Every year, a new crop of “best places” lists emerges. There are best places to live, places with the best opportunities for job seekers, and even top cities for millennial entrepreneurs. If you’re job seeking or thinking about starting a business, these lists might offer tempting options to move to a market rich with opportunities.
But before you start packing, there are a few things you should consider to decide whether that hot city for startups or new jobs is the right fit for you, says Lauren Herring, CEO of Impact Group, a career transition and move-coaching company. And while some of the things that can make or break a move to a new locale are pretty obvious, other things that matter might not be what you think they are, she says.
“People in California, for example, think they’re happier than people in Cleveland, but generally, they’re not. It really comes down to who you’re spending your time with and what you’re doing with your time. If you can fill your life in the right ways in those two main areas, I think most people can find happiness in a lot of different areas,” she says.
Here are five key steps to take before you make your move.
Prioritize Personal Versus Professional
If you’re focused on growing your career, sometimes personal sacrifices need to be made to get to where you want to go, while other times, it’s all family (and friends) first, Herring says. Your first step is to get clear on the reason behind your decision.
If you have a spouse or significant other and children, it’s a decision that should probably be made together, and you also need to think about the needs they’ll have. For example, will your spouse be able to find work, and will you be able to secure the schools and other resources you need for your family? What will you do if your spouse can’t find work or if you have trouble building a new social life? Are you ready to tough it out until you begin to put down roots in your new home?
Take A Time Inventory
Consider how you like to spend your free time and what your new region has to offer, says moving expert Ali Wenzke, author of the blog, The Art of Happy Moving. If you’re a big Broadway show buff and move to a suburban area with no theater scene, you’re probably going to miss it. If most social activities include activities like hiking and camping, but you’re not that outdoorsy, you might feel out of place. Wenzke suggests making a list of how you spend your free time and researching the region to find out if it has offerings that will satisfy your leisure preferences.
Consider Cost Of Living
An area’s cost of living can affect your lifestyle and even your job progression, says career coach and recruiter Suzanne O’Brien, founder of career advancement consultancy LevelUp Careers. She says San Francisco is a good example. She says she has seen people come to Silicon Valley and spend six months looking for a job, only to realize that they really can’t afford to be there and have to move again.
If you’re moving to a lower cost-of-living area, you may be facing lower salary prospects. If you’re moving to an area where the cost of living is much higher, then you may find yourself strapped and unable to take advantage of networking opportunities. “If you miss out on the opportunity to go out with the director of your department because it’s a pay-your-own-way situation and you can’t afford it, you’re potentially losing an opportunity to get the project that they start talking about that night and comes up the next day in a meeting,” she says. “It matters.” There are a number of cost-of-living calculators online that can help you determine how far your salary will go.
Tap Your Networks
O’Brien suggests tapping your personal and professional networks as well. Chances are you know someone familiar with the region—or who knows someone else who is—and can clue you in. Is there a college or university alumni group in the area? Are you involved in a church, civic, or political group? If so, check out affiliates in that area, both for prospective contacts who can give you information, but also to be sure that the organizations important to you are located there.
While it’s a good idea to visit an area before you decide to move there, it’s tough to get the real nitty gritty on an area from a short trip, Wenzke says. Even though online forums and message boards may seem dated, she says they can be a wealth of information, especially if you scroll back through archives. Locally focused social media like Nextdoor, Topix, or community-specific Facebook pages can also be good resources. In addition, check out Meetup to see if there are any active groups in the area that might offer an opportunity to make new friends.