Given the difficulty of landing a new job, it's not surprising that the Kelly Workforce Global Index released earlier this year found that more than three quarters of the people surveyed said they would be willing to move for the right job. At the same time, though, the Society of Human Resources Management reports that many employers are reducing or freezing their company-paid relocation programs.
Todd Schoenberger knows this first-hand. After losing his job at a financial services company in San Antonio, the father of two spent the next year job-hunting and working part-time. When he landed a new job at a company in Wilmington, Del., last year, Schoenberger accepted, even though it meant paying roughly $10,000 for out-of-pocket expenses to relocate his family of four.
Despite the expense and emotional stress of moving, Schoenberger says he would definitely do it again, both for personal and professional reasons. "We knew there would be more employment opportunities on the East Coast, plus [with] two young boys, we wanted to be closer to the grandparents on the East coast," he explains.
Here are some additional factors to consider, especially when paying your own relocation costs as the Schoenbergers did.
1. Can I afford it? There are a number of moving calculators available online, but according to Worldwide ERC, a workforce mobility association, the average cost of shipping household goods for a domestic relocation was over $12,000 in 2010. Also consider the cost of breaking a lease or selling your home (assuming you can find a buyer) and traveling back and forth between your old and new locations.
Because of the shaky market, the Schoenbergers sold their San Antonio home in a fire sale and are renting for now. They also minimized costs by working with a real estate agent who showed properties via video instead of in-person (the new company flew in Schoenberger for interviews, so he met the agent and laid the groundwork during those trips.)
Under certain circumstances, the IRS allows you to deduct reasonable moving expenses, but tax deductions are not as valuable as tax credits and are only applicable if you itemize. Expenses for breaking a lease or buying and selling your home are not deductible.
2. What's the local cost of living? As Lynda Zugec, managing director of the New York-based Workforce Consultants, points out, "there's more to a relocation than simply the new job." Determine whether your new salary will cover living expenses in your new home by looking at cost-of-living calculators and talking to people in the area.
For the Schoenbergers, it's been a mixed bag. "Food costs are higher on the East Coast than in San Antonio, but we notice our utility costs dropped quite a bit because it was so expensive to cool our home in Texas," he says. He adds that he used the fact that the new employer was not paying relocation costs in negotiating his salary.
3. Is the company (and the local industry) stable? If a company is paying for all or part of your relocation costs, it's like they're invested in your position over the long term. But there's always the risk that you'll uproot yourself and your family for an opportunity that fizzles out. "Far too many people who are eager to finalize the details find themselves a few months later unemployed and without friends or a support system in an unfamiliar community," says Roy Cohen, a career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide. Cohen adds that it's especially risky if you're expected to turn things around at a troubled company.
That's why Zugec recommends "do[ing] your research on the financial history of the company, where the company is going, and talk[ing] to others who have relocated." Also consider what other opportunities are available in the area, should you find yourself without a job. Talking to people in your industry and checking LinkedIn can help offer a snapshot of your new area.
4. Who else would need to relocate? It's much easier (and cheaper) for an individual to relocate than it is for an entire family, especially one with children and two working spouses. "Is it fair to yank kids out of school or ask a spouse to quit a job?" ponders Cohen. That depends on several considerations, such as your spouse's career goals, your kid's ages, and how invested your family is in the local community.
Some companies offer outplacement services for a relocating spouse, but Zugec recommends waiting to ask about this until you have a firm offer. If you're working with a recruiter, they may have information about what the company has offered to new hires at a similar level (plus, the fact that they've hired a recruiter shows their investment in finding a highly qualified candidate.) Either way, she says, you can certainly "do your research beforehand and see what competitors are doing on that front."
5. Is telecommuting a possibility? Before relocating yourself and your family, consider whether you might telecommute instead of physically reporting to an office. Often, that depends on the culture of the organization. "If you're interviewing with a Big Four consulting firm, telecommuting is a way of life," says Cohen. "People are all over the country because their clients are all over the country, so it really doesn't matter where you're living. But where it's not familiar to the organization and if you're an unfamiliar commodity, then requesting that consideration could be too much for an organization to understand." That said, your spouse may be able to telecommute to his or her current job instead of searching for a new one, which could help ease the transition financially.