Relocating For Work: Learn To “Interview” Places To Live

At some point in your career you’re probably going to have to relocate.  If you’re lucky, it won’t be far, maybe the next town over.  I’m not sure how lucky you’re going to be – we geeks have careers that tend to the urban areas, the cities, the centers.  Chances are a lot of us don’t live where we should or will, and will have to get packing.

Now if you have to relocate, short or long, at some point you’re going to have to decide where to go.  I like to think of this as “Interviewing” a city or town to find out if it’s right for you.  It’s just like a job interview, only you’re seeing if the place you could end up at is worth moving to, and no one is going to ask for job experience no one has.

I reccomend taking this approach wether the move is far or close – because even if a move isn’t far from where you are, moving after a bad choice is still a lot of work.

So, let’s get to it.

Step One: Know Your Requirements

Ever see a bad job posting?  Dumb question, there’s probably a few seared into your mind from past experiences.  Most bad job postings come from people that don’t know what they want.  So here’s the question – what do you want?

See, if you don’t know what you want out of a place to live, you can’t find it.  You’re not looking for a perfect match (you’re not going to find it) but you have to know what you’re looking for to settle for good enough.

EXERCISE: Write down the things you’re looking for in a location and even an apartment/home/rental.  Then rank them in order of importance for both the location and the living space.  This is a lot like writing a good job posting – and like a good posting it should have numbers, such as distance from public transport, etc.

Personal note – the above exercise taught me a lot about my own needs in planning a relocation.  A few surprised me (like I almost insist on living within walkable shopping, and would trade other things for it).

Step Two: Explore Your Options

Next up is finding places you can live – from a general area to a city to a town.  Depending on your situation you may not have many options (or your focus is more where to live in a given city or town).  Your options may also be driven by whoever offers you a job search or wherever you’re relocated to.  Few of us are as lucky as to have multiple living options – even in my own case, after layoff with a big severance package, I researched locations I’d want to live in, narrowed it to ten, then applied to jobs there.  Winner got me.

But wether you’re exploring many options or just figuring out how far you can live from work, you need to know relocation information.

Fortunately, there’s no end to online guides you can find online.  There are living expense calculators and city information and whatnot.  Those are great.  For a start.

So yes, go and check if your pay lines up and your living expenses are taken care of and what the average commute is and whatever  Towns, cities, apartment complexes, even shopping areas all have online resources to help you as well.

Oh and remember, my fellow geeks, guides to cons, bookstores, comic shops, etc. are great resources to find if an area is for you.  I unashamedly use that knowledge to decide on where I want to live.

EXERCISE: Using your goals, go online and find how you can get information about locations, cities, towns, and locations that are relevant to your goals.  There’s always some new tool and some resource to find.  It’s like looking at someone’s LinkedIn profile or portfolio.

Personal note – Even if you think you know an area, do research.  There’s always surprises.  Once when relocating I found a town I didn’t even know existed that proved to be perfect to live in.

Personal note – There are also relocation guide books out there.  If you’ve got to deep-dive on an area, say a big one, these are invaluable and worth the money.  Plus you can read them on the plane flight there.

Step Three: Experience It

OK you’ve got your list of the perfect place, you researched it and probably dropped quite a few options.  Now you’ve got to go there if at all possible.

I know that visiting a potential place of relocation can be challenging and expensive, but when possible, you really need to do it.  In my experience, there’s nothing like being there to really understand if it fits you and your career – or what part of a city you want to live in.

Take time.  Wander around.  Drive.  Visit stores.  See what it feels like.

To make it easier and cheaper a few things that can help:

  • If you fly or go somewhere for an interview, that’s an opportunity to explore right there.
  • Know anyone who lives there (if helps if you’re moving to a place with friends or relatives)?  Pay a visit (and save money crashing on their couch).
  • If there’s an event to attend in the area, it gives you a chance to scout it out – say a big convention.
  • Roll a detour into another trip.

EXERCISE: Look at your potential areas of relocation and see how you can get there.  The “if they pay for an interview” option is probably one many of us will have to rely on, but at least confirm it.  This is really just like you interviewing the location.

Personal note – This worked very well for me in all my interviews.  Taking the extra time, working out how to travel, really let me experience a lot of places.  Not only was relocation much, much easier, I even have options for the future or advice to give others.

Step Four: Ask People

Know how a job asks for references?  Well get people’s opinion on places.  See what they think.  Talk to people that lived there. Ask about it on Social Media.  Whatever can get you the boots-on-the-ground sense of an apartment, a city, or an area.

This has been an utterly invaluable technique for years.  Even when a potential area of relocation turned out to not be in the cards(say, I got a job elsewhere) I learned a lot and got useful information.

Besides, like an interview, asking people can tell you about all the things you haven’t thought of or seen.

Good Luck

Good luck in any relocation plans.  Give those towns and cities and apartments a good interview to find out what’s for you.

Besides, like any good skill, learning to “interview” a place to live is one you’ll want to develop.  Chances are, even if its not far, you’re going to move more than once in your career . . .

  • Steve