Before You Relocate, Pick the Strategy That Makes Sense for You
On a cold January day many years ago, Eric was visiting his parents and sat down for a nice Sunday night dinner. He had an announcement. After living his entire life on the east coast, he declared that he wanted to find a new job in a different part of the country. By the end of the summer, he wanted to live in one of his target cities: Seattle, San Francisco, or Austin.
His parents, who had always been supportive, listened intently. His mom chimed in, “That sounds exciting. When you get a job offer, make sure you negotiate for relocation costs.”
“For sure,” Eric said, “if I have an offer. My lease is up at the end of August and I’m not renewing it. If I don’t have an offer yet, I’m just going to pick one of the cities and move either way.”
Eric’s dad, a conservative, by-the-books finance guy, suddenly dropped his fork and leapt into the conversation. “You… you… you can’t just MOVE to a new city without a job! That costs money! How will you get an apartment? What will you do to make ends meet until you get a position?”
“I’ll figure something out,” Eric murmured as he shoveled another serving of mashed potatoes into his mouth. He was still motivated to meet his goal, but part of him was scared of the uncertainty. What if his dad was right?
People have sought to relocate to a more exciting place since the phrase “Go West young man” was popularized in the 1800s.
Yet to this day the same dilemma faces new graduates, workplace veterans, and anyone looking to shake things up in their career. If you’re dying to move to a new city, what’s the best approach to take, for your job and for your salary? Let’s look at both sides of the argument:
STAY AND SAVE
Reason #1 – The money!
- Have you seen what the housing market is like in the San Francisco Bay area?
- Did you price the cost of a cross-country move?
- Do you even know what a broker fee is in New York City? (Hint… it’s a check you need to write to a real estate broker just to secure an apartment. Often as high as 15% of the first year’s rent, that means with an average rent of $3,000 per month, you need cough up $5,400 (which you’ll never see again), plus your first month’s rent and security deposit before you move in… $11,500 total).
Of course, no one’s saying you have to move to one of the two most expensive cities in the world. There are plenty of other places out there that offer challenging jobs, tons of culture, and reasonable prices.
But it’s also a fact that there will always be more desirable locations than others, and those come at a steeper price. Thus, the top reason to stay in your current location and try and secure a job before moving to a new city is the high costs.
When you uproot and move to a new place, the costs add up quickly… moving, storage, finding a house or apartment, furniture… unless you have a large cushion of cash, your funds could be depleted quickly.
Reason #2 – Free relocation!
What’s better than having enough savings put aside for moving costs? Not spending a dime at all. If you play your cards right, depending on your experience, the type of company, and how well you negotiate, many companies will cover some or all of your moving costs.
Thus, if you’re able to play the game, interview remotely, and land the job from your current location, your new job might cover everything from the flight and hotel for your interview, cost to move your belongings, and even things like temporary housing while you get settled.
Reason #3 – The internet!
Why would you move to a new location without a job when we’re living in the digital age?
- You can search for positions from around the world on multiple online job sites without leaving your living room
- With a PDF resume, online application forms, and a profile on LinkedIn, you can apply for jobs in minutes
- Email, conference calls, chat, Skype, Facetime, GoToMeeting, Twitter … there are a dozen ways to connect with a hiring manager for an interview without meeting in person
MOVE AND MAKE THE LEAP
Reason #1 – The networking!
You can apply for jobs online all day long, but the truth is, the #1 way to get a job is through networking. Whether it’s a formal industry event or running into someone serendipitously, there’s really no substitute for being on the ground day-to-day, living in your chosen city and literally putting yourself out there.
Reason #2 – The spontaneity!
- Building on reason #1, you can’t take advantage of spur of the moment job events when you’re searching remotely. If your dream position opens quickly and they are interviewing people this week, you don’t need to book an expensive flight to get there.
- When a friend hosts a dinner party and mentions that there’s a new group being formed in their department, you’ll be the first one to throw your hat into the ring.
