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 Relocation.com 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.