Career Advice

Stuck: Handling a Relocation in this Economy

Recent research by the Pew Foundation revealed that nearly 50% of Americans live somewhere they wish they didn’t.  The American way has always been to be able to move from city to city and in many cases it was our jobs that relocated us across the country.  And many agreed to move to less-than ideal cities, as we figured we could live anywhere or a few years, knowing that there would be another move in our future anyway. If we played our cards right we would end up in a regional office or headquarters, which in most cases were located in attractive cities or towns.

It was a big game of musical chairs and for lots of people it was a great way to see the country on someone else’s dime as it related to purchase and sale of a home.  Over the past 15 years this worked, as there was no losing out on home equity.  But, as we know, all good things must come to an end. The music has stopped and nearly half of America may be living someplace they don’t like and aren’t able to make a change any time soon.  For anyone who could be transferred either now, or in the future think about these tactics as you manage your relocation:

All roads to lead to Headquarters. If you would never consider living in Atlanta then don’t consider working for Coca-Cola because if you are successful, then in most cases that is where your career is going to take you.  On the other hand if the New York area is where you want to live someday, then Pepsi-Cola would be a good choice.

Accept that you might have to find your way out on your own.  Companies are cutting their relocation budgets, and thus if you are asked to move somewhere that is not to your liking and you are only going there for the job, then consider how you can get out of Dodge by your own means. In other words, remain flexible and evaluate the options that allow you to live where you want.  That may mean renting versus buying or if you buy a home make sure that you buy the saleable one, not the most expensive house on the block or the eccentric home that only you could love.

Tell everyone you can, consistently, where you want to be. You probably get at least one chance a year to sit with your boss and/or your HR person and express your career objectives and desires.  This is the time to let them know where it is that you want/need to live.  If the west coast is where you want to be then say it and say it again.  When presented the chance to move to Tennessee, don’t simply say, “That sounds interesting”.  The better answer is, “if that is where the company needs me to go for now, I can certainly do it, but you know that I want/need to get to the west coast soon.”  Companies will move you where they need you.  There is nothing wrong with that, but you have to continue be in charge of your own career.  I fear that a lot of the people who are stuck somewhere now are there because they didn’t have a clear plan and were not able to communicate effectively their desires.

Make the most of anywhere. President Lincoln said, “We are as happy as we make up our minds to be.” The same can be said for where we live.  If you are stuck somewhere now, then you know that you are stuck and the question is what can you do about it?  While you are looking for opportunities that would relocate you somewhere else, do the most that you can for the community you are in now.  You may find that doing the opposite of what is expected when you dislike living someplace (for example getting more involved in the community), could push you to discover that you like it more than you thought.

Be prepared to move yourself. As I mentioned, relocation budgets are being axed as “unnecessary spending”.  When the unemployment level is high and talent is more abundant, it may be true. This means that if you want to move to another city for a new job, you may have to pay for it yourself.  If you can figure out the costs of this and start building it into your savings now, that would be wise.  With enough planning ahead you will be able to make the offer to move yourself and pay your own freight.  It could be that this extra offer is the one that makes you the new hire versus the other people also applying.