The Distant Job Offer: When Does Relocation Make Sense?
Considering any job offer can be a complex, anxiety-inducing task. Add in a potential move to a new and unfamiliar city, and the decision gets infinitely more complicated. How do you determine if an employment opportunity justifies a significant relocation? Essentially, you must evaluate whether both the job itself and the new locale will ultimately bring you happiness.
For obvious reasons, the salary offered compared is a key component of the decision to accept or decline any job offer. When it comes to employment opportunities with out-of-area employers, however, it's important to remember that money is not the same the whole world over. Differences in cost of living must be carefully considered in order to accurately assess an out of area job offer. For example, a job that with an annual salary of $50,000 may provide for a very comfortable lifestyle in Oklahoma City, but if offered in the same salary in New York City (where the cost of living can be as much as 111% higher compared to Oklahoma City), your disposable income would evaporate. Conversely, if you're considering a job in city with a better cost of living, the salary offer may likewise be a lower figure.
When researching the cost of living index for a specific area, don't forget to take into account whether you intend to buy a home or rent. Most sources of cost of living information compile both average housing costs and average rents when establishing overall figures. A prohibitive rental market (or high real estate prices) should not factor into your evaluation if not relevant to your short or long term plans.
Moving can be a very expensive process, particularly when traveling long distances. Many companies will pay for all or part of a relocation that is work-related. Depending on the company, covered expenses may include moving fees, house-hunting trips or temporary housing costs. If your prospective employer is willing to compensate you for relocation expenses, get an up-front commitment detailing how much of the costs they are willing to cover. Ideally, the extent and conditions of this compensation should be provided in writing within the offer letter itself. Moving expenses that are not reimbursed may be tax deductible.
As with any employment decision, you should always consider how a prospective job fits in with your long term career plans (especially in comparison with your current position/employer). A job at a particular company may meet your immediate needs, but it should also provide greater opportunities for you five or ten years down the road. Companies that exhibit high turnover rates or that do not regularly promote from within are warning signs.
The most important factor to determine, and also the most difficult, is how much you would enjoy living in a new location. A job may be a perfect match for you professionally, but it will matter little if you hate your greater surroundings. Population density, cultural offerings, recreational opportunities, traffic, pace of life and weather all affect one's enjoyment of any given place.
Before learning about your potential new home, first honestly and carefully weigh the things that you consider most important to your quality of life. Once you've determined the ground rules learn as much as possible about the new place. Utilize published and online information, but also take at least two trips in person to get a personal feeling for the area. Generally it's best to plan one longer trip to the city apart from your actual interviewing process. This will help keep your mind clear and will allow you to focus on learning more about the life in the new locale. Avoid falling into strictly "touristy" routines on these trips - instead try to connect with local customs and citizens.
The notion of radical change can be very romantic, especially when it involves career opportunities and living environment. By carefully considering the details involved in a possible relocation, you can help eschew the fantasy and determine whether or not the situation will truly be right for you.