Would you relocate for a better job?

In a perfect world, you would find your dream job without having to look very hard. You’d make good money, have great benefits, love your co-workers, and live exactly where you want to be.

Reality, however, is much different. You’ve probably spent weeks – or even months – trying to find a job in your city that meets all of the criteria you’re looking for – whether it’s salary, location, benefits, or the ideal industry. But only a few lucky people ever get the opportunity to find exactly what they want, where they want it. As for the rest of us? We’ve probably all gotten to the point where we start to consider relocating in an effort to widen our job search.

Just over four years ago, I found myself in a similar situation. I was living in my hometown of Victoria, BC, just about to complete a 12-month government contract position. I had applied to well over 20 different jobs in the city, and was getting discouraged. I was getting job offers for positions I ended up not being interested in, and was being rejected from the ones I really wanted. This led me to expand my job search not only to outside of my city, but also outside of my province. With only a few years of work under my belt, I thought I was willing to consider moving in an effort to gain more experience.

After weeks of phone calls and in-person interviews, I received two job offers – one was a marketing coordinator position for a non-profit organization in Vancouver that paid $40,000. The other was a communications manager position for a small city in Alberta that paid $57,000. The job required 5-7 years of experience, and I only had 2. But they flew me out for an interview, and when they called me a few days later, I was shocked that that they offered me the job. Even though I wasn’t exactly qualified, they said that they saw something special in me, and knew I could handle the job. To this day, that is the biggest compliment I have ever received during a job interview.

Logically, I should have taken the management position in municipal government and moved to Alberta. Not only did it pay (a lot) more, but it would have given me experience at a job (communications manager for an entire city? come on!) that I wouldn’t have been able to get for years (if ever) in Victoria or Vancouver.

But I ended up choosing the low-paying non-profit job in Vancouver instead. Here’s why:

Lack of a support network

It was extremely intimidating just thinking about leaving a place where I have friends, family, and a network of people that would be there to help me if I needed them. I’ve moved away from home before – to attend university in Michigan – and I was so homesick during that time, that I ended up coming home before I finished my degree. I didn’t want to leave, only to have the exact same thing happen. It wasn’t fair to me, or to my prospective employer.

Starting over in a new city

For some people moving to a new city is an adventure. It will take time to learn the city and the surrounding area, make new friends, and get comfortable. I knew that because I wasn’t planning on settling down in Alberta, starting over in a new city for less than 5 years just wasn’t worth it for me. If I was going to leave my hometown, I wanted to move to a city I could see myself living in for the foreseeable future.

Financial costs to relocating

Moving expenses can sometimes cost thousands of dollars – especially if relocating means you will have to fly instead of drive. Some costs associated with moving can be deducted on your tax return, but since you usually have to pay for the costs up front and get reimbursed later, many people looking for work just wouldn’t be able to afford it.

I was lucky that the employer was offering a generous $5,000 moving allowance. But moving all my stuff to another province wasn’t the only financial cost to relocation. I was a 3 hour drive from a major airport – meaning I would get less visits from friends and family, and I wouldn’t be able to afford to go home as often as I wanted. Living in Vancouver, my family and friends are only a 90 minute ferry ride away.

Opportunity for growth

With some occupations, only certain locations will offer you room for growth. As someone in marketing and communications, most opportunities are found in large cities. I knew that as soon as I outgrew the position in the town in Alberta, I would have nowhere to go, and would be forced to relocate again. I think it’s really important to weigh both the short-term and long-term benefits of any job, and where you could see yourself 5 or 10 years down the road if you decide to take a specific career path.

When I turned down the job in Alberta, they offered me more money to start, as well as a guaranteed raise after 6 months. It was an extremely attractive offer, and everyone thought I was a fool to turn it down. But you know what? Four years later, I’m still so happy with my decision. I couldn’t imagine how different my life would be had I chosen that path. I certainly wouldn’t have met so many great people in Vancouver. I wouldn’t be living in Germany, and I probably wouldn’t be a freelancer either.

With Statistics Canada revealing that there are 3.3 unemployed people in Canada for every job vacancy, if you don’t mind packing up and relocating to a new city, it might be easier to find the kind of job that you’re looking for. I wasn’t willing to do it 4 years ago, but I don’t think I can see myself living in Vancouver for the long-term, so who knows where I’ll end up down the road. :)

Would you consider relocation for a better job?

About Krystal Yee

I'm a writer, personal finance blogger, and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I'm a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner's Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I'm not working, you can usually find me running, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.

44 comments

  1. I relocated from Scotland to London for my current job which is almost 500 miles away. I did it in a heartbeat. If there is a great opportunity I would relocate anywhere. I think your argument to why you didnt take the job is flawed. OK you may have had to relocate again when you outgrew the job (providing they didn’t promote within) but you would have had experience in a job which you got 3-5 years early – hence it would have kickstarted your career in a big way. It would also look fantastic on your CV.

