Is relocation the right move for your career, Grownups? Here’s how blogger Chonce Maddox made that difficult decision.
One of the scariest things about graduating college, aside from not having a professional job lined up, is having no job options in your career niche available for miles around. Then you may start wondering if relocation is right for you. This is what happened to me when I graduated with a journalism degree from a university in the Midwest a few years ago.
I did everything I possibly could in preparation to find jobs right out of college: maintained good grades each semester, networked, completed two internships, and worked with a career counselor to create a flawless resume. I participated in career fairs on campus and applied for jobs months before graduation. My efforts seemed in vain, though, because I was very unsure of what the future would hold.
Small Town = Few Prospects
When I graduated, I lived in a tiny town with my son and boyfriend. I made a lot of friends and truly felt at home there—but the job market sucked.
If you wanted to secure a decent-paying job, you had to land a position at the nearby university, work at a dead-end factory, or start your own business (and hope with all your might that it would be profitable).
As a journalism grad, there weren’t many options that paid a standard living wage other than the local newspaper, which was very competitive. Fighting with my former journalism classmates over a potentially high-pressure, entry-level job that probably paid $12 per hour was not worth it in my opinion.
The option of leaving my small but friendly town and relocating to have a better job market seemed tempting, but part of me just couldn’t let go: My boyfriend (now fiancé) was still in school and my son was already locked in for the school year. Plus, the cost of living was super low. I didn’t know any other area that would allow us to rent a nice and spacious two-bedroom apartment for only $650 per month. I wasn’t going to settle for a factory job that had nothing to do with my passion or degree, so I considered commuting if I found employment in another town.
The Work-Life Balance Struggle
Not having a job was stressful, especially as a young mom. I began to look for jobs in and around Chicago.
Downtown Chicago offers many opportunities for recent college grads, but the cost of living in the city is very high and can eat up a lot of your earnings. Looking back, I’m happy I decided against working in Chicago: It took me two hours to get into the city by car or train, and it just wasn’t worth working eight-hour days and commuting for several hours on top of that.
I did, however, land a job interview at a digital marketing company midway between Chicago and where I lived. It was about a 40-mile drive one way, and the position had a starting pay rate of $15 per hour. Earlier that day, I spoke to an employer in my small town that was interested in offering $11 per hour for a digital claims assistant for Yellow Pages.
The job description and pay left much to be desired, even though it was about 10 minutes from my home. When the digital marketing company called me back to offer me the job, I decided to accept and take the higher pay rate and longer commute.
Long story short: Commuting was a nightmare. I regularly ate meals in my car, was always on the go or stuck in traffic, and felt anxious because I knew I was wearing my car down. Not to mention, I hated the idea of not working at a location where I could get to my son quickly if he needed me. I gave up any chance of work-life balance while I commuted to my new job for the first 11 months.
The Case for Relocation
Five months after my fiance graduated college and couldn’t find a job, I broke down and pitched the idea of moving.
We loved our town, our friends, and the cost of living, but we wouldn’t be able to make a livable wage working near our home. Plus, I was starting to burn out from commuting.
The idea of leaving everything we knew and moving closer to Chicago to improve our job prospects was scary, but our student loans weren’t going to pay themselves.
Moving for a job or even relocating to secure a job requires a lot of expenses like renting a truck and hiring movers, putting down a security deposit or down payment, and paying for child care and school fees (if you have kids). Not to mention the variable expenses that seem to appear out of nowhere.
After it was all said and done, it was well worth it—we were able to increase our income and become more financially stable as a result, even though the cost of living is slightly higher in our new hometown. To be honest, I wish we would’ve moved sooner. Being flexible and determined regarding finding work, even when it took me out of my comfort zone, has proven to be well worth it after all.
Chonce Maddox runs the blog My Debt Epiphany and contributes personal finance stories to many online publications.
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