Once upon a time, you were born in a city, raised there, got a job there and retired there. But in recent years, Americans have become more likely to look for work beyond their hometown. In fact, the latest report from Glassdoor’s economic research team — Metro Movers: Where Are Americans Moving for Jobs, And Is It Worth It? — found that more than a quarter (28.5 percent) of Glassdoor users applied to jobs outside their metropolitan area. But does that mean it’s a good idea to move for work?
The truth is, there is no one answer — each person has to decide on a case-by-case basis whether or not relocating is right for them. But if you need some help in the decision-making process, try asking yourself these questions.
1. What are the job opportunities?
Even if you already have a job offer, there’s no guarantee that you’ll stay with that company forever — in fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average American changes jobs almost every four years — so it’s well worth making sure that the city you’re thinking of moving to has a healthy labor market. Take a look at factors like the unemployment rate and the number of open jobs compared to the population in order to determine what the job outlook is in the areas you’re targeting.
Here were the cities that Glassdoor identified as the Best Cities for Jobs in 2017 when considering hiring opportunity, cost of living and job satisfaction.
1. Pittsburgh, PA (City Score: 4.4)
2. Indianapolis, IN (City Score: 4.4)
3. Kansas City, MO (City Score: 4.4)
4. Raleigh, NC (City Score: 4.4)
5. St. Louis, MO (City Score: 4.4)
6. Memphis, TN (City Score: 4.4)
7. Columbus, OH (City Score: 4.3)
8. Cincinnati, OH (City Score: 4.3)
9. Cleveland, OH (City Score: 4.3)
10. Louisville, KY (City Score: 4.2)
2. How will your salary change?
Of course, it depends on the specific job offer you receive and the area you move to, but Glassdoor's Metro Movers study found that those who are willing to move to new cities for work are usually rewarded for it in the form of a higher paycheck.
But again, even if you already have an offer from a company, you should look at whether salaries in the city you’re thinking about moving to are generally higher or lower than your current location in case that particular opportunity doesn’t work out. Glassdoor’s Salaries tool is a great resource for figuring out average salaries by geographic location, as is the monthly Local Pay Reports published by Glassdoor’s Econ team, which track median base pay and year-over-year growth in 10 major metropolitan areas.
The bad news? Even if you’re going to get a bump in salary, that won’t always make up for a sharp increase in the cost of living, which takes us to question #3...
3. What’s the cost of living?
When you make a major move to another metro area, odds are that the cost of living is going to be different than where you are. Sometimes, there will be just a small bump in the cost of living from one area to another, or even a decrease — other times, though, you’ll be looking at a drastic jump in expenses.
Since housing is often your biggest monthly expense, it makes sense to look at the median home value or the median rent in the area you’re looking at. Whether you plan on renting or buying, Zillow will have relevant information for you. You can even use tools on the website to calculate how much you can reasonably afford per month in rent or for your mortgage. For other expenses, like groceries, entertainment and transportation, you can look at crowd-sourced sites like Numbeo.
As mentioned before, a salary boost doesn’t mean much without cost of living factored in — luckily, there are a handful of sites that tell you how far your salary will go in another city, which can make evaluating salary offers much easier. A couple of my personal favorites come from NerdWallet and CNN Money.
4. What does the city offer in terms of culture?
It might surprise you to hear that the top destinations for job seekers are among the most expensive in the country — the top three cities metro movers are applying to are San Francisco, New York City and San Jose, CA. If the only thing you care about is cost of living, then it might seem totally crazy to move to one of these cities. But for many, the hefty price tag is worth it.
The most expensive cities tend to go hand-in-hand with amazing restaurants, world-class entertainment, excellent shopping and stunning natural beauty. Of course, that’s not to say you can’t see a great show or get a good bite to eat in a more affordable city, but the reputation major cities have earned aren’t without merit.
Figure out what’s most important to you — whether that’s a diverse population, outdoor activities, a thriving theater community, professional sports teams, etc. — and figure out what sort of presence there is in the city you’re thinking about moving to. You can’t go wrong looking at the city on TripAdvisor or simply Googling “Things to do in [name of city]”.
5. Is the company worth it?
When you first get a job offer, it’s usually the salary that catches your eye. But to bust out an old cliché, money isn’t everything. In fact, the data have proven it time and time again. When looking at which factors make employees the happiest, Glassdoor Chief Economist Dr. Andrew Chamberlain found that salary didn’t even crack the top three. Instead, the top three predictors of employee satisfaction were culture and values, the quality of senior leadership and the career opportunities available at the company.
Before you accept an offer, make sure to look up company reviews on Glassdoor. There, you can check out detailed reviews of what it’s like to work for the company from the folks that know best — the employees. You can also see how people rate the three factors mentioned above — culture and values, quality of senior leadership, career opportunities — as well as whether or not employees approve of the CEO or would recommend the company to their friends. Take a close look at whichever factors matter most to you, and make sure to read several different reviews so you can get a variety of perspectives.
6. Will you have to uproot your life?
Glassdoor’s Metro Movers report found that with each decade, people become about seven percent less likely to apply to jobs outside of their current metropolitan area. It makes sense — it’s a lot easier to move far away if you don’t have anything tying you down. As people grow older, though, they become more likely to purchase real estate, find a partner, have families and establish deep ties within their communities.
If you’re thinking of moving, it’s worth asking yourself questions like:
- Do you have a partner? If so, would they come with you? Would they need to find a new job as well?
- Do you have children? If so, are you willing to relocate them to new schools and communities?
- Do you own your home, or any other property in your current area? If so, would you be willing to sell it in the case of a move? Would you rent it out? If so, who would manage it?
- Do you have close friends and family in the area? If so, how would moving away from them impact your quality of life?
None of these things necessarily precludes you from moving, but it does become an additional factor to consider.
Ultimately, the decision to move is a highly personal one, and something that can’t be immediately answered just by reading a blog post. But asking yourself the questions found here, as well as others, can give you the framework you need to make the best decision for you.