    That said, hapiness is the number one priority and it sounds like this may not have brought it to you… Life is about what you make of it afterall – career is only one part of a bigger picture

    • Moving to an enormous city like London is very different than moving to hole-in-the-ground city in Alberta.

      • That was one of the big reasons I didn’t want to move. Sure, it was a great job opportunity, but then what? Perhaps if the job were located in a city I was interested in (like Toronto or Ottawa, or even Edmonton or Alberta), I would have considered it. But a small town in the middle of nowhere? No, even now, I don’t think I could do it.

  2. When I first graduated, I was applying all over the country, but I only ended up hearing back from jobs within the GTA. I did relocate to take that first position, but it was only to another city about 40 minutes away.

    I would absolutely relocate to take my dream job. Even if that meant I had to remain apart from my fiance. I know that seems a bit drastic, but you only live once. You need to have a bit of a sense of adventure!

    I have a lot of friends who have moved out west to take well-paying jobs in Alberta, but they all seem to migrate back to Ontario after they have experience under their belt. You probably made the right choice staying where you were, but sometimes it’s fun to imagine how that alternative life might have played out.

  3. 6 years ago, we moved to our current city for my husband’s job. We are still not sure this was the right thing to do. My husband’s family is here but my family is back where we are from, 3 hours away. His family is small whereas my family is large so there is a lot less support here. Also, it has taken us a very long time to build up a (small) network of friends here. People here seem different than we are used to and it’s been hard to find people with the same interests and values. The cost of living here is much higher and even though we knew certain things would cost more, we didn’t fully anticipate the financial impact. Prior to moving here, we had no debt and after moving here we took on a lot of debt just to stay afloat! Now we are finally consumer debt free again but getting in and out of debt sucked. At some point, we may decide to move back where we are from but I don’t think we would ever move to a new place for a job again. My husband and I are both somewhat introverted- it might work OK for extroverts but it’s been too difficult for us.

  4. Great post Krystal, but somehow I feel that there is more a message behind this, do I hear Toronto calling? In terms of the financial/media industry it’s Canada’s hub, and filled with thousands of jobs.

    Hope you’re well!

    • Haha, well we’ve talked about Toronto, but if it does ever happen, it won’t be for a while. Nic doesn’t exactly like Toronto, but he understands that the city would offer both of us a lot of opportunities. That being said, now that I’m a freelancer, I have a lot more freedom in terms of where I can get my work done, so I will have more chances to come to Toronto (and stay for extended visits). :)

  5. I have twice and I would again, especially since my company paid relocation fees.

    Relocating is an excellent way to get ahead. If the company is willing to pay for it, that means they are putting a lot of faith in you. If you perform well, generally, it’ll be noticed.

    I also agree with some of the comments above, relocating looks great on a resume.

  6. We relocated from the UK to BC for my partner’s job offer. That was 6.5 years ago and I still consider it a great move.
    Would we consider it again? Absolutely but it would have to be a great job or a great place- to be worth it.
    Like Marianne says it can take a long time to build a small group of friends (any time after college I think). But my partner and I are both introverts and I think that was to our advantage- we were ok with having very few friends for a while, although it is definitely better after a few years when you have a group of people around you.

  7. I would definitely relocate, as long as it was to a city that I like. Where I live is extremely important. I’m in Toronto, so moving somewhere warm would be a plus!

  8. Not really. I relocated for my current job (on the companies dime!), but my motivations were largely personal anyway.

    Then again, when my husband is looking for tenure track university jobs in about a year, we are going to be relocating (probably). I’m OK with doing this for us once, but it will have to be somewhere I can see myself living anyway.

    • ooops, please forgive my poor grammar: company’s dime, not companies!

    • I totally agree. I’m not against relocating. In fact, I can see myself relocating from Vancouver in the next 2-4 years. But it has to be somewhere I can see myself living. I don’t want to live where I’ll be unhappy. Luckily, my boyfriend’s career is best suited for big cities too. And there aren’t that many big cities to choose from here in Canada! :)

  9. I think I would relocate for a DREAM JOB. Well, I am moving across the country to do my MBA, and then afterwards I’m pretty flexible about where I end up in a wide geographic region. Later on I’d like to work abroad. It’s a difficult balancing act if your partner is also grappling with the same issues, and it depends on if you have options in your local area or if all of your options are outside of your current place of residence.

  10. I absolutely would, but the situation would have to be ideal. The job would have to:
    1) Pay significantly more money than I currently make
    2) Be located in St. John’s, Halifax, Calgary or Vancouver
    3) Work out in my personal life (girlfriend, family, etc.)

