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Relocating for a Job? 5 Things to Consider

Prime moving season is upon us, with (mostly) balmy weather and a new school year just about to start. While more than 3 million people in the U.S. move for work reasons every year, that number is climbing right along with the number of job openings in the current economy: 62% of employees (76% of them aged 18 to 34) say they're ready to move for the right career opportunity, according to a Robert Half survey earlier this year, with 44% citing higher pay as their biggest reason.

It's no coincidence that about 40% of employers are boosting their relocation budgets in 2019, in hopes of attracting out-of-town or out-of-state talent.

What the statistics don't reflect, though, is how many people pack up their families, settle down in a different state, and later regret it. "Whether, and where, to move is a complicated decision," notes Peggy Smith, CEO of Worldwide ERC, an online community of HR and relocation managers. "Often, people don't take all the details into account ahead of time."

Those details can make a big difference, especially —but not only— when it comes to money. Before you decide to pull up stakes, Smith recommends taking a gimlet-eyed look at these five aspects of your move:

1. What will it do for (or to) your career? Even with all the almost-like-being-there communications technology at most people's fingertips now, moving to an office away from headquarters —even in the same company, let alone a different one— creates "a potential rift" between you and your colleagues, Smith says. "An element of 'out of sight, out of mind' means you will have to work harder to be remembered and included in decisions." You'll also have to work at establishing casual relationships with your new colleagues —the kind that lead to spontaneous hallway chats and last-minute lunches, which can be packed with useful information (not to mention valuable gossip). "Work is a social environment as much as it's anything else," Smith points out. Having to start from Square One "isn't necessarily bad," she adds. "But you need to be aware of it, and ready for it, going in."

2. How is the overall local business environment? Smith recommends researching the local job market in the area where you're headed. If the job you're moving for doesn't work out for any reason, or in another recession that rocks the whole country, how easy (or not) will it be to find other work nearby? Smith notes that many smallish cities and towns rely heavily on one or two large local employers, and if they run into trouble, it could slam the local or regional economy and "affect your job even if you don't work there." Not to be too pessimistic about this, she adds, but "never consider any opportunity without considering the risk involved and asking, 'What if?'"

3. Will you be comfortable in the new location? It's tough to do your best work if you're distracted by hassles outside the office that you didn't foresee. Smith says many people move with their eyes on a job and forget to look around at where they'll be doing it. A common mistake: assuming that living somewhere is anything like having been there on vacation. "What are the weather patterns? How's the traffic?," she says. "Try to spend some time there on weekdays, especially at rush hours, and absolutely do take advantage of the 'look-see' tours that many employers now offer potential transferees, or have a local real estate agent show you around. They're very often a great source of knowledge and insights about the area."

4. How will your finances fare? Moving for a big raise is great, as long as you don't discover that the pay is so high because the cost of living is, too. "Find out how far your new salary will go," Smith suggests, noting that the Internet is full of cost-of-living information —like Payscale's calculator, where you can plug in your new, higher pay and get a clear idea of what it will be worth compared to what you make now. Taxes, alas, matter a lot, and they vary widely from one state to another. Although a few states levy no income taxes, notes WalletHub's ranking of total tax burdens by state, "lower income taxes don't always mean lower taxes overall."

5. What's on your (and your family's) personal wish list? Whether it's a spouse who's into community theater, a child on the swim team at his or her school now, or your own passion for hiking, will you be able to replace it where you're going? "Be honest with yourself about what you need in order to be happy in the new place," says Smith. That goes double if you have special circumstances, like needing the right care for an elderly parent or making sure that a given medical specialty has practitioners within a reasonable distance. "If you have small children, visit the local school while classes are in session, so you get the real vibe," Smith suggests, adding that many companies now have "destination services" departments that can help you find particular personal must-haves. That makes sense. Employers don't just want you to move where they're hiring (or sending) you. They want you to thrive there, too, so you'll stick around a while.

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