Willing to relocate: should you move for work?

Last updated: August 3, 2017

When Abraham Singer graduated from his PhD program at the University of Toronto, he had two offers to entertain – one in Toronto, his home of many years, and one in Washington, DC. While weighing his options, he looked at several factors but ultimately two things made the decision for him. In Washington, he would be working at a particularly prestigious institution – one that would look persuasive on any resume. And while Washington wasn’t home for Singer, it would put him in proximity to close friends and family in New York City. He packed his bags and made the move.


The benefits of moving to a new place for a job are myriad – whether you’re relocating to Shinjuku or Calgary. In addition to the general sense of adventure and the opportunity to familiarize yourself with new cultures and neighbourhoods, it’s a chance to advance up the career ladder, explore a different aspect of your business, and learn new skills or even a new language.

“Having this kind of experience can really help with career advancement,” says Catherine Thorburn, a life coach in Toronto. “It shows that you’re flexible, adaptable and open to new experiences. That reflects really well on a resume.”

Still, many are reluctant. According to a 2014 Ipsos Reid poll, only one third of Canadians would be willing to relocate for work.

The moving equation

So what factors should be considered before taking the leap? According to Eileen Chadnick, executive coach with Big Cheese Coaching in Toronto, there are three major areas to consider:

Career: It’s important to consider how a move might impact your career, both in the near and longer-term. “If you’re going somewhere that will expand your network, that’s great,” says Chadnick. “But if you’re going somewhere more remote, you have to be very deliberate in how you stay plugged in for whenever you want to come back.”

Finances: Look beyond the compensation package to the relative cost of living to make sure you know what you’re getting into. “If you’re going from Saskatoon to Vancouver, your housing costs are going to rise dramatically,” says Chadnick. She also recommends pricing out other expenses, including the price of transportation, schooling for any children, and other essentials. Depending on the circumstances and relative seniority, some companies might pay big-time relocation expenses – everything from health insurance and car service to tuition for children and membership at private clubs.

Life: A move typically has implications beyond the individual, and Chadnick cautions her clients to consider family and other social implications. “I have seen clients whose families have a tough time integrating in a new place, and that can be very hard,” she says. Moving to remote locations or foreign countries can be particularly tough for spouses who may not be able to find suitable work.

Scope out your new city

For those concerned about making a transition to an unfamiliar environment, Thorburn has a recommendation: Take a test drive.

“I would recommend that people go to the new location and live there for a short period – ideally with their whole family – before they commit to the move,” she says.

For others, the right job comes along in just the right city. When Rebecca Shapiro, who moved to Toronto from Vancouver in February 2017 for a job with Intrepid Travel, she was already familiar with the city from a previous internship. “Professionally, Toronto was a better fit for me,” she says. “Part of me regretted moving out of Toronto having not given it a proper chance.” Shapiro was already charmed by the city’s diversity and vibrant culture scene; so when this opportunity came along, she leapt.

The bottom line for anyone considering relocation is simply to think hard about your priorities. Chadnick says that it’s a bit of a red flag whenever someone tries to make this decision by only looking at one dimension. “You have to think it through,” she says. “It can be a very costly decision if you’ve given up your job and home.”

But while advising caution, Chadnick also recommends being open to new experiences. “We need to pivot in our careers sometimes,” she says. “Don’t be so worried that you miss a stretch opportunity and even a new part of the world. It can be a wonderful career and life experience.”

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