5 Things You Should Know Before Relocating for a Job

You go where the jobs are, right? And sometimes the job isn't within commuting distance from your home and you need to relocate. While to some people, it's an easy decision—of course you move for the job! To others, it's absolutely unthinkable to move away from “home,” and no amount of promotion, prestige or even ability to pay the bills will change that.

If you've been offered a job far away from where you live, here are 5 things to think about before accepting the offer.

1. Relocation contracts are legal documents. If the company is paying any part of your relocation costs, they will probably have a document for you to sign which states all the details. This is a legal document and if you sign it, you'll be legally bound by the terms. Don't assume that it's just a nice list of things, or that no one would really ever enforce it. They can and will enforce it. Don't sign it (and don't take the job) if you're not willing to live up to the terms of the relocation contract.

2. Repayment is usually required if you quit—and sometimes if you're fired. Most relocation contracts require you to stay for a period of 1 to 2 years. Some are longer. If you quit in that time frame you'll have to repay at least part. (It's usually pro-rated, so if your contract is for 2 years, and you quit after 1, you repay 50 percent.) But, if you're fired for cause? (Cause means you did something really bad, like stealing or sexually harassing someone.) You'll also be expected to repay. Read the contract carefully, because some of them also require repayment if you're laid off. My recommendation? Don't sign a contract that has that clause. As for it to be rewritten to cover termination for cause only. A business that won't make that change isn't a reputable business.

3. Moving can be harder than you think. If you were raised in a military family that relocated every 2 years, you've probably got no fears about taking a new job on the other side of the country—or even the other side of the world. But, if you grew up down the street from grandma and all your cousin and still get together with your friends from high school, moving someplace new can be extremely difficult. It's not that you can't do it, and that it won't be a great experience, it's just that it's hard. Join a church or social group as soon as possible. Moving during the school year can actually be easier than moving in the summer because the kids get forced into social situations immediately and can make friends, instead of spending June through August staring out the window, wishing they had friends.

4. Don't forget your spouse and kids! It's not just your job, it's your spouse's. Oh, sure, your spouse stays home with the kids, no problem, right! Well, no. The whole family is affected by a move and some of the really hard stuff is done by the trailing spouse. Quitting a current job and having to find a new job? Hard. Establishing a new house? Hard. Figuring out a reputable plumber, electrician, and babysitter? Hard. You have the new job and go off to work, leaving your trailing spouse to do all sorts of hard things, with no friends or family near by.  Your kids have to make new friends, figure out new schools and deal with all that change as well.

5. It can be totally worth it for your career.  People who are willing to relocate have many more opportunities than those who are not. It's a numbers game. It's also a commitment game. If you land a job for a big national, or international company, and you're one of the few who is happy to move from site to site for the next promotion, it makes you infinitely more promotable. Which means, your salary and responsibilities will grow faster than they would if you had to wait for the next position at one office.

It's easier now than ever before. Remember when Ma and Pa Ingalls rode the wagon out of the Big Woods of Wisconsin, not knowing if they would ever see family again? Well, those days are over. You can see your family every day, even if you're across the globe. The miracle of Skype, FaceTime and other internet applications make communicating pretty easy. Phone calls are cheap. Long distance? No longer a concern or something special for Christmas or birthdays. Even plane flights are not as expensive as they once were. (As long as you don't mind having your knees in your nose and your neighbor's arm in your lap.)

If you're offered the chance to relocate, sit down and think through it. Make a pros and cons list and give it some real consideration. It may be a great thing for you! 

This article is sponsored by Western Governors University, a nonprofit, accredited, online university. WGU offers online bachelor degree programs in business and online MBA programs. To find out more, please visit www.wgu.edu/wisecareers_business.

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