Dear Lifehacker, I'm looking for a new job. Should I move to a new city where I've heard there are lots of businesses that do what I want to do, or should I tough it out where I am and see what I can find? The job market here isn't terrible, but I feel like it might be easier to find work elsewhere. Should I "follow the money?" Thanks, Career Hunter
Dear Career Hunter,
There's no doubt that some locations offer better job options than others. In Australia, the reality is that there's far more on offer in capital cities than regional areas. The majority of Australians live in those capital city locations, but sometimes a move is necessary to pursue a particular career path. Here are some issues to consider.
Dig Deep And See What's Available At Home
Many people assume that because a city is well known for their field, they have to go there. That's not the case. Sure, if you want to work for a specific company, you have to go where that company is located, but even that shouldn't be a "move first, job second" kind of decision. If you want to work in tech, for example, you may be surprised at the options near you. Almost every company or office has an IT department, even if it's a small team. Remember that companies that don't seem like "tech companies" may rely heavily on IT, and need skilled work.
Do A Mock Job Search First
If you're certain you won't find work where you are, do a mock job search in the city you want to live in. Pretend like you live there and you're looking for work. Fire up job search sites and visit the web sites of the companies you're interested in. See what's available, and what you're qualified for. Check over a period of weeks to see if roles are filled rapidly or keep being advertised.
Look over those job openings and ask yourself if they look good to you, and whether you think you could land those positions, considering you'll potentially be up against some serious competition. You want to make sure you're qualified enough to find well-paying work, the jobs there are jobs you can actually get, and you'll make enough to survive.
Factor In the Cost of Living In Your New City
Looking for jobs in a new city is one thing, but making sure you can actually live comfortably is another. Check the city's cost of living to see if you'll be able to find a place to live and afford transportation. As a very basic indicator, check how much the rents are in your chosen destination. A high salary is meaningless if you're having to spend twice as much just to have a roof over your head.
Don't Forget Relocation Costs
Moving before you find a job means you'll be responsible for all of the costs, and you won't have a job to cover them. Even if you're confident enough to move before you find work, don't ignore all of the incidentals associated with moving long distances. Transporting your stuff, finding a place to live, registering your car, switching your driver's licence, getting around town and setting up utilities can quickly drain your bank account. If you're planning to live on savings until you find work, make sure those savings will last a long while.
The Bottom Line: Find The Job, Then Move
For most people, it makes sense to find the job and then move. You've already done a mock job search — consider doing the real thing from home. We're assuming you have a job already, so you have the flexibility to look around with a safety net. Unless you have a spouse or partner who can support you until you find work, or you crash with friends until you land a gig, moving without a job lined up is a recipe for stress and strained finances.
Looking for a job in a city you don't live in can be difficult. You'll have to travel for interviews — sometimes long distances — and do a lot of things sight-unseen. If the company is really interested in you, they may fly you out, or even offer to cover your relocation expenses. If they're not, they may insist you move before they extend a job offer. If you're going to look first, you may want to skip job boards and target specific companies instead. Network with people in those companies and state your interest. If you can make real connections before you even move, you may land a job before you go — or at least have a support network there for you when you land.
It may make sense to move first if you have big savings, you're dabbling in a new career, or you want to move anyway. Some people have skills or jobs that are so portable they can go anywhere. Most people, however, can't just move to a new city and then start their job search. It's important to look before you leap, and if possible, make sure you'll land softly when it's time to pack your bags.
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