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Relocating for Work: Challenges and Upsides

The Pros and Cons of Relocating for Work
Credit: Pormezz/Shutterstock

Moving to a new city, state or even country is a major life decision. Considering details like housing and transportation arrangements may seem obvious, but what else should you consider if you are moving for a job?

Lauren Herring is the CEO of IMPACT Group, a career coaching company that helps employees relocate all over the world. She said you should start your journey by acknowledging that there will be challenges, along with the benefits.

"Every move has its ups and downs," Herring told Business News Daily. "Be open-minded and willing to talk about how you're feeling in the office and at home. Understand that you can't recreate your old life, but you can start new traditions."

Moving is expensive. The cost of moving can be a deal-breaker if your company doesn't offer to cover relocation expenses. However, some employers may negotiate relocation packages. Inquire about the costs associated with travel expenses, moving labor, corporate or temporary housing, and fees for breaking a lease.

Your partner may struggle. A trailing spouse may have to find a job in your new city, which can take several months. This can put a financial strain on your relationship. Herring recommends your partner start their search three to four months before the move.

You must find housing in an unfamiliar area. If you are unable to take advantage of corporate or temporary housing, finding a place to live in a new city can be a major challenge. Utilize GPS and online tools to find the "good" and "bad" parts of town, and drive by your new neighborhood at night, before you move. Consider renting, instead of buying, a home for at least the first six to 12 months.

Finding the right schooling and child care can be tough. If you have children, you will need to find housing that is within the boundaries of the school district you would like your children to attend. You will also have to find trustworthy child care, which can be worrisome if other family members have watched your children, shuttled them to and from school and extracurricular activities, etc. Utilize trusted internet forums and ask around for references.

You may have to learn a whole new transportation system. If you move from a rural area to a big city, you may have to forgo the car and learn a new public transportation system. Conversely, if you are moving from a city to the countryside, you may have to factor in the cost of purchasing a vehicle, gas, maintenance, etc. GPS is your best friend when learning a new city. After the move, try out different commute routes to find what works best for you.

You might experience culture shock. Learning a new city and culture can feel overwhelming and lonely, especially if you are moving alone or internationally. If possible, try to visit the area a few times before you move to ensure it is an environment you will enjoy.

You have to make new friends. Social integration can be difficult and is especially challenging for those who are introverted or moving alone. Mindy Green, owner of MG Beauty, has relocated for work multiple times. During her moves, she learned valuable tips for social integration, including taking up a hobby, volunteering at a local charity, joining a rec league and attending meetup groups.  

You may need new documentation and licensing. Licensed professionals sometimes move and are unable to work for a period of time, since states are notoriously slow at processing paperwork. To avoid this, Herring suggested investing in the new state's licensure requirements ahead of time. This can be particularly important for professions, such as lawyers, that might require a bar exam, which are only offered a few times each year.

Integration can be difficult, and the job might ultimately not be a good fit. Integrating into a new position can be challenging. Green said it is important to remember that you will have to earn the trust of your new team. If you test out your new position and ultimately decide it is not the right fit, you must be OK with accepting that and moving on.

It could offer job security. In some situations, relocating for work is the only way to keep your job. If you decide to make the move, your employer may feel you are loyal to the company. This could result in job security if your employer has to make cuts later on.

It can be an opportunity for career advancement. In addition to job security, Herring said relocating for work can be a career accelerator, leading to promotions. Green agreed that it can give you the opportunity to excel, take things to the next level and set the bar for others behind you. She said that, depending on your new role, you may have the chance to build a new team or project from the ground up.

It can increase your standard of living and quality of life. Kate Windleton is a relocations manager at Strong Move, a company that helps people relocate both domestically and internationally. She said the possibility of a better standard of living is an important consideration. Take into account the salary offered as well as the cost of living. You may be taking a pay raise or pay cut, but depending on the new cost of living, you can end up with a smaller or larger disposable income.

It is great for personal development and new experiences. Herring said relocation is an opportunity to start fresh and reinvent yourself. Try the things you've always wanted to do but haven't made the time for.

You can make new friends. Green said moving is the perfect opportunity to welcome new, positive friendships and leave the toxic ones behind. You can use online apps, rec leagues and local meetups to find people who share your same interests.

It will widen your dating pool. Green said this is ideal for those who are single. Dating apps make it incredibly easy to meet singles, or you can attend local activities to find someone who shares an interest in one of your hobbies.

You can move to a better climate. Whether you are currently living somewhere cold and you've always wanted to live in a tropical area or vice versa, this may be your chance to finally move. Moving to your desired climate may improve your quality of life.

Windleton said the most important thing about job relocation is setting enough time aside to plan everything in detail. Thoroughly research everything you will need for your move – it will make for a more seamless experience.

"Arrange documents, inform utility providers that you're moving, decide what you'll take with you and so on," said Windleton. "Embrace the change. Don't pity yourself. Focus on the positive side of this new experience."

After you've moved, it is important to be patient with yourself and practice good mental health. Be open to the idea that you will have growing pains, and you may feel sad at first. Green suggested finding a mentor to help you through this process.

"Mentoring is an excellent way to talk through your frustrations and get advice from someone that has your best interests in mind," said Green. "If they have been through a relocation, they will understand what it's like to be the new kid in class and can share their insights."

Timothy Wiedman, retired associate professor of management and human resources at Doane University, has undergone several job relocations and, as a result, created a list of useful questions to consider when debating job relocation.

For single people without dependents, consider the following:

  • Will I love my new job? 
  • Will this move enhance my current career and future opportunities? 
  • Is this move likely to improve my financial situation? 
  • How far will I be from parents, siblings and current friends? 
  • Unless my employer will pay for the entire relocation, can I afford the cost of the move? 
  • If I own a home, how easily can I sell it quickly without taking a loss?
  • What is the cost of living in the new location? 
  • Will the new locality provide sufficient social, cultural and recreational opportunities?  

For those with dependents, consider the following (in addition to the above questions):

  • How will this move impact my spouse? 
  • How will it impact my children? 
  • Can we afford to live in a "good" neighborhood in the new location? 
  • Are there "good" public schools in the new location? 
  • If those local public schools are not so good, can we afford private alternatives? 

There are many advantages and disadvantages to relocating for your job. Generally, the challenges are short term, whereas the upsides are long term. Compare the pros and cons. There will usually be a clear factor that emerges so you know whether the relocation is worth it or not. 

Skye Schooley

Skye Schooley is an Arizona native, based in New York City. After receiving a Business Communication degree from Arizona State University, she spent nearly three years living in four different states and backpacking throughout 16 different countries. During her travels, Skye began a blog at www.skyeschooley.com. She now resides in the arctic tundra that is the northeast coast, writing for Business.com.