by Jacquelyn Smith
Back in June I laid out the 20 questions you should ask yourself before you agree to relocate for a job. It’s a big decision that demands a lot of consideration—but as it turns out, that might be the easy part.
“The move itself could be one of the most stressful changes in life,” says Marjie Terry, VP of business development and client service at Great on the Job. “Even if you’re super excited about the new position or company, moving is still complicated.”
Ted Stimpson, president and CEO of MyMove.com, agrees. He says: “As with any move, relocating for a job can be a complicated and stressful process. But the good news is that you’ve been recognized as a valuable asset to your new company or office, and employers are typically more than willing to help make your transition a smooth one.” Plan ahead for your move, and utilize any relocation packages offered by your employer, he says. “And if things start to get stressful, remember that the reason for your move is a positive and exciting one.”
So, what exactly makes relocating so complicated? Ryan Kahn, a career coach, founder of The Hired Group, star of MTV’s Hired! and author of Hired! The Guide for the Recent Grad, says, among other things, the process requires you to find a new place to call home, become acquainted with your new environment, master a new job, and build a new support network—all at the same time. “A lot of hard work will go into being successful at all of these things, but hopefully you find out that it’s everything you’ve wanted.”
Stimpson says today’s real estate market doesn’t make it any easier. “Selling a house is one of the biggest complications that relocating homeowners face,” he says. “Paying two mortgages is daunting—and often not feasible—which leaves many in the challenging position of selling their current home while securing housing in their new city of employment.”
Another challenge faced by two-income families: finding employment for the relocating employee’s spouse or partner, he adds. And if you have children, you’ll probably worry about their transition to the new environment, as well.
“It’s extremely difficult to be 100% focused on your new job while dealing with all of the logistics of the move,” Terry says. “You want to make great impressions on your new colleagues but everything is new and unfamiliar, so it takes working double time in the beginning to make it all work.”
So, if you want to have a successful transition, here’s what you’ll need to do:
Stay organized. Much of moving related stress comes from managing all of the logistics, like leaving your current home, and finding a new one, Terry says. “Try to be very organized. Keep to-do lists for both your departure and arrival locations so that you can stay on top of everything.”
Know what’s available to you. Many companies offer a variety of relocation services and most are flexible in what they provide, Kahn says. Make sure you take the time to learn what’s available to you—and use it. For example, some companies will pay for things like house hunting trips, transportation of your cars, assistance in selling or buying your home, help figuring out how to rent out a property, and event organizers to settle you into your new home. They might also be able to help your spouse with job placement or employment leads in your new city, Stimpson adds.
If your employer doesn’t typically offer relocation assistance, ask for it. If you learn that assistance isn’t typically given, don’t be afraid to negotiate, Stimpson says. Start by researching moving costs (truck rentals, quotes from professional movers, transportation expenses, temporary housing, storage, etc.) so that you can present your employer with a detailed estimate of how much your relocation is expected to cost you. “Having this supporting information is crucial to the success of your request,” he says. Also ask about preferred providers when it comes to relocation companies and real estate agents. Reimbursement for your relocation may be contingent upon the usage of designated professionals with whom your employer has established relationships.
Take time to get to know your new environment before you move. If you have the luxury of taking some time to explore your new area before arriving, do so, Terry says. “Explore the neighborhoods in the area to make sure that you find the best suited one for your lifestyle,” she says.
If you’re not able to visit the new city before you move, take the time talk to people that live there or used to live there, and “get as much perspective as you can on what you’re walking into,” Kahn says.
You should also read the local news or any local blogs to understand the vibe and learn what’s going in your new town, Terry adds.
Know the cost of living in the new city. There are significant differences in cost of living among US cities and states, Stimpson says. “Typically, these differences will be compensated for in your salary, but it’s still important to check.” Do the research and plan accordingly.
Don’t make any long-term commitments. “Renting at first is a great way to settle into a new city without making a commitment to a neighborhood you might end up not liking,” Terry says.
Kahn agrees. He says a common mistake many people make when relocating for a job is to buy a home or commit to a long-term lease immediately, and later find that they don’t like the neighborhood, or the job.
Stimpson says to ask about temporary corporate housing. “Some companies offer apartments or condos for a fixed length of time to allow relocating employees to familiarize themselves with their new surroundings and make an informed housing decision.”
Find out if any of your moving expenses are tax-deductible. Even if your new employer doesn’t offer any financial assistance for your relocation, you might be eligible for partial reimbursement come tax time, which can definitely ease some of your financial stress, Stimpson says. (See IRS Tax Topic 455 for details on which expenses qualify.) “Generally, the moving tax deductions requirements are: the move must be because you started a new job; your new home must be at least 50 miles from your old home and your old job. (This is to prevent folks from simply moving across the street every time they changed jobs in a design to take advantage of the moving tax deduction.); and you must work full time for at least 39 weeks during the last 52 following your move. Self-employed movers need to work at least 78 weeks over the last 2 years to qualify.”
Build a social support network. “Use your friends to network to make new friends in the same way that you would try to network for a job,” Kahn says. Use online services like MeetUp to find others in the area that have similar interests or hobbies. Your new company may also offer clubs and interest groups to meet new people. The faster you can build a support network, the more at home you will feel and the happier you will be with your decision to move, he says.
“Establishing a social network in your new town is going to make you feel more grounded and happy, which will allow you to perform better in your new job,” Terry adds.