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Moving to Find a Job

Looking for a city with more opportunity? Ask these 5 questions.

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by Elaine Pofeldt

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In an ideal world, you’d have a job lined up before moving to a new place, but that’s not always how things work. Maybe your mate has gotten a great offer to transfer to a new city. Or perhaps you’ve reached the breaking point at your job, can’t find opportunities locally, and decide to move to a city where the economy is thriving. A recent Gallup poll of 25 million people found that 36% of Baby Boomers and 44% of GenXers who are “actively disengaged” (read: dissatisfied) at work plan to look for a new employer in the next 12 months if the economy improves.

Such a leap requires a strategic approach looking at factors beyond local job options. “Moving is a lifestyle change,” notes Amanda Augustine, a job search expert with the online career hub TheLadders. “That’s the part some people forget about.” And, of course, you’ve got to have enough financial cushion to protect you if it takes longer than you estimate to find a good job.

See also: Rebuilding a Business in a New Place

Here are 5 questions to ask about a new locale you’re considering.

How does the cost of living compare to your city? Sperling’s BestPlaces offers a calculator that compares the cost of living in any zip code to the national average, as well as the local unemployment rate, whether jobs are growing or contracting, the average commuting time for residents, and the median home price.

You may be surprised to discover that a smaller community is more expensive than your current city, as professor Jay Friedlander, 44, and his wife Ursula Hanson, 46, a social worker, did while using the calculator to check out Bar Harbor, where they moved four years ago from Portland, Maine, so he could change careers from business to academia. “It’s a tourist town, and everything is more expensive,” says Friedlander. Being aware helped them prepare to make lifestyle adjustments.

What do other people in your field say about the job market? Join a professional association (or LinkedIn groups for people in your field), and ask members in your new location what the corporate landscape looks like, recommends Joey Price, CEO and chief HR consultant at Jumpstart:HR and author of Never Miss the Mark: Career Search Strategies Provided by HR Pros. Even if the local economy is strong, you need to know that it is welcoming for someone in your niche.

See also: Make Money as an Online Expert

How many job listings are there for people like you? Reach out to recruiters for information on the local job market, say career experts. If you haven’t cultivated these relationships over the years, find the right recruiters on LinkedIn. Checking out the listings for your title on job boards like Monster or CareerBuilder can give a broad sense of the local demand for people with your skills. “It is a good indicator of the overall health of that industry in that area,” says Augustine. Sites like PayScale offer a snapshot of the pay range for your title in a given place.

How many corporate headquarters are there? A city that’s home base to many big companies is likely to offer you and your spouse more high-level professional opportunities, says Stacey Hawley, a career and leadership development coach and executive compensation specialist at The Credo Company, in the greater Chicago area. Newcomers who choose an area that has local subsidiaries of big companies and smaller, entrepreneurial firms, often find that opportunities are limited when they look for a bigger, better job. “They end up moving,” says Hawley.

What's the job market for your spouse? If you both work, finding suitable employment may be a team effort. After Friedlander got a job offer from the College of the Atlantic, his contacts there introduced his wife to local counselors, who became a valuable part of her professional network, and alerted her to temporary opportunities, like counseling on a consulting basis. Knowing the career landscape ahead of time helped Hanson, who now runs a private practice, make a smooth career transition.

Photo credit: Jae Rew/Getty Images