Monday, March 2, 2009

Is a Relocation Worth the Risk to Get a Job?

Recently on Twitter I told Ari Herzog that the photo he posted of a recent job fair reminded me of a herd of wildebeests looking for the last watering hole.

I've seen quite a few similar photos: Hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people lined up for a limited number of jobs. From the slouching teen with multiple body piercings talking on a cell phone to the over 45 job seeker clad in a Burberry trench coat, tapping away on a Blackberry, they all stand in line trying not to appear desperate that they need a job.

Looking at these photos, I wondered if any of these people thought about trying to get a job in a market that wasn't so saturated with job seekers. But after talking with several people looking for work, I came to understand that many of them simply didn't want to move away from friends and family, and were hopeful the job market would turn around. Still others couldn't move because a spouse still had a job in that city, or because they knew they couldn't sell their home in this crappy housing market.

And then I spoke with Jenny Brooks, 32, who made the decision in June 2008 to move her family to Birmingham, Ala. from Coos Bay, Ore. to launch a public relations campaign for a new client of her Northern California employer. With her employer offering a $6,000 moving allowance and a promise of six months rent paid in the new location while she tried to sell her Coos Bay home, Brooks, her husband and two young daughters made the move to what they hoped was a great career opportunity in a bigger city with more to offer.

Unfortunately, that dream has come crashing down. A couple of weeks ago, Brooks lost her job when her new client filed for bankruptcy. She can’t get her old job back with her Northern California employer, because the economic downturn has also hit that company.

“It was sort of a perfect storm,” she says. “It just all happened so fast.”

While Brooks’ husband was able to transfer within his company to Birmingham, she is now doing freelance public relations work. She says that the home in Coos Bay is “way underwater” – worth less than what the couple paid for it. And, the renters who were occupying a home the couple owns in Phoenix has moved out.

“We took a big risk moving to Birmingham. We gambled and bet this would work out. But it didn’t,” she says.

Cheryl Palmer, a certified executive career coach and founder of Call to Career in Silver Spring, Md., says that in this rough housing and job market, “there’s no straight answer on what to do” when it comes to relocation for a job.

“There are more variables with dire consequences now,” Palmer says. “With the economy shrinking, the potential fallout (from relocation) is that much greater. You’ve really got to weigh some of the factors very carefully.”

According to a survey, people continue to relocate in the U.S., with the South and West attracting the most people. And while there are jobs in those areas of the country, it doesn’t guarantee such a move is right for you and your family, Palmer says.

She recommends anyone considering a relocation should:

· Do your due diligence. Make sure you research the financial health of the company and that it appears to be growing and doing well in spite of the recession.

· Scout the new location. “There is always the possibility that the job may not work out after you take it, so have a backup plan,” Palmer says. “You should know ahead of time what the job market looks like for people in your field so that you have a reasonable assurance that you can find another job.”
Brooks says she and her husband may end up moving to Phoenix, since that’s where they not only own a home, but where they have the most professional and personal contacts.

“You still get jobs based on who you know. Anyone can get a job at a fast-food restaurant. But can that really support a family? You’ve got to think long term,” Brooks says. “We really don’t have any contacts in Birmingham.”

· Get as much financial assistance as possible. Palmer says that some companies will help you sell your home as part of a relocation package, which is usually a positive sign that the company would be worth relocating for. In Brooks’ case, she says that the move actually cost about $2,000 more than she was given, and that doesn’t include the $1,000 it cost the family to set up a household and pay for things like utility deposits. “My advice would be to ask for everything (in relocation reimbursement). It’s your future and your family’s future,” Brooks says.

At the same time, you may have to consider footing the bill yourself if you want the job badly enough, Palmer says.

“The industries that really need people – such as nursing, or the employers in states like Wisconsin that are really looking for workers – they may offer assistance,” Palmer says. “But I’ve also advised some of my clients that if you want the job, you may be able to sway them to hire you by saying you’ll pay for relocation yourself.”

Despite losing her job and now being saddled with two mortgages, Brooks remains positive about the changes facing her.

“I’ve learned a lot. I’ve come into contact with amazing people. This move was something we needed to do. So I’d tell people not to let fear tell you what to do,” Brooks says.

Lijit Search


Kathryn/ said...

Boy. This is a tough one. I left CA for NC where I had a client. What I didn't anticipate was the culture I arrived in. I kinda got it when my new hairdresser told me her mother in law always referred to her as "that Yankee." "When did you arrive in NC?" "When I was five," she answered, rolling her eyes. I think if couples move the transition is easier. I think age matters. If you are middle aged and the move will mean you lose a local network that took decades to build, think twice. I value the two years I lived in NC. I treasure the adventure. But I'm sure glad I'm back where I belong!

Anita said...

I think some people would just automatically assume that you should go where the jobs are, no matter what. But I think you have to decide if you won't actually make your situation worse if the job falls through and you have ZERO contacts, person or professional. I'd say if you do decide to move, based on all the criteria I've discussed, then you need to really ramp up your networking in your new location. Thanks for sharing your story -- it's a valuable one for people to hear.

David Benjamin said...

Another great post. I use to work on positions where re-lo was common and even in good times, it's a dicey proposition.

The point made about doing your due diligence, researching how many other plausible opportunties might present themselves if the original position does not pan out is a great one.

With the housing market the way it is, I strongly consider getting a relo package that covers all essentials and then some. If a company is serious enough about you to have you re-lo, they need to demonstrate their commitment in the way of assurances (awesome re-lo package). You have more to lose than they do.

Anita said...

I've also relocated many times for a job, and I learned that I always asked for too little. It doesn't hurt to ask -- and if you don't, someone else will. Companies do have relocation budgets, and if they want you bad enough, as you pointed out, they should be willing to be fair.

Marsha Keeffer said...

In any market, I think the smart thing to do is rent. If you own a home in an area you're leaving, put it on Craigslist so you can come back to it if needed. In the new location, renting affords you the ability to 'try on' new neighborhoods instead of committing and finding out skateboarders grind the railing outside your windows every morning. Always be prepared with plans B and C in case the job tubes.

Anita said...

Great idea! And,think about asking for the employer to pay for storage of your belongings for a certain amount of time, assuming you move from a house to a smaller apartment. It's often much easier to start a new job living more simply, without worrying about putting a house together.

Camellia said...

Even is you do due diligence, there are no guarantees. Last week I was laid off. From a contract that was supposed to last through 2009 and probably beyond. From a location 300 miles from home. Where I was told to look for permanent housing because this was a long term contract, so I signed a year’s lease and moved Lionheart and the family pets here to join me. From a large business that had been in business for 83 years, but is in a small town surrounded by nothing – the large cities (and closest other employers) are 3 hours away in any direction. From a project unexpectedly cancelled by the new CEO. Gotta make your mark in the first 100 days, I suppose.

So it's back to sending out resumes again. Will I relocate again? Well, I am the sole support of my family so...

Anita said...

I'm very sorry to hear what happened. It sounds like you did everything right, and things still went wrong. I think the only thing I hear consistently this year is that no one can really predict what's going to happen next, because it's all changing from day to day. My suggestions are to try and get a recommendation from your employer, and talk to your landlord about getting out of your lease -- possibly by giving 30 or 60 days notice? In other words, try and salvage what you can before you must move again. Please keep in touch -- I'd be very interested to hear how this works out. Good luck.

Cathy Goodwin said...

Wow...great to see a post on relocation! I wrote a book on relocation that is now available through: