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Seven lessons I learned from relocating to a new city

May 6th, 2009 · 4 Comments

Given the current state of economy and job market, I know a lot of people who are thinking about moving to a new city with better job prospect and lower cost of living.

Relocation is not easy. For most people who relocate to a new city, they will have to face two very stressful events at the same time: moving and starting a new job.

I relocated to Seattle four and half years ago after living and working in the Silicon Valley for more than a decade. I would like to share with you seven lessons I have learned from my own relocation experience.

Plan to stay in temporary housing for 60 days

If you’re going to live in temporary housing, plan to stay in the temporary housing for at least two months. Many employers offer 30 days of furnished corporate apartment/Extended Stay to their new hires. Thirty days is not enough. When I moved to Seattle, I was single with no family obligation. However, starting a new job in a new city kept me very busy. I was working most of the time during the week, and I only had time to check out apartments in the weekend. Plus, it took time to find the right housing and negotiated an acceptable price. You should ask for 30-60 more days of temporary housing — most employers will compromise and let you stay longer.

If you have kids, move to the new city by yourself first

When you move to a new city to start a new job, there is always the risk that that the new job is not a good fit. If you  have a family to support, you need to make sure that you’re comfortable with your new work environment. It’s much easier if you can focus on your work, and find a place to live during the first 90 days after you relocate. You’re much better off to leave your wife and kids home while you try to establish yourself in the new city. It won’t be easy, but I think it’s a safer strategy for you to leave the family behind for a short period of time.

If your spouse needs to look for a job in the new city, you should plan that it’ll 6-12 months for him/her to get a new job.

Some employers offer assistance to help new hire’s spouses in their job hunting process. Don’t bet on the employers’ "assistances". The consistent complaints I heard is that the employers are not helpful at all in term of helping spouses to get jobs. The resources they provide is minimal. You need to rely on your own resources to get a job for your spouse.

You should have a back-up plan

You might not like your new city for a variety of reasons:

  • The new job doesn’t work out.
  • Your husband/wife doesn’t like to live in the new city.
  • Your kids miss their friends. They don’t like the new school.
  • The new city is simply not “right” for your family
  • etc.

Don’t trust travel guide — you’ll only get to know a city after you’ve lived there for a few months. Perception is different from reality.

There is a good chance that you might end up dislike your new city. So, you need a back-up plan. In case you don’t like your new city, can you move back to where you come from? You should think about worst-case scenario, and have a contingency plan.

Rent, don’t buy a house in the first 12 months

It takes time for you to get used to a new city, and get a feel for its neighborhood. You need to orient yourself before you jump into the local real estate market. Take your time. Don’t give in to pressures from your family, friends, real estate agents, coworkers, etc. You should buy a new house in the new city only if you have the financial resources, you feel you’ve established yourself in your new company, and you’ve done some research about the local market. Given how busy you’ll be during your first year at your new city, I highly recommend that you rent for at least a year before buying any property.

You should definitely negotiate your relocation package

It’s much easier for you to negotiate your relocation package than negotiating your salary. Employers need to maintain salary parity, but they’re much more flexible in negotiating relocation packages. They wanted you to relocate to a new city. The knew that once you move to a new place, you will work really hard to establish yourself. And you probably won’t switch job any time soon. From employer’s standpoint, it’s smart for them to offer you a little bit more to attract you to relocate. So, you should definitely negotiate your relocation package. Ask for longer temporary housing stay. Ask for higher amount of relocation stipend. Ask for help to search for housing, find schools for your kids, or even sell your old house. You should try to get as much help as you can from you employer.

Leverage online and offline communities to quickly establish a personal network in your new city

You should proactively leverage the following tools/organizations:

  • Search on linkedIn and Facebook for friends/co-workers/alums who live in your new city. Set up lunch/coffee with them. 
  • Search your college/graduate school alum directories for alums who live in your new city. Initial contacts.
  • Go to MeetUp, and start attending a few local MeetUp event.
  • Join the local ToastMaster.
  • Join a local gym, and go to work out there regularly. Gym is actually a good place to meet people. 
  • Start attending a church
  • Join several local trade associations. Start volunteering and attending events.
  • Start volunteering.

Excellent resources on relocation:

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4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 larry_m // Jan 13, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    You do speak from experience so what better reference than yours? You didn't mention anything about the relocation process. Any tips on that? We're still having troubles deciding over moving boxes services…

  • 2 SpaceOdyssey42 // Jul 17, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    Thanks for sharing your lessons I relocated recently and had a few new things to learn

  • 3 woodworking ebooks // Dec 18, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    Employers need to maintain salary parity.

  • 4 remove hdd ok // Jan 10, 2011 at 5:05 am

    Thanks for your sharing!

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