You’ve spent years working in Manhattan and have enjoyed the excitement and opportunity a big city offers. However, recently the cost of living and unstoppable pace have weighed on you more than usual. While you truly enjoy your job, you’ve been contemplating a move—perhaps to a more sedate and affordable area that has ample professional opportunities as well.
A new year or new season seems an especially apt time to consider such career changes. But before you make any big decisions, you first need to do some reconnaissance to evaluate the new city or town and ensure it’s the best place for you. Following are some points of consideration:
How will the move affect your job growth? Before making a decision to relocate, assess how the move would fit in with your professional objectives. Will it take your career in a direction you want to go? For example, if your goal is to work as a copywriter for a top agency, your chances are better if you live in one of a handful of cities—New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco or Chicago, to name a few. A move to Memphis might put an end to that particular career goal. You also have to consider whether you’re willing to give up your current position. If you love your job or work environment and would have to sacrifice one of these things to move, consider whether the trade-offs—a smaller town or better school district, for example—are worth it.
Is the place really ideal for you? It’s easy to idealize a new town or city, making it the answer to all your woes. But it’s important to take an honest look at the place you want to move—and a trip you took several years ago isn’t going to provide an accurate picture. Visit the city and surrounding region as frequently as possible. Ask friends, family and those in your network if they know anyone who lives in the area. Typically, someone has a friend—or a friend of a friend—who can tell you what it’s like to live there year-round. This information should help you weigh whether the area suits your lifestyle: If you’re accustomed to Southern California weather, the long winter months in Vermont may prove challenging.
Also consider the quality of the schools if you have children—or are planning to in the future. The local chamber of commerce will likely have useful information that you can access online. Websites like CityRating.com also can provide you with details about local weather, demographics, schools and culture.
What’s the cost of living? This is a huge consideration, especially when you consider the compensation you can expect in different areas of the country. Using a publication such as The Creative Group’s 2006 Salary Guide can help you crunch the numbers. (Visit creativegroup.com or call (888)846-1668 to request a free copy.) For example, based on the guide’s regional variance formula, a creative director in New York City can expect an average starting salary in the range of $122,625 to $220,500. However, the same person might earn only $76,000 to $136,700 if he or she moved to San Antonio. Before making any move, you want to have an understanding of the cost of living within a certain region, as well as the average pay rates and how the two align.
What are the other costs of the move? Of course, cost of living is just one expense associated with moving. Some companies will cover a portion of the relocation costs for employees, so it literally pays to try to find a job in your new town before moving. Or, if your present company has an office in the place you’d like to move, investigate whether there are opportunities for you there. Relocation compensation varies by industry, city and your position in the company, but some commonly covered expenses include moving, temporary lodging and travel costs. Some companies even offer assistance in selling your home, bridge loans for new home purchases or higher cost-of-living subsidies, but keep in mind that these perks are often limited to senior-level positions.
When you’re negotiating the terms of your new job, clarify what portion of the relocation expenses the employer is willing to cover. This is where research on regional variances and cost of living will be useful. Gather documentation, such as estimates from moving companies, airfare quotes and the difference in living costs, to use during your negotiations. Be sure that you ask for the final terms of the relocation package in writing to minimize the potential for misunderstandings.
Relocation can lead to both exciting new career opportunities and a better quality of life, but it frequently involves compromise. This is why making a move always requires thorough research and preparation. Once you ensure that the professional and personal aspects of the change fit your goals, you can be confident you’re headed in the right direction.
The Creative Group is a specialized staffing service placing creative, advertising, marketing and Web professionals on a project basis with a variety of firms.