Your Comprehensive Guide to Moving for a New Job (Without All That Stress)
If you’ve ever moved for a job, you know how many itty, bitty details are involved. Depending on how far you’re going—crossing state lines or just heading a few cities over, going abroad, or to the opposite coast—you’re going to want to be as organized as possible so you keep your sanity, along with your new job.
Moving for work is a different game than simply moving, typically because the timeline involved in taking a job in a new location is a lot shorter than when you decide on a change of scenery and then focus on getting the new position. Whether you have three months to get everything squared away or a mere three weeks, the comprehensive cheat sheet below will hopefully help make it as seamless as possible.
Ask About Relocation Costs
Like negotiating a job offer, this one can be tricky. A lot of people may be unwilling or disinclined to ask about financial relocation assistance because they don’t want to seem greedy or demanding. But ask yourself, what’s the absolute worst thing that can happen? You inquire about getting reimbursed for some moving expenses, and the HR person says that’s not something the organization does, so you say “Thank you for letting me know,” and that’s the end of the conversation. The job is still yours, and nobody got hurt. (Can you even imagine a company that would rescind an offer because someone asked for moving help?)
If it makes you super uncomfortable to broach the topic, then don’t. As one frequent job relocator explained it to me, “It definitely depends on how far you are moving and how scrappy you want to be.” That is, you can ask friends to help you pack and load a U-Haul or you can pay movers for all of that—in which case you’ll want to try and get at least a couple of thousand dollars from your future employer if it’s flexible on assistance.
Depending on the company’s budget—and whether or not it’s even willing to consider footing relocation costs for a new hire—you may get a padded offer, a specific reimbursement amount, or even a signing bonus.
One person I spoke with who had two relocations under her belt admitted that she’d never sought help. For one, she says she wanted to make it seem like she was planning the move regardless of whether or not that company offered her a job; it was important for her to compete with local candidates. In retrospect, she says that “there wouldn’t have been any harm in asking for relocation after I had gotten the offer—once they wanted me, why not?” She’s right about that. Never any harm in asking.
So, if you’ve decided to look into it, make that query one of the first things you do—after you accept the offer, unless, of course, getting relocation assistance is the only way you’d consider taking the position. Once you’re armed with that knowledge, you can move onto the next very important step.
Create a Budget
Do this even if you’re not a budget person or have never kept a record of your spending. Moving costs can and will add up quickly. It’ll be far better for you to have a clear sense of what you’re going to end up spending going into it, instead of not thinking about it and later getting an insane credit card bill just as you’re getting settled at your new job in an unfamiliar city.
One reason for doing this is that it’ll help you come up with a realistic number for your company in the event that it’s offering some kind of money up front. But, keeping track of moving expenses should be something you do even if you’re the one responsible for all the associated costs. The budget you create will enable you to decide what you can afford to buy now and what will have to wait until later. Some items will be non-negotiable (you can’t get by for very long without a shower curtain or curtains if your bedroom window faces the street and is on the first floor), but other non-essential things you may have to hold off on purchasing until you’ve digested the initial moving fees. The duvet cover and throw pillows in your online shopping cart can wait.
Include everything you can possibly think of when you draw this up: packing boxes, movers, startup cable and internet costs, gas (if you’re driving a vehicle), meals along the way, accommodations if the move involves a cross-country drive. But don’t stop at that! Once you have those figured out, determine what other essentials you’ll need to feel at home. For example, your grocery bill is going to be high the first month as you set about stocking your fridge and pantry. While you may be able to salvage some of your staples (cooking oils, spices, unopened cereal boxes), assume you’re starting with nothing. Don’t forget to include all the seemingly small things too: light bulbs, batteries, toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies.
One particularly seasoned job relocator I spoke with advises the following: “Bump everything up for the first month!” If it’s an international move, plan on an extra large bump, up to 50 or 100% more than you’d figure for a domestic move.
Become a List Person
Are you anti-list, or do you pride yourself on your great ability to keep running mental lists of both personal and professional to-dos? Now is the time to put pen to paper or finger to keyboard. With an exciting, new job looming, this isn’t the appropriate moment to rely on your memory. There are simply far too many odds and ends to consider for that. You’re going to want to save all your brain power to impress your new boss, not to remember if you changed your address at the post office.
Along with lists, spreadsheets can be a really handy way of keeping track of things; in fact, you could create an entire spreadsheet on who to notify of a change your address. While you can probably take care of most of this online, you will want to be comprehensive and diligent. We’re talking post office, financial institutions, health insurance, magazines you subscribe to, voter registrar, friends and family. And, because you definitely don’t want to get stuck paying for services you’re no longer using, make a list of all of the providers you no longer need. That’s gas, electricity, cable, internet and notify them of the date you no longer need service.
