When unemployment is high, job-seekers may need to go where the jobs are, "to make ends meet, to get on with their lives," says John Challenger, CEO of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. But don't move with the herd. Before workers decide to relocate, career counselors advise making sure they understand the local economy they're going to, and what they'd do if the new job doesn't work out as planned.
Also, make sure you understand what kind of help, if any, your new employer is prepared to give you for moving costs. Companies typically have standard relocation packages. Often, companies will provide lump-sum assistance to employees or help in selling a home. "Make sure you completely understand the policy," says Rich McClure, president of UniGroup, parent company of United Van Lines and Mayflower Transit. "It's important to understand what you’re getting."
"Our very recent experience has been that companies are less likely to enhance offerings related to selling real estate, overcoming deficit equity or loss on sale situations, or offsetting the cost of temporary living/duplicate housing expenses as a means of capitalizing on this trend," he says.
Before accepting a position in another location, make sure you do some homework on your new home, and know what you want out of the new job. "People react and grab anything…I don't think it's bad to relocate for a good opportunity, but understand what you're trying to do first," says Deb Bailey, a transition coach in New Jersey. Understand how this move will advance your career, and also think about what you would do in the worst-case scenario: You accept a job in another place, move, and for whatever reason, the job doesn't work out, she says. Ms. Bailey's advice: Ask yourself, are there other opportunities in the area? Or would it be worth it to stay in your current town, perhaps selling your home for a loss or living with a roommate and accepting a lower-paying job until the local job market improves?
On the other hand, "You really have to be in a career-management mode. If you're unemployed and the opportunity is in Oshkosh, if it's a good opportunity go to Oshkosh," says Dale Winston, CEO of Battalia Winston, an executive search firm in New York. "Otherwise, you want to base yourself in a center of opportunity." And if it's only a home holding you back from a job that could move your career forward, it might be time to cut your losses. "If you made an error in judgment in terms of over leveraging yourself, get out of it and move on. It's like credit-card debt…pay it down and don't do it again," she says.
When conducting a national job search, your willingness to move should be made clear upfront. Today, that also may mean indicating that you'd make the move with or without a relocation package. To keep costs down, get at least three quotes before hiring a moving company, and have each actually see the items you need moved.
For the average cross-country move with full moving services, including packing, loading, driving and unloading, the cost is roughly $6,000 to $8,000. And if you choose to do packing on your own, it'd cut the cost to roughly $3,500 to $5,500. In that example, the movers would load and unload the truck, as well as drive it to the destination. A self-service move would be roughly a third of the cost of full moving services, or about $2,000 to $3,000. That would require the individual to pack, load and unload items, leaving only the driving to the movers.