Sometimes you have no choice when it comes to moving for a job. If you're out of work, have limited prospects, and don't expect things to change, then you really have no decision to make at all.
If, however, you're gainfully employed, or at least have strong prospects where you already live, your choice becomes more difficult. Moving for a better job makes sense, but there are a lot of factors to consider.
It's OK -- especially if you are young, single, and have no children -- to move simply to have a new adventure. Many people, though, are not in a stage of life where that's a good idea. For most people considering moving for work, a lot of factors have to be considered.
1. Evaluate the opportunity
Moving for a small raise may not make sense unless you were looking to move anyway. Consider the totality of the offer. Money is one factor, but maybe not even the most important one.
Will the new position come with an increase in responsibility? Will it improve your resume and employment prospects going forward? What are the advancement prospects at the new company? Do you like the people you will be working with?
Answer all of those questions honestly. And watch for red flags that might be even more important than lots of positives.
2. Consider the location
When my wife and I left Connecticut for West Palm Beach, Florida, she took a slightly better job in the same organization she had been working for. It was more money in an area where the cost of living was significantly lower. It was also a city where I could fulfill a dream of living downtown, in walking distance to everything.
What we did not consider was that the schools in our neighborhood would not be, to put it kindly, up to the standards we wanted for our now-14-year-old son. That has led us to a succession of charter schools and a tense lottery process, all in the hopes that he would land a place in a decent high school (he did).
Had we considered the full picture, we still would have moved, but we might have picked a city with better schools. In retrospect, it seems crazy that we overlooked something so important -- but it can happen, so be careful.
3. Consider the cost
Since my wife works in the non-profit sector, she was not offered any sort of relocation package. In theory, we could have afforded to use traditional movers, but that would have cost around $10,000. Instead, I rented a truck, grabbed a friend, and with help from movers on each end, drove the majority of our possessions from Connecticut to Florida.
Later, I did the same with both our cars, while our two cats were shipped via a service that drove them down in a modified RV. We still spent thousands of dollars, but we saved a lot doing as much ourselves as we could.
Had we not wanted to make a long-term change, moving may not have been worth it. Had my wife's employer pitched in for moving costs, the equation would also have changed.
4. Consider the next steps
If you move to Seattle or San Francisco for a job at a technology company, you know your chances of finding another position should something go wrong are high. If, however, you move to a city where employment options are limited beyond the employer offering you a job, you may face having to move again should things go wrong.
In some professions, like newspapers and radio, that's just a fact of life. In other cases, you may not want to relocate someplace where a lack of choices could keep you in a job you don't like that much.
5. Don't be afraid
Leaving a place you have lived a long time can be frightening. Moving away from family, friends, and your support system isn't easy, but it can be rewarding.
Try to make an analytical decision. Do what's best for you, your career, and anyone you are responsible for. Moving can be scary, but it can also be tremendously rewarding.