    If it doesn’t happen, I’m not overly worried. Toronto is a great place to live!

  11. I’ve relocated multiple times for school, so it’s something that’s just “normal” for me. That being said I’d definitely relocate for the right job offer. I’m not particularly tied to one area and my folks live in Maine, which is far from everything and has no real job market. It’s hard to be so far from family, but there’s nothing I can do about it.

  12. This is something I am starting to consider. Since I can’t afford to live in Vancouver long term, I’m thinking it might make sense to start looking at jobs elsewhere. There isn’t very many open positions in my industry here anyway. Still, it is intimidating to think about moving to a new city and really starting fresh.

    • It IS really intimidating. But you know what? Even if I didn’t take that opportunity back then, I have left and started fresh before. When I was 17, I went to University in Michigan, and that was a really great experience. If you don’t see yourself living in Vancouver in the long-term, you should start to look at different cities that you would consider moving to. Maybe not now, but it’s good to know where you’d like to move to, for future planning. For me, I’d definitely consider Toronto, Ottawa, or even (maybe) Montreal. :)

  13. I have relocated in the past from Thunder Bay, Ontario to Victoria,BC. You mention the social network and this is important as an adult (as a young adult in your 20s I recommend getting as much experience as possible).

    We are looking at relocating possibly because we are starting our family and I remember growing up how important it was to have relatives around.

  14. I relocated for college, for internships, and for my full-time job. But for my full-time job, like you, I ended up not too far away from my family. My employer also paid for me to relocate here, which was awesome. It’s a great city and I would not have been making this kind of money in the city where I went to college.

  15. I relocated right out of university. From Toronto to Asia for almost 8 years. Now I’m working in Europe and truly do have my dream job in a great city and great workplace.

    Sadly Toronto has no jobs in my field.

    Moving and relocating was tough, especially cultural shock. But we are far more resilient than we think. I’ve enjoyed the travel opportunities, savings and friends I’ve made through it all. I can’t imagine what my life would have been like if I stayed in Toronto.

    I’ve got no regrets, family is just a plane ride away.

  16. New Zealand is tiny and I live in its largest city so the only other place in the country I’d consider moving to is the capital, which truly is an awesome city.

    Long term, though? I’m staying here – it’s where my heart is.

  17. I have in the past, and I’d definitely do so again if the job met my requirements (growth, salary, in a region I’m interested in living, etc.). Luckily, I did a bunch of moving around in my 20s, so I now know exactly what type of place/environment I’m looking for so that should help if I need to make this type of decision in the future.

  18. That’s great you never regretted your decision! I don’t think I’d relocate at this point in my life – I have great friends, a house and a life here but most importantly, I live close to my mom. My dad passed away a little more than a year ago and I always want to be close to my mom so I can help take care of her – especially if something happens. I couldn’t imagine moving away.

  19. Hmm, I’ve moved numerous times for jobs and none were really dream jobs. I did it to advance pay and/or career mainly.
    That said, I don’t think I would do it again. I cannot do it in the near future but I’m back in my home state where I want to be. I’m not giving up the beach easily!

  20. As someone who has relocated many times, both for school and jobs, it’s unthinkable for me to NOT having done it. Compared to people I know who have lived in the same city their whole life, I feel that I am so much more assertive, confident in my own abilities to make things happen, and resourceful. Your arguments against relocating for a dream job sounds like someone who has never done something trying to imagine what it will be like and talking yourself out of it. Yes it’s hard to start anew without a support network, but you WILL build a support network faster than you thought. The fact that you don’t have your friends you know from high school around to hang out with on weekends means you simply find yourself making more efforts to meet new people and explore the city. You simply have a more enriched life experience when you go out of your comfort zone and take a chance in a new environment. You would gain so much more valuable skills and life experience than the $2000 you would have to spend for relocation.

    (one caveat: This is different when you have family responsibilities, of course.)

    I usually agree with your philosophy and outlook, so I guess I’m just really surprised by this post. I guess this speaks to your risk-averse side, and why you’re so good at personal finance. But I’d just hate to have someone being dissuaded from taking that job in another city because of what you say here.

    • I love hearing about how others have cultivated a career far away from where they grew up, and I know that I will eventually move out of the city, but the west coast is my home. I went to University 3000km away from home, took a 4 month work-term in Northern Alberta during college, and now am temporarily living in Europe. I’m not here telling people NOT to move away (because I believe it’s fantastic), I just wanted to illustrate the choices we have to make in life – ideal job with a bad location, vs. bad job with an ideal location. Which do we end up choosing, and why? For me personally, I realized that, when faced with a choice, I needed and wanted to stay in a city where I could see a future. Why move somewhere you don’t want to be? Just for a job? That didn’t appeal to me at all.

