Once you get an offer in another city, you’ll probably do everything you can to see if the new job is in your kind of town. If it is, don’t say ‘yes’ right away — make sure the salary is enough to pay for your lifestyle in that particular place.
Your desired location might have all the amenities you can ever want close by, but that won’t mean anything if you couldn’t afford them. The trick is to get as much local pricing information as possible — everything from gas prices and rent to what it would cost to buy a cup of coffee and a movie ticket, said recent Chicago transplant Jacob Young, an SEO specialist and online reputation manager for Young Social Media. “Being that specific is really good because you can say, ‘Oh, when I go to the grocery store, I’ll know how much it’ll cost,’ ” he said.
Commodities don’t cost the same in Wichita as they do in San Francisco, and the things you regularly buy can add up quickly if you don’t account for them before you decide to relocate. “I have three things: grocery store, gas station and bistro — those are the three places I’m going to go to,” Young said.
He moved to the Midwest from Los Angeles last winter because it was better for his company to be strategically based in the middle of the country, while still having easy access to international flights. Los Angeles is relatively pricey, but so is Chicago. However, they’re pricey in different ways — and in Chicago you’re less reliant on your car.
In some place, especially New York City, you don’t need a car at all. Young said he advises those who are considering moving to the Big Apple to add up all their car costs and subtract it from the sky-high rents of Manhattan to get a clearer picture.
Rachel Dotson, a communications manager at the job-distribution company ZipRecruiter.com, advises her clients about relocating and draws on her own experience with sticker shock. “A starting salary of $40,000 is not the same in Los Angeles as it is in rural Michigan, for instance, as I quickly learned when I moved to LA after graduating,” she said. “I may have been making double that of my friends in similar jobs at home, but my rent was also three times higher.”
CNN Money offers a handy cost of living calculator you can use to compare different American zip codes. Dotson also recommends that job seekers consult the government’s Occupation Outlook Handbook where you can search by occupation. It includes information on everything from the nature of the work to job prospects.
Another key factor in the relocation cost analysis is whether or not the hiring company will chip in on the move. “Some of the well-established companies have a policy on relocation bonuses,” Dotson said. “It’s important for the jobseeker to understand it.” Some are offered on a probationary basis, where the new hire would have to forfeit the bonus if it doesn’t work out in the first year or two.
The key, Dotson said, is to bring the issue up with a little bit of finesse — during the salary negotiation makes the most sense — and to the right person. She noted that department heads typically don’t handle such matters and it’ll likely be up to a recruitment officer or human resources person. A good way to phrase it could be: “While I figure out the moving, who’s my point of contact?”
“Don’t be pushy,” Dotson said. “Be tactful and diplomatic, obviously, just like with all parts of the interview process.”