Making the Move

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Posted by Liz Seasholtz on June 16, 2011
Making the Move

With new job growth slowing and unemployment on the rise, relocation has become more of a necessity than an option for job seekers. Being open to relocation not only leads to more job opportunities, but a positive experience can prove to be a great skill-builder and valuable long-term resume boost.

"Accepting different kinds of jobs in different places shows you are willing to try new things," says Hallie Crawford, a certified career coach based in Atlanta, Georgia. "You don't have to live there forever, but if it's a geographical jump that will get you to where you want to be in your career it's worth taking the risk."

The risks associated with relocation actually makes the year after college a great time to make the move, because the decision to get up and go carries more weight later in life. "Except college loans, you're not tied down to finances you'll have later in life, like buying a home and having a family," says Robin Ogden, career counselor and cofounder of FiredUP Careers.

Ben Stuchlik graduated from the University of Delaware in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering. A native to the Northeast, Stuchlik opened his job search to the entire U.S. and found a great entry-level job in the small town of Ponco City, Oklahoma.  He made the move and now, two years later, has been promoted to a position in Houston, Texas, which ranked third on Forbes' "Best Places to Live for Young Professionals" list in 2008.

Stuchlik's tenure in the dustbowl paid off-but before you start applying anywhere and everywhere, remember that it takes more than a great job to achieve happiness. Do a little self-exploration and investigation, using the following five factors to set some geographical guidelines that will help you make a smart decision.

1.  Climate choices

It sounds simple, but think twice before moving to Seattle if you like warm, dry weather, or landlocked Kansas if your greatest passion is surfing. Consider the weather and terrain you prefer, and search for positions in regions that don't stray too much from your desired climate.
Tip: Use FindYourSpot.com to get a list of the most suitable locales based on your preferences. If nothing else, it could open your mind to places you might not have considered.

2.  Cultural choices

Keep in mind that despite the many hours you devote to work, it is only one part of life. The activities you enjoy, kind of clubs in which you participate, and anything else that helps keep you afloat while drowning in work-these parts of your lifestyle should influence where you live. If you're a foodie always on the hunt of the latest culinary trends, it makes sense to move to a city. If you need post-work hikes for peace of mind, consider a mountainous region.
Tip: The best way to feel out a potential area is by talking to residents, so use your network to find local connections.

3.  Cost of Living
Undergrads often forget that although their $28,000 entry-level salary is more than enough to get by while living at home in the suburbs, it barely covers rent in Manhattan. Make sure you have enough to make ends meet by making a budget. Research salary ranges, as well as rent ranges in desired neighborhoods, transportation costs, and what you'll spend on entertainment.
Tip: You can easily research cost of living in different areas of the country by visiting chamber of commerce pages, using PayScale's Cost of Living Calculator, or by going to Sperling's Best Places. Sperling's offers zip code-specific salary averages, unemployment rates, and more.

4.  Opportunities in the area
There are countless lists that can help you determine where job opportunities are growing (or not growing), and the best post-graduation destinations. Check out Forbes' Best Cities for Young Professionals, Kiplinger's Best Cities (tagline: It's All About Jobs), and CNBC's States With Highest Unemployment Rates.
Tip: Further investigative research will help you determine where your specific industry is growing, such as "The Triangle" in North Carolina, which is booming for tech.

5.  Returning home
Be realistic about how far you want to be from your family and friends: If you plan to return home several times per year, research typical flight costs and consider living and working within driving distance or a near good public transportation line.
Tip: Add travel to your personal budget and join a rewards program if you plan to travel frequently. The most obvious option is a frequent flyer miles program for air travel, but Amtrak and Greyhound also offer rewards programs.

The chicken or the egg: the job or the move
Ideally, job seekers should line up a job before moving, according to Crawford. "If you can't line up the job quick enough, you can give yourself a time frame. Say, 'I'm going to look for a job from home for three months, and if I can't find anything, I'll move regardless,' " she says. Then follow through.

Keep in mind there are always exceptions. If you're trying to get into magazine journalism, it might make sense to move to New York City with friends and a part-time job while looking for something full time, because that's where the heart of the industry is.

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