While you’re in the list-making zone, note all of the items you’re going to need that first week—from your toothbrush, to your air mattress, to your lucky jeans, to your coffee maker, even a few outfits for the office. Make sure to pack away these items in a box that you can easily access right away. As much as you might think you’ll be able to unpack quickly, you should be prepared to be very busy that first week (not to mention exhausted). You don’t want to have to say no to drinks with your new team because you have to go home to find that box with all your work shirts.
Start Building Your Network
When I moved to NYC fresh out of graduate school, I had several friends who’d been living there for years, and while I was psyched to have a community of people off the bat, I was reluctant to insert myself into their already bustling lives. I wanted to hang out with them on weekends and grab a drink with them on a random Thursday night, but I didn’t intend to make plans with them five days a week.
And so I did everything I could to make some new friends and begin building my own network. My grandmother’s college roommate who’d been living in NYC for nearly 50 years? I looked her up, and she quickly became my movie and theater pal. My sister’s good friend from high school? I emailed her and asked if she wanted to grab dinner one night. Fast forward eight years, and I was in her wedding party. I joined a running group and met people there who’ve become lifelong buds.
If you like sports, consider joining a recreational league. An experienced mover notes that “It's a really good way to make actual friends instead of relying on meeting people ‘out.’” But these people can be more than just people you meet for brunch on Saturdays; consider them a part of your growing network.
Having a strong and thriving professional community is a huge asset, and it’s crucial even when you’re 100% content in your current role. To build a network from the ground up in a new city, get in the habit of saying yes. Make an effort to get out and be social. Moving to a new city can be lonely, even if you love your job.
And speaking of your gig, take advantage of your office’s social gatherings—having pals around the workplace can easily turn a stressful day around, and getting to know your co-workers is a great way to quickly expand your network. So even if you’re more introverted than extroverted, go out of your way to accept invitations. You’ll be glad you did in the long run.
Locate All the Essentials
There are certain things which you should never show up late for. A job interview is one, but so is your first day of work. Even if you interviewed in the space in person months ago and are pretty sure you know where you’re going, do yourself a favor and perform a dry run before you’re officially expected to report. Locate the best driving route, or figure out the easiest and quickest way via public transportation if you’re going to be relying on the bus or subway. In addition, you're also going to want to scope out neighborhood essentials, such as the dry cleaner, laundromat, and grocery store.
You might be tempted to order take-out each evening, but your wallet may disagree with your inclination. At the very least, stock up on staples before your first day at the office. Coffee, milk, eggs, a box of cereal, lunch items if you typically BYO the midday meal. And don't forget to grab a bottle or two of your favorite wine or a six-pack of your beer of choice. Sitting down with a drink after a day of trying to keep the office's three Daves straight is something you'll have earned!
Make All the Necessary Appointments as Soon as Possible
Are you getting a new couch? Is your landlord stopping by with a second set of keys? Do you have to physically go to the DMV or be around for the internet guy? There’s probably a lot of moving-related tasks that'll require you to be away from your desk in the early weeks of your relocation. Do your best to arrange your appointments all at once so you can notify your manager in one fell swoop of your impending absences. I know when I have a couple of out-of-office requests in a given month, I prefer to send my boss one comprehensive email, and I'm pretty sure she (and her inbox) appreciate that practice as well.
If that’s not feasible or your moving needs demand that you be flexible—your kitchen table is now on backorder and won't be delivered on the Tuesday morning you planned to work from home—consider having an open dialogue with your boss and let her know that you'll do your best to notify him of your whereabouts as far in advance as possible, but sometimes, you may have to be out on shorter notice than you (or she) would like. Basically, the more heads up you can give people, the less stressful the ask will feel.
There’s a lot involved in job relocation, yes—and not least of all because you want to nail it at your first week on the job without thinking of whether or not you bought kitty litter. The many moving parts mean you should try to be as organized as humanly possible from the beginning. If possible, give yourself at least a couple of days (longer if you're moving a great distance or to a really big city from a tiny town) in your new surroundings before the job starts. But if that’s not an option, know that if you follow the above steps, you’ll be able to hit the ground running. Chances are, you’re not the first one at your new company to have relocated for work, and generally, people who have been there, done that are more than happy to share words of wisdom and advice. And that right there is your foolproof conversation starter at the water cooler.
Stacey Gawronski is the Senior Editor/Writer of The Muse. She started writing short stories in the second grade and is immensely grateful to have the opportunity to write and edit professionally. Her work has appeared in YouBeauty, Refinery29, A Practical Wedding, Runner's World online, and The Billfold among other publications. She enjoys running and eating in equal measure and lives with her husband and dog in Brooklyn. All three of them are avid New York Mets fans. Say hello on @stacespeaks.More from this Author