- When a company is looking at 3 equal candidates, but one is a major unknown because they live 3 time zones away, you gain an advantage.
Reason #3 – Burn the ships!
You may have heard the story of Hernán Cortés, the Spanish Conquistador that landed in Mexico on a quest for Aztec treasure. As motivation for his undermanned troops, he ordered them to burn the ships. While historians argue the true story (for example, they might have been sunk, not burned), the message is clear: Failure is not an option.
While living rent-free in your parent’s basement or tolerating a job that’s “not terrible” can feel safe, what sort of life are you living? When you go all in and really commit to a new path in life, it’s amazing the opportunities that rise up to meet you.
A major life change such as this can’t easily be boiled down into a logical pros and cons list. It’s a gut-level decision that each person needs to make on their own based on their situation and their tolerance for risk.
But here are some tips that can help:
Plan an interview vacation
While you can do a great deal of job-hunting online, and some ambitious individuals will commit to a city’s lifestyle sight unseen, at some point you need to set foot in the new location to check it out.
If you’re not ready for the “all-in” move, use vacation time from your current job to spend a week on a work/fun vacation. Your goal is two-fold: Time your search to meet with as many companies as possible, and get a feel for everyday life in the city during your downtime.
In both cases, sometimes your hopes and dreams don't always match up with what you’ve seen and read online.
If you can’t get specific job interviews, you should line up as many informational interviews and networking opportunities as possible.
Additionally, skip the hotels for tourists and business travelers and stay with a friend or rent an apartment on Airbnb.com in a neighborhood you’d like to live in to get a better feel for the city.
Amp up your online presence
While any job-seeker should already have a strong online presence (studies show more than 90% of recruiters will do a Google search for a candidate), it becomes even more important when searching for jobs remotely.
Not only should you have your professional qualifications, but more personal items such as a relevant blog, a descriptive “about me” page, and a Twitter or Pinterest account might give a more personalized overall view of yourself so that hiring managers feel they know you a bit more and can put a name to a face until the time that you can meet in person.
Know the true costs
When prepping to go to a new city, really do your homework to find out the true costs. Start with Salary.com’s Cost of Living Wizard to compare salary ranges for multiple cities. This data can help support asking for more money when negotiating salary. Create a cushion
As best you can, set yourself up to succeed financially before your move, or as an accountant friend blatantly puts it, “hoard cash.” If you can set a longer-term deadline for a move, such as 6 months to a year, you can change to a “move mentality.”
During that prep time, cut back on expenses, sell off things you don’t need (especially if you’re moving to a city with smaller apartments), forgo vacations and fancy nights out, and pay off as much debt as possible. It doesn’t sound like fun, but focus on your long-term goal. If you can sacrifice a bit now and create a cash cushion for your move, you’ll set yourself up to succeed. Part of the process might just be surviving long enough until you land the right job, and then you can go back to your lifestyle once you’re settled.
WE’LL NEVER KNOW
As the months wore by, Eric got more and more traction with his nationwide job search. However, his deadline was approaching fast and he couldn’t get to the next step – an actual interview. So he took a risk.
Having been in touch with his dream job for two months, he bluffed. He told his contact that he would be in Seattle for a week, and asked if he could come in for an interview. They took the bait and said sure, stop by.
Immediately after hanging up the phone, he sprung into action.
- He told a white lie to his current company, saying that he needed a week off for a family reunion.
- He booked the cheapest flight he could find, stopping in both Seattle and Austin and lining up 2 other interviews.
- He read every possible piece of information about the company, and practiced interviewing for days.
As if it were the script in a movie, he received a job offer, the company paid all his moving expenses, he gave his notice, and bought a one-way ticket to Seattle on August 23rd, just 8 days before his lease ended.
Over his final family dinner before heading to the west coast, his dad leaned in and asked Eric if he really would have stuck to his word, taken a huge risk, and moved to a new city before getting a job. Eric smiled and replied, “I guess we’ll never know.”
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