4 things you need to do before relocating for a job

Relocating for a job can be thrilling: the prospect of new friends to make, new sights to see, and new experiences to have is enough to get anyone excited for a move. And you should be excited — it's a big change! At the same time, though, you have to try not to get too swept up in your visions of living in a fabulous new apartment or making waves as the office superstar. Before accepting an offer in a far-off location, you have to think practically.

After all, relocating is not something to be taken lightly. A poorly thought-out move can leave you feeling lonely financially stressed, and overwhelmed at work. But of course, it doesn't have to be that way. Follow these four tips, and you'll be that much more likely to avoid relocation frustration.

1. Look Up the Cost of Living

New jobs often come with an increase in base salary, but higher pay doesn't always translate to higher net income — depending on where you go, the cost of living may offset the bump you see in your paycheck. So before you jump at an opportunity, make sure you research the price of essentials like groceries, gas, and, of course, rent, then use all of this information to help you forecast a budget.

"Check out apartments on Craigslist to start, and see if it's a possibility for you — especially if you're at a more junior level," says Jamie Hichens, Senior Talent Acquisition Partner at Glassdoor. "Do the math. Does that salary make sense for you to live alone, or do you need roommates? What are the areas you can and can't afford? If you don't do your research then come back later, you tend to be sticker shocked."

Moving to a big city from a smaller area? You can almost definitely count on a higher price tag, but you may not want to write it off entirely. Research has found that the initial financial investment it takes to move to an urban hub can have long-term payouts in terms of salary and opportunities — a factor worth considering as you make your decision.

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2. Negotiate a Stipend

Some companies will automatically offer relocation stipends to those moving a considerable distance to their new job, which can help offset the cost of things like moving services, transportation, and apartment and housing deposits. But even if your company doesn't proactively offer one, you may be able to negotiate for one.

"Research your relocation costs and communicate this to the organization," Frykman advises. Emphasize that a relocation stipend would make it much easier for you to accept the offer. If they come back with an offer that's less than what you would like, it never hurts to counter with a higher number as long as you have good reasoning behind it.

Still not having luck? Try asking for a signing bonus instead, which Frykman says companies can sometimes be more amenable to.

"Often times with more junior roles, relocation is not budgeted in, but it is a good idea to ask for a signing bonus as compensation for that. Signing bonuses sometimes have contingencies, like you have to pay it back if you leave within one to two years, so that might make them more comfortable," Hichens adds.

And if a company absolutely, positively will not offer anything? "You just have to weigh the risk and make sure that it's really worth it," Hichens says.

3. Research the Commute

Once you've identified the areas you can afford to live, you can get a better idea of how you'll get to the office, as well as how long it takes. Google Maps, for example, allows you to look up how to get from Point A to Point B via car, public transportation, walking, and biking, and even calculate how long it will take during typical commuting hours. Again, a long commute doesn't have to automatically rule out any company — it all just depends on your personality.

"For me, I wanted to keep things simple and I moved very close to work. I saved time and money from commuting. This allowed me to focus on my job, which was helpful while I was learning where I wanted to live long term," says Matt Frykman, Benefits Manager at Glassdoor.

Also worth looking into is whether or not your prospective company offers a commuting program or benefits. Some companies offer commuting stipends, tax-free commuter checks, carpool, or even a shuttle service. If you have any questions, just ask HR — chances are, they'll be happy to chat with you about it.

4. Start Building Your Network

Moving to a whole new city where you don't know anybody can be pretty intimidating. And with all of the changes and emotions that come with a new job, it's good to have a support network to rely on when you feel like venting — or conversely, if you just want a fun escape to get away from it all.

Hichens recommends reaching out to anyone you know in the area — friends, family, acquaintances, former classmates, former coworkers, etc. You might even want to ask HR if they can connect you with some of your future co-workers.

"You don't need to be super close, but if you can establish a common connection, you won't feel like you're just coming out alone," says Hichens. "It's nice to know that you have a connection before you move. It will make it an easier transition versus just moving there blindly."

But sometimes, relocating to a new job means you won't know anyone there at all. In that case, "it's a good idea to check local meet-ups based on interests that you have, and really be open to putting yourself out there," Hichens says. You can also start researching classes, sports leagues, and volunteer organizations you might be interested in as a way to get to know new people. It can be scary to push yourself out of your comfort zone, but odds are, you'll end up a stronger person because of it.

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