May

Career crossroads: What to weigh when considering relocation

by Sam Catron
Senior Associate Recruiter at Charles Aris Inc.

Any time you make a career change, your life undoubtedly changes. You’ll meet and build relationships with new colleagues. You’ll have a new boss and, more than likely, you’ll go into a new office – and sometimes that office might not be in the same city. When you’re faced with relocation for a new career opportunity, there are several factors to weigh to ensure that relocation is worth it for your new role:

Is this the right opportunity for me to consider relocating?

With each opportunity that presents itself, the organization and role should come first. Spend ample time researching the organization’s track record, the potential for career advancement within, and your new supervisor. For a public company, find its annual 10-K report and study it. If you see warning signs, diplomatically ask about them in the interview process.

As for your prospective boss, review her profile, background and any related news in the marketplace. If you have mutual connections or know someone who has worked for or with her, ask for their opinions. If relocation or a location transfer is involved, be mindful of the workplace environment and culture because the people in your new office will form a large part of your daily social interaction.

If your interview slate includes time with team members in human resources or perhaps a long-tenured employee, politely ask direct questions around turnover rates and work-life balance in the organization as well as quality of life in the community. These questions can be tell-tale signs of whether this transition will be relatively seamless or fairly complicated.

Lastly, be sure to assess the probability of an opportunity like this in your current location. Will this type of opportunity come around again or will a relocation be necessary for career advancement?

What’s the financial impact of relocation?

Another large consideration is the financial impact of moving to a new area. Before discussing compensation, start with a cost of living assessment. This will help you determine compensation expectations for a new opportunity there. While moving to a community with a higher cost of living might put the opportunity out of range, moving to an area with a lower cost of living might increase your yearly earnings. Several states have no income taxes, while others have high tax rates. Taxes, housing costs, transportation expenses, utilities and even groceries all have an impact on your wallet.

One way that employers try to offset costs is through a relocation allowance. If your new employer offers one, check with a relocation specialist to make sure all your bases are covered. Think beyond selling your current home and buying a new one to also factor in moving costs, shipping fees and temporary housing you may need in the interim. Another frequently forgotten expense is a house-hunting trip before the move.

Be sure to read the fine print of your relocation package. Most employers include a policy that requires repayment if you exit the organization before a certain date.

How will my family be impacted?

As with any major life decision, your move will impact others close to you. If you have a significant other, how easy will the transition be for that loved one? If you have children, will you be able to find the right schools and support system?

The questions do not stop there, of course. Beyond your household, consider the impact on your extended family. Factors such as caring for aging parents and ease of access to other relatives should be considered. If you eat dinner with your extended family every weekend, for example, are you OK leaving that behind? Or is it still feasible from your new location?

Whenever relocation is required, family satisfaction and buy-in are essential to the success of your move. If your significant other is a “trailing spouse” and must go without a job temporarily, will your income be enough to sustain your household? Once the income situation is resolved, you should also consider potential opportunities for your significant other. Will he likely have the same level of career satisfaction in the new location? If you have children, know that they might become anxious about a move. They may have questions you can’t immediately answer (as children often do), but make sure you have answers for some of the most common questions – their new school, the nearest playgrounds or parks, and how they’ll make new friends.

On that note: Making new friends can be a welcome blessing for some and an unwelcome challenge for others. If you have a strong network where you currently live, assess your ability to continue to see those friends as well as your ability – or simply interest – to make new ones.

Can you maintain or improve your quality of life?

While you’ll spend a decent amount of time working in your new location, you should also consider the impact on your current quality of life. Start with research on climate, activities and culture. If you’ve only lived in a particular region, assess what might be needed to move to a different climate – clothing and equipment included. Research weather trends and prepare for potential risks with phenomena such as tornadoes, hurricanes and / or blizzards.

From an activity perspective, make a list of things that you and your family regularly do. If you frequently eat meals outside of your home, determine the convenience of nearby restaurants. If you and your family love the great outdoors, make sure you’ll have places to hike, bike, surf or fish. Depending on your relationship with a gym or sports club, you might need to learn whether your current workout spot has a presence in the area you’re considering. Other considerations might include houses of worship, music and arts, and access to sporting events.

You might encounter a new community that is radically different than your current one – especially if moving to a new region or even a new country. Research age brackets, social norms, unique traditions and languages most commonly spoken in your new location to ensure that you and your family can get accustomed and acquainted.

The future is difficult to predict, so remember that your next move does not have to be your last. If you’re 25 years from retirement, chances are you’ll make a job change before then, so don’t overanalyze it. Look at the next five to 10 years and evaluate locations accordingly. Perhaps most importantly, consult those closest to you. Talk with people who’ve made similar changes and ask about their experiences.

Relocation is a big decision, but it isn’t the end of the world. Oftentimes, it’s the beginning of a new one!