Conquent: Without Limits
Conquent: Without Limits
Kristen Fife's Blog

The Realities of Relocation

2013-02-07 10:26:48

There is a discussion going on over on LinkedIn about why so many people are moving specifically to Seattle. There are several people that *want* to move to Seattle but are not in a position financially to do so, and they are trying to find a job remotely with an employer that offers relocation. It's important to understand A) why companies offer relocation B) what it entails C) how much money/services may be involved in relocating a new employee.

Organizations typically offer relocation for jobs that are either highly niche (meaning very few people with the industry/position skills exist) or very high-level. Relocating someone has more downsides than upsides for most organizations. Usually anyone that accepts a job involving relocation needs more time before they can start a new job; it is expensive, and if you have courted someone that heavily, you have probably already spent money on plane/hotel for the interviews, and a sign-on bonus. Relocating isn't just about the prospective employee: it impacts their family as well. Leaving an established life including home, friends, careers, community ties, and schools if they have children. Every area has its own geographic culture, activities where people build their lives including religious affiliations, volunteer/civic activities, sports teams, involvement in the local art scene. Sometimes leaving is a blessing, but often if it is an uprooting. So the cost is not just financial, it is emotional as well. But for the right candidate, organizations are willing to provide the incentive. As a recruiter, part of *my* job is to help a candidate understand the local Seattle and Pacific Northwest culture. I'm probably as well versed (if not better) than real estate agents and Convention Center agents in all the aspects of living in Seattle! Relocation packages vary; they can be a lump sum that is enough to rent a Uhaul and cover gas or up to tens of thousands of dollars. The amount is generally determined by the base salary of the job and how difficult it is to find someone with that skill set. Most companies that offer relocation have specific tiered practices in place based on two factors: whether a new employee is a renter or a homeowner, and how senior the position is. I'd say the average (at least in the NW) tends to be between $2K-$20K. All the companies I have worked with that offer relocation work with relocation specialists for a fee.

If you are single without ties to any particular city/area, relocation can be infinitely easier and even a fresh start (that is why I ended up in the Northwest). The truth is, you can always go back. Cities rarely change much in a few years; people do. But the majority of organizations don't provide relocation below a certain level of expertise. If you are in an industry that has high turnover and doesn't require a very specific skill set, unless you are in management the chances that relocation will be offered with a new job are pretty slim. And, the truth is that there is probably plenty of local talent to fill that sort of job.

In this sort of circumstance, it is always easier to get a job if you either are already *in* your target city, or you indicate on your resume/profile that you are willing to provide your own relocation. That being said, there were several people on this conversation that were not making very much money, didn't have the savings available to them to get to Seattle (or any other city). Since I was in that exact position when I moved to the Northwest (I was in Portland, OR a year before I came to Seattle), here are some ideas on ways to make your "dream" come true; but be aware that you have to want it badly enough to make sacrifices and scrimp and save.

-Work 2-3 jobs if you need to and put the extra pay into an interest bearing savings account. Set yourself a goal and *don't touch the money* until you have achieved your goal.

-If you can, find friends/family members you can stay with in your new city and set a time limit on how long you would be squatting. In that same vein: join Couch Surfing (

-Look for jobs on Craigslist and through community resource centers that help pair the elderly with a live-in aid. You get reduced/free room and board in exchange for cooking, light housework, running errands with/for the home owner. Look for summer babysitting/nanny opportunities, or working in theme parks/seasonal industries. (Be prepared for background checks to work with the elderly/children.)

-Try house/pet sitting. Low cost to start, and dog walking can also be a great way of getting exercise and learning the local neighborhoods. During the last major financial crisis in 2000, I personally know two people that developed pet sitting/dog walking businesses and did better than most people during that time.

-Register with temp agencies. If you do it a national agency (think Kelly Services, Adecco, Volt) you may be able to change offices and still have a successful employment records; I did that when I moved to Portland and it helped me find a job within less than a month.

-Housing is usually fairly cheap in the University district of any large city if you share living quarters with students. They also don't generally have long leases, and if you move in with an existing household, you may not even need to go through a credit check and your deposit may be lower.

-Research to see if there is a hostel in the city; Seattle has several of them. They are much more popular in Europe but they are an economic way of finding a place to stay.

-Check out the minimum wage and use a cost of living calculator to determine if you can get by for a few months with a job in retail or hospitality until you find a something in the field you are looking for (these industries have flexible hours that allow you to interview during the day.) If you are sharing housing with at least 1-2 other people, you can usually keep your living expenses down.

As I pointed out in the discussion on LinkedIn, WA state has the highest minimum wage in the country (at $9.19/hour) and it is a living wage if you cut your actual living expenses down. Do your homework.

If you are on a tight budget, consider moving to a city with a good public transportation system; sell your car and take the train out. You can take more luggage on a train than on a plane, and it's generally cheaper (I moved out from Cincinnati via Amtrak to Portland.) You can generally survive on public transportation for a year in a new city. If you are driving, make your trip during the summer months so you can camp in national parks so you don't have to stay in motels the entire way. You can get from WA to FL or CA to NH in 3-4 days driving. If you have someone driving with you, you can take shifts and make it in even less time.

Many people need to start over at some point in their lives. It isn't always easy, it generally isn't cheap, but it can be done. Just be aware that sometimes you have to create your own opportunities.

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