Comparing Apples and Oranges: Cost of Living vs. Quality of Life in the Long-Distance Job Search
So, you’ve decided that you’re ready to take the plunge and make a long-distance move. You’ve updated your résumé, lined up your references, and dropped off your interview suit at the dry cleaner’s. Now, there’s only one thing left to do – decide exactly where it is you’re going.
If you’re a long-distance jobseeker who is more certain about the kind of position you’re looking for than the zip code you want to work in, don’t despair. In fact, your indecision is actually a good sign, according to the studies conducted by economist Richard Florida, author of The Flight of the Creative Class. Florida’s research has shown that relocating employees are much more likely to wind up in a place that suits them well if they put some serious deliberation into the matter beforehand.
Living to Work or Working to Live?
Outside of personal factors like proximity to family, there are two main considerations that you should think about when selecting a place to live: cost of living and quality of life. Although you can begin to get a handle on these two factors by using the cost of living calculators that are widely available online, the truth is that there is no magical formula that can determine which cities are exactly right for you.
Because each of us has our own unique lifestyle preferences, the balance between cost of living and quality of life is different for each person. It’s up to you to think hard about what you want and what you can live with and find out where you fall on the spectrum between these two points. Here are a few questions to help you get started.
What’s most important to you?
Set aside some quiet time for a brainstorming session. Start making a list of all of the qualities your ideal community would have. Don’t think too much about it; just jot down everything that comes to mind without editing yourself. Then, take a look at what you’ve written. What themes seem to pop up again and again? Are you a homebody whose idea of perfect happiness is spending quiet Sundays with your extended family, or are you an urban nomad who craves the excitement of life in a big city? Make a list of the five or ten most important themes you discover and use them as a guide in the rest of your city selection process.
How much financial flexibility do you need?
If you like to have a significant cushion of savings and you tend to lose sleep worrying about your bills, seeking out a community with a lower cost of living might actually be the best thing you can do to boost your quality of life. On the other hand, if you’re okay with some financial uncertainty and don’t want to sacrifice the cultural and social amenities of more expensive big-city living, cost of living may not be that important a factor in your job search.
Follow your bliss -- but keep it real.
The key to successful relocation is finding the community – and the job – that offers a satisfactory compromise between all of the factors that are important to you. Try to avoid accepting an unfulfilling, dead-end position in the city you’ve always fantasized about living in. Likewise, a dream job in a town you’ll despise might turn out to be more like a nightmare. Instead, hold out for a win-win situation that pairs a good opportunity with a community you can see yourself committing to in the long-term.
Keep an open mind.
Although it’s always best to think long and hard before making a long-distance move, there are many jobseekers who have taken the plunge on a whim – and wound up falling in love with a town they had every reason to expect they’d dislike. If you get an offer in a community or region you don’t know much about, try to arrange for an on-site interview. You never know – what starts out as a long weekend could turn into a lifetime!