Is relocation the right move?
It can be exciting for your employer to offer you a new assignment requiring relocation to another part of the country. If you’re adventurous, this could sound like a welcome change of scenery and a fresh start.
Before you start packing your bags, career management experts say you should thoroughly assess the career and financial factors involved in a job relocation to be sure it’s the right move.
“If you move to a location and you are not happy, you will not be at your best, and it will impact you professionally,” says Caroline Ceniza-Levine, a career coach in New York with SixFigureStart.
Martin Yate, author of the “Knock ’em Dead” series of career management books, says to consider whether a job relocation would position you to continue advancing your career.
“The new job should never be about just a paycheck. Ask yourself, ‘What is my next step going to be? What do I want to be doing in five years, and does this help me get there?'” Yate says.
The following are questions to answer before accepting a job relocation.
Is the company financially stable?
This is a crucial issue that might take a little digging, but you should be able to check the company’s finances online and talk to your colleagues and contacts in the industry to gain this intelligence.
“If the company isn’t doing well, you could move and then be looking for another job soon in a new area where you are unfamiliar,” says Cheryl Palmer, owner of Call to Career in Silver Spring, Md.
Yate recommends checking what current and former employees from the new job site are saying on social media about the company. Be sure to ask people about the atmosphere and morale in the workplace.
What’s the new city’s cost of living?
Check the cost to buy and rent housing, property taxes, sales taxes, and state and local income taxes, and compare them to where you live now.
“Sometimes it may be a great career choice but may not be economically feasible to take the job,” says Bruce Specter, a client relations officer with Universal Value Advisors in Reno, Nev.
Specter recommends going to the city where you are considering relocating on a workday and driving around the area the company is located in to determine the commuting and highway conditions and finding out if mass transit is an option.
Palmer says to ask yourself what your new salary is relative to the cost of living. Even when you are getting a salary increase to relocate, you could lose money because your costs to live in another city could be much higher.
Will the company pay relocation expenses?
Depending on the size of your household and the distance you’d be moving, the tab for moving could easily be several thousand dollars. In this labor market, many employers are curtailing or not offering relocation expenses, career management experts say. That means you need to determine if you can afford to move.
Companies typically pay for executive-level employees to relocate. For others, it’s likely to depend on how critical their skills are to the company, Yate says.
If a company does pay your costs to move, that money is generally added to your annual taxable income, and whatever you pay generally is tax deductible, but you should double-check with your accountant or human resources department.
Will job relocation advance your career?
Palmer says weigh the pros and cons, and if the new job doesn’t put you in a better position for your next career step, it’s really just another job.
“There should be better value in the job where you are going than in what you already have, or why would you move?” she says.
Yate says it’s crucial to find out if the company will pay for training and development after you relocate.
“The nature of jobs is changing rapidly today,” Yate says. “You need to pursue skills development for this company and for career survival.”
How much should salary influence you?
If a job relocation coincides with a promotion, you should expect a pay increase. How much weight you place on salary is really a personal decision, but career advisers say it’s unwise to make it your only priority.
“A pay increase helps, but your job can disappear at any point,” Ceniza-Levine says.
The importance placed on a salary boost comes down to your personal values. “For some people, money is the most important factor. For most people, it’s not the most important factor, but it’s important,” Palmer says. “Be honest with yourself, and consider the whole picture.”
Will your career suffer if you reject a relocation?
The answer to this question can depend partly on what’s customary at your company, and that’s something to study if you want to continue advancing.
Some companies make it known that to climb the management ladder, an employee is expected to work in various assignments in different parts of the country or even the world, Ceniza-Levine says.
“Turning down one job relocation might not be a kiss of death,” she says.
Palmer says if a promotion accompanies the relocation, then turning it down could be “closing the door to future opportunities” if you stay with the company.
How big is your industry in the new city?
Yate says in today’s world, there’s little job security, and you need to carefully examine the stature of your industry in the area you’re considering relocating to. You want to feel confident that if you move and lose that job, you can land another one.
“Your job may go away in 90 days. What are you going to do if the job dies and there’s no other job in the town for you?” Yate says. “The size of your industry in the town will have a direct effect on your employability.”
If you determine that in your profession you’d have many places to work in a given area, you also have greater flexibility and less risk when deciding whether to accept the job-relocation offer, Yate says.
Would you be happy in your current city?
Aside from the critical career and financial issues to consider, this personal and emotional factor is just as important and shouldn’t be underestimated, career advisers say.
Remember that a move means leaving behind friends and key people in your professional network, plus you are leaving cultural and entertainment activities you might not be able to find in your new city.
“Over and above the financials, ask yourself if you can maintain your quality of life,” Specter says.
Ceniza-Levine adds, “Don’t assume you have to leave to get the job you want.”