What to Consider Before Relocating for a Job
Many of you high achievers want to continue to grow and feel challenged. While you may be performing perfectly well in your current position in the city you’ve always known, you may dream of more. Thus, you start sending out applications for jobs in “dream cities” and hope for the best. When that first interview request rolls in, you may have already mentally mapped out your future in a new city, fully prepared to uproot and start anew.
As exciting as this opportunity may seem, I like to caution against hasty relocation plans. While the glamor of living in a bustling city and prestige of a larger salary may be alluring, it is best to weigh all options carefully. Relocation can be emotionally, physically, and financially taxing endeavor, and a bigger paycheck does not necessarily equal the ultimate jackpot. You have to take into account cost of living, for example.
At a recent speaking engagement, I heard from several leaders who were eager to embark on the next stage of their life or career. For many of them, this next stage would likely require a job change and relocation. Below are some tips I gave them after relocating for my career most of my life, which I strongly believe could help anyone considering relocation:
1. Do a Serious Cost of Living Analysis
Before doing any of the more “fun” research–apartment hunting, furniture shopping, roommate searching–you should first calculate the cost of living in the destination city. COLA calculators are helpful for this. Factor in all the obvious expenses, such as rent, utilities, groceries, and transportation, as well as those that might be unique to you (gym membership, childcare, entertainment, etc.). Be sure also to consider your salary and how far that money will go, adjusting for the new cost of living and whether the employer will reimburse for the move.
Do not be immediately swayed by a slightly higher number than what you have now until you have totaled all the expenses. Remember, 100k a year may equal comfortable living in one city but just barely be getting by in another, especially when you account for family size. Money can affect happiness…to a point, according to an article published in Nature Human Behavior journal. Researchers found that an annual income of $75k is usually the threshold for the most personal satisfaction, growth, and overall well-being. Above that, happiness was not necessarily increased by money, although this may vary from person to person.
2. Reach Out to Potential Future Coworkers
It is not enough just to research the destination city with a critical eye. You must also research your potential new workplace. Remember that what you see on the website and even in your interview may not be the entire truth. After all, the company is trying to sell itself to you as much as you are trying to sell yourself to it, as a candidate.
To get the best idea of what goes on in the office, consider having dinner with your potential coworkers during the interview process. Be friendly in your conversation, but do not be afraid to ask pointed questions concerning work/life balance, job satisfaction, access to childcare and healthcare, and general quality of life in your prospective city.
3. Be Honest With Yourself about the Work Culture
Similar to the above point, consider very carefully the culture of the new workplace. Bear in mind that just because a company may be a prestigious place to work on paper does not mean that it is the perfect fit for you — and that is okay. To best assess workplace culture, you might first ask yourself what your ideal workplace looks like. Do you like to collaborate with your coworkers regularly, or do you prefer to complete most projects solo? What’s the turnover? Do you take a “work hard, play harder” approach to your job, or do you prefer to stay no-nonsense during work hours and keep socializing for after you leave the office?
If the former, you might want to consider such amenities as access to a gym, office parties, and other “fun” perks. Use your own personal criteria to determine how well you would fit into the new workplace, and be honest with yourself. Remember: you are going to be uprooting your entire life to be here almost every day, so do your best to make sure it is a win for you!
4. Consider your family obligations.
Up until now, most of these points have focused mainly on what you are looking for in your new home and your workplace. However, you also need to think about your family. Do you have a spouse, children, both? If you do relocate, what will career prospects look like for your spouse? Will they too be able to “upgrade” easily, or will it take more time or even additional schooling?
Also, how accessible and affordable is childcare? Do bear in mind that for many Americans, childcare eats up as much as 20% of their income. Even if you do not have children now but plan on it in the future, you should factor this into your decision. You want to ensure that your children will be able to enjoy a safe, enriching environment while you are at work.
5. Create a Wishlist
Make a personal “Wish List” spreadsheet that compares your current living situation to your long- and short-term goals. Sunny weather and access to beaches may thrill some, while nightlife, travel and local support is appealing to others. What do you have now that you hope to maintain or grow when you relocate? For instance, if you hope to see your earning potential double within the next five years, you should add that to your list and compare that number to where you are now. Will the new workplace and location allow for that level of growth? Have you mapped out a plan for the goal and who will mentor and support you within the company or new region?
6. Think About Your Professional Future
Before accepting the new job at all, consider its potential for advancement and how this potential aligns with your current career goals. Will the job allow you to pay off any outstanding student loan debt you have within a desirable timeframe? Will you have the opportunity to work from home or travel for work? How likely is a promotion? Does the company offer any leadership training, certifications or conferences? All of these are important questions to ask.
Again, remember that you will be moving to a new, likely unfamiliar city to pursue these career aspirations. Initially, the uncertainty and romance of the change will feel liberating. But will you still feel the same way about your new job and lifestyle once you have settled into your routine? This is not to scare you away from big dreams, of course. It is just important to think critically about such a major decision and to make sure that you are ready to shed your old job without any lingering regrets.
Still not sure where to begin with your future career plans? Dr. Toni can help. Schedule your free strategy session today to start planning a path toward greater fulfillment.
About Dr. Toni A. Haley
Toni A. Haley, MD is a bestselling author, speaker, and certified executive coach for high performing women. She is also the founder and CEO of Williams Wellness Group. Dr. Haley is sought after by clients for her 25 years of experience in finance, healthcare, and wellness. Her proven strategies have helped hundreds of women break through personal and professional barriers, such as Perfectionism, Martyr Complex, and Imposter Syndrome. She is a proud alumna of Morgan State University and Ross University School of Medicine. Dr. Haley has committed her career to empowering women to achieve greater prosperity and wellness.