Relocation Salvation: The Pros and Cons of Making the Big Move

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Reuters posted an article today about how most people are willing to relocate for work. Relocation means uprooting a familiar life in favor of a perceived better outcome. It’s a big deal, and if Manpower is right, we’re at a point in history when more people than ever are doing it:

Manpower said 190 million people worldwide live outside the country of their birth, or 3 percent of the population — more than at any point in history. Unlike in past waves of migration, more workers are making repeated moves, or are returning home after working abroad. Also, many countries are both destinations for workers and sources of labor, whereas in the past the movement of workers was largely a one-way process.

Majorities of employers in Peru, Argentina and South Africa, as well as Taiwan and India, said they were worried about talent leaving. Fewer than 15 percent said so in Ireland, Japan, Switzerland or the Netherlands. Only 1 percent of Chinese employers are worried about a national ‘brain drain.’

(Side note on that last statement: No kidding. I wouldn’t be worried either, if my potential employees numbered in the millions.)

So relocation is a worldwide standard. How do you choose whether or not to accept a relocation opportunity? Start by considering the following costs and benefits:

1) Money. You could get a raise by switching jobs. Or your industry could be booming in a different location—for example, if you’re in the nursing industry, making a move to Florida or Hawa’ii might not be a bad idea. If you move somewhere with a lower cost of living, but stay at the same job, you’ll retain more of your paycheck.

2) Career. Jumping around can give you a leg up–if you choose wisely. The first time time I chose to relocate, it was an impulsive decision that led to a dead-end career at a sagging start-up. Luckily, I found a new job and got back on my feet–$5,000 later. Careful consideration of where I was jumping to might have plugged said financial leak. (Something I only realized in retrospect.)

3) New opportunities. If you move to a big city, you may be able to make connections unavailable at your previous location. Big-time literary agents, for example, lurk in New York City. Conversely, if you move to a smaller town, you might be able to exploit your big-city experience to make a more prominent reputation for yourself.

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4) Keeping your job. Sometimes your choices look grim. As in, relocate, quit, or get laid off. If you like your job, relocating may be the only way to keep it.

5) A new life. Reinvention is a fundamental part of the American dream: The bum who became CEO; the schoolteacher who became a famous musician. Taking a chance at living this collective fantasy will provide you with tall tales for your grandkids—even if it doesn’t pay off. In the short run, a move might also refresh an unsatisfactory living situation.

1) Money. Moving is expensive. Finding a new residence, transport costs, and opportunity costs involved with losing time and friends add up. Fortunately, some companies cover moving company costs, airline tickets, and gas, helping assuage the damage to your checking account.

2) Career. It could just be a lateral move in disguise. If you’re moving for a new job, you run the risk of relocating into a dead end. Something that looks like an opportunity at the outset may end up being a bad move. Like what happened to this person.

3) Upheaval. Are you and your family in a good position to relocate? For example, are your kids at a school they love? Would it be a big sacrifice for your spouse to relocate? Are you in a climate that’s better for your health? Sometimes relocation pays in money terms, but costs too much when it comes to your personal life.

4) Leaving friends and family. Many people find it difficult to leave behind their close-knit circle of friends and relatives. Factor in commuting times and transport costs to visit them, and you may find relocation to be a raw deal.

5) Not fitting in. Relocation may provide you with a new dream destination—or a nightmare. To avoid moving to undesirable cities, some people choose to work in one city, then commute back home on weekends. The best way to avoid this exhausting situation is to conduct careful research on the destination you’re thinking of moving to.

I’m more of a quality-of-life person myself. I’d rather live in a basement in a location I love than high-roll somewhere undesirable. Fortunately, an increase in telecommuting might allow location whores like myself to stay true to our roots. All it takes is a convincing argument.

  • Great post. I personally can relate to making an impulsive move into a dead end job. Add in the tech bubble bursting and 911 and things were a bit scary!

    One thing to always consider is your backup plan. The most promising job can go south quickly. You need to be able to find another job without moving again.