Image courtesy of Pedro Lastra
My husband and I relocated for his job in October 2019. We moved to a city where we had spent no more than 36 hours, in a different state, and we had very little time to do it. In fact, they needed him to start so quickly that he went on ahead and I moved up a few weeks later.
I got a crash course in relocating for a job, and frankly, in hindsight I’m glad that we had to do it so fast. We ripped off the proverbial Band-Aid and got it over with.
Here’s what I learned about moving to a new city for a job, and what needs to be done before you go.
1. Relocation assistance
Find out if the company will pay for you to relocate. This is typically something discussed during the interview process or very close to the end, as part of the job offer negotiation.
What the company will pay for, and how much, will depend on company policy, how far you’re moving, the size of your household, and often, your seniority in the company. The size of the package, and often the terms, can often be negotiated just like any other kind of compensation.
The company, or the third-party administrator that handles the assistance, may offer you a lump sum to be used at your discretion, or they may require you to account for all purchases you make with this money. Others opt for a reimbursement method, where you invoice them for your moving expenses after the fact. The latter affects how much cash you need to have, so ask your contact how they will administer your funds.
Keep in mind that the terms of your relocation assistance may include a requirement that you pay it back under some circumstances. For example, if you leave the company within 12 months. Read your T&Cs, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
2. Closing up shop at your old job
Negotiate enough time before the start of your new job to give your two-week notice, and you may want to build in a few days off to finish packing up, move, and settle in as well.
Make sure your old employer knows your new mailing address so they can send your W2s and other tax forms. Say goodbye to your coworkers and make a plan for your last weeks on the job.
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3. The admin of life
You’ll need a place to live, of course. Some companies may have corporate housing where you can live temporarily while you find a place, but most will expect you to handle it yourself. The company may have resources, like recommendations for real estate agents or neighborhood guides.
When we moved in October, we were able to pop up to our new city for a long weekend as soon as my husband accepted the job (you may be able to get these house-hunting trips covered as part of the relocation package). We toured as many properties as we could find through Zillow and Trulia, and toured one house that wasn’t on the market yet simply because we had a third-degree connection with the neighbors. Ask your friends and family for tips. Check out city subreddits to get a feel for neighborhoods and schools.
One thing I’m particularly glad we did: Because we had so little time, we chose to rent rather than buy. After just a few months of living here, our perception of neighborhoods changed dramatically, and we’re glad we didn’t buy in our current neighborhood.
If you’re unable to make it to your new city, have realtors and landlords give you video tours of the property—and don’t forget to have them show you the street and neighborhood as well. Check out properties on Google Street View. If you have a friend or family member local to the area, ask if they’ll tour in your place.
Switch over your car insurance, renter’s insurance, etc. You’ll want to contact your insurance providers ahead of time so the new policies are valid when you move. You may also want to use this time to find a new provider with a better rate.
Many general practitioners won’t take new patients without an initial visit. This means that if you come down with a bad cough you can’t shake, like I did two weeks after we moved, you may be hard-pressed to find a GP who will see you.
I wish I had set up a consultation appointment with a family doctor for the first few weeks we were here. If you need to see a specialist on the regular, set that up too. Find a pharmacy nearby and have any recurring prescriptions moved there.
I’m quite accident prone, so one of the first things I find whenever we move is the nearest emergency department. Sure enough, after less than a month in our new city, we had a minor emergency (all is fine) and ended up in the ER.
Forward your mail. But don’t wait until the last minute, it can take a few days or weeks.
Something else I wish I knew ahead of time: If you’re moving into new construction, the Postal Service may not deliver to your home. Anything built or converted into a private residence since 2018 is not eligible for front-door delivery from USPS. You will need either a cluster box or a P.O. box. Contact the postal branch that administers mail delivery to your new address to confirm.
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4. Family matters
Daycares, private schools, and charter schools often have waiting lists, and all schools will require a lot of paperwork, so the sooner you start the process of enrolling your children, the better.
Meet with school administrators and teachers ahead of time (video chats, if you can’t meet in person) to discuss classwork and any special needs your kiddos have.
If you have school-aged children and are moving over the summer, contact their new school to see if they need to be working on summer reading or other projects to get ready for their first day.
5. Getting to know your new city
Ask your contact at the new company if there are any local publications or social media feeds you should follow. Use these to familiarize yourself with the area—restaurants, parks, events—and get excited about your new home.
6. Saying a proper goodbye
Make it a priority to say goodbye to your friends and favorite places. The last week in our old city, I ate at a different restaurant every night, had friends over to help me pack (feed them if you do), and took walks in my favorite neighborhoods. By the time I had to leave, I was sad to go.