Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Lulu's Mailbag: Should I relocate for a job?

Intern 101 reader Joe asks:

I’m a recent grad. From IIT in Chicago. I’m originally from Florida, I had wanted to stay in Chicago but couldn’t find a job and have made the move back home to my parents in Florida. At this point I have my degree but I’m working a job in a completely unrelated field and can’t say I enjoy it at all. I’ve come to the point of applying anywhere and everywhere. After graduating I had high hopes of staying close to design, working with an office that familiar with the IDP process, a place I can really grow with etc etc….

I’m wondering what the outlook is for reviewing a resume from someone that would have to relocate 2000+ miles, a completely different scene. Say something like Florida to Washington State.

I’ve had one interview while living in Chicago for a job in Miami, after a couple emails back and forth with the office we decided to set up an interview. It wasn’t until after I spent $319 on a flight down, a great interview, and patiently waiting for a 2nd interview that the office decided that knowing Spanish was important(this was a topic brought up in the previous email chatter, at the time it wasn’t important at all). It was at my own expense to fly down and take the chance that I wouldn’t get the job, but somehow I feel this office flaked on its responsibility.

Excellent question, Joe, and it's one I'm sure interns everywhere are facing. First off, as an intern fresh out of school, you're not likely to get any help with interviewing or relocation costs. When I interviewed for a job with a firm in Virginia and a firm in Denver back in the spring of 2000 (when the economy was awesome and full of win), I did so on my own dime. When I accepted the job in Denver (where I still am today), I was told that interns generally didn't get any help with relocation expenses, so I had to pay for my own moving costs from Florida to Colorado. (My wallet still hurts a little from that 3-day trip.) My husband (then unknown to me--I met him on my first day at my firm) was moving from St. Louis to Denver, and that same firm offered him $1,000 in relocation expenses. Why? Three reasons: one, he had 16 months of well-rounded experience, in design, drafting, and construction detailing/CA; two, he was coming from a healthcare firm and had healthcare architecture experience; and three, it was a busybusybusy economy, and the firm needed good people fast, so it was worth their while to give an intern a cool grand to move a twelve-hour drive to help them out.

If you have little to no experience, I can pretty much guarantee you that you won't be getting any relocation help. However, being willing to move may give you a better chance of getting hired. If you're a recent graduate, then now is the time to move--I'm betting you don't have a whole lot of furniture, kids, wife, a minivan with a bad alternator, a mortgage...all those things that keep older, more settled folks from doing what you can do in your mid-20s. If you make it clear to a firm that you're willing to move and not ask them for help, you might have a deal.

However, I would do at least one phone interview (not via email) so you can ask questions and hear tone and inflection and get to know these people a little better. Job interviews are kinda like blind dates, and it's easy to sound good/appealing in email and then be horrible when you're on the phone with someone and realize that they're wooden, cranky, and can't think on their feet. If it were me, I'd also ask what kind of longevity do they see for the position for which I'm interviewing--if I'm moving from Tampa to Seattle, I'd like to know that I've got several months or even a good year that's practically guaranteed before I pack up the U-Haul. For example, if they're hiring someone to pick up slack on various projects around the office, that's a little less stable/guaranteed than if they need people to work on a major 2-year-long government building project or housing complex that they just got.

In the meantime, if you're living with your peeps and working in Florida, see how much you can save up each month. This will be handy for moving expenses, apartment down payments, etc., that is if you're not hammering down student loan debt. (You can always do a forbearance--no shame in it. I think just about everyone I know has done at least one forbearance on their student loans.)

If you have a question or a topic you'd like to see discussed here, feel free to leave it in the comments or email me at my address in the sidebar. Thanks!

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