      As for living in Vancouver, I truly did have to start from scratch when I moved there. The only person I knew was my (then) boyfriend. All of my high school and college friends were still living on the island. I’ve been here for 4 years now, and while I’ve made some good friends, it’s still nice to know that my family is just a boat ride away.

  21. Follow the money. Build wealth and the lifestyle you want will fall into place with the simplest of planning. It’s better than making a pittance in an obscenely overpriced city.

  22. I’m really fortunate that I was able to find a really great job, where I wanted, right after I finished school. I’m not sure I could move away from where I am now. A job is a job is a job. My life doesn’t revolve around my job, my job funds my life. My life here where I am now makes me really happy, and I couldn’t imagine giving up my house, the farm, the forest, the lake, all the things about here that I love, just for a job.

  23. I relocated to Seattle and moved 3000 miles away from my family– which was just a bonus in my opinion (love them from a distance). I have built a fantastic support network, met my fiance and built my career in a completely different path than I expected.

    Not having a built in support network forced me to be more independent and push myself harder to get out and make my own way. Totally worth it.

  24. As I benefitted from my great-grandfathers’ willingness to relocate (leaving China), I felt that I had to relocate when put in the same situation.

    Yes I am a 7 hour flight from my family and friends back in Toronto but my great-grandfathers were a few months boat ride away from their family in China. The sacrifice they made for our family allowed our family to be better off in the future.

    I felt that I owed the same to my family and the future generations, and at the end of the day, you can always move back.

  25. I moved from New Brunswick to Halifax for a job. In New Brunswick, it’s very hard to find a good job (at least in my experience!) in my field without being fluently bilingual. I speak French well enough to get by, but time and time again, I’d have a great interview and meet all the requirements for a job but lose out to someone who spoke French better. In Halifax that’s not an issue. It’s only a few hours’ drive from home, so it wasn’t much of a relocation in terms of distance, but it was definitely something I had to do in order to advance in my field.

  26. I would relocate for a job if only it was something I’m really passionate about… and of course, WHERE it’s located.

    As for job interviews, I’ve hired people that didn’t fit our initial job description too. I think hiring for passion is sometimes a good thing because training can be on-going and it’s a better investment if that individual is passionate because they’ll work harder (in my experience anyway).

  27. I would relocate for my dream job depending on where the job was. I’m a city girl at heart (born and raised in Vancouver), but post-Olympics, the job market has NOT been good for my industry. I actually moved to a different province this year to join my fiance (he previously moved for a job as well) to look for work because this city has better opportunities for the both of us, not to mention significantly better pay. As much as I love Vancouver and plan on moving back and settling there eventually, we’ve accepted the fact that we’d probably have difficulty finding work in Vancouver, and we’re okay with building a career elsewhere in the meantime. The city that we’re currently living in also has lower taxes and cheaper cost of living, so we’d be saving money as well.

  28. hahaha did they throw oil money at you to come to Ft. Mac?

    I would have been your support system in Edmonton girl!! ;) I really like Alberta (though I would never live outside of Calgary or Edmonton, small town life is just not for me)

    • Haha, believe it or not, the town was worse than Ft. Mac. I actually lived in Grande Prairie for a summer, and GP seemed like a complete paradise compared to the city I would have ended up living in. Maybe it was because I was flown out in the dead of winter, not exactly the best first impression. :) If it had been Calgary or Edmonton, I would have moved in a heartbeat.

  29. Nice article. It is definitely an issue that my wife and I have considered.

    Your article could use two edits to make things clear. First, you talk about the Alberta position and then go on to say that it required 5-7 years experience but the employer was happy to hire you with just 2 years experience. However, in the next paragraph you say that you should have taken the Alberta job. I thought you did! A simple revision like “The Vancouver job required 5-7 years of experience…” would help.

    Second, as a non-Canadian, I could use some perspective to understand the weight of the decision you were faced with. It is not immediately clear that Vancouver is close to your home in Victoria or how far away Alberta is. Also, I am not sure if you moved to Vancouver or if you stayed in Victoria and commuted to work in Vancouver.

    • Hi Ken – thanks for your comments. To clear up some confusion, I was qualified for the Vancouver job – the Alberta job was the one that required 5-7 years of experience.

      Also, as for the location of Victoria-Vancouver-Alberta in relation to each other, the majority of my readership is Canadian, so I write based on that.

  30. I thought about relocating, and applied for a couple of jobs that would require it. In the end though, I decided not to. I was offered jobs in my city that were good and I didn’t know what I would do with my house if I moved.

  31. No doubt, relocating can be costly and people should always spend a lot of time thinking about the decision before they make it.

    How much will the move cost? What is the cost of living in the new area? What will your new income be like? Is the job a secure job?

    All of these questions are great to ask. Thanks for an excellent post!

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