for example, you and your partner may be unhappy in a "traditional" society in which people in some groups are respected less than others. For other considerations such as these, see our article on Working Abroad. Another good resource is Terri Morrison's book, Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands.
You can also read our article on Hofstede's Cultural Dimensions to learn more about the place you're moving to, and its values and attitudes.
If you have the often-exciting opportunity to relocate for work, you'll want to consider a number of factors before you decide whether to take it.
If you have a "significant other" or children, you'll have to take their job, education and childcare needs into account. You'll want to get a good feel for what it's like to live in the location, including its climate, safety and culture.
You'll also have to pay close attention to the expenses associated with the move, and you'll need to figure out whether you can afford the cost of living in a new location. Consider how stable your job might be and the unemployment rate there, in case your partner will need to find a job.
Finally, if you're moving to a new country, you'll want to think about whether it's a good fit with your language skills, and if you can or want to adapt to its culture.