I recently relocated from Grand Rapids to Chicago to help establish a new Atomic office. As I approach my one-year anniversary of living in Chicago, I’ve spent some time retrospecting on why I made this life change in the first place. This exercise helped me tease out a few factors folks might consider when contemplating relocating for work.
1. What are your primary motivations for moving?
Just because the opportunity to move might be tied to your career doesn’t mean the primary motivations need to 100% lie within work.
It’s okay to seize a relocation opportunity for a variety of reasons. Perhaps you’re sick of Midwest winters and want to live in a more moderate climate. Maybe you’d like to live closer to your family. Do you have a hobby that is booming in a specific city? These are all valid reasons to move, even if the driving factor around the move may be a job.
Personally, I was simply looking for a change. My life in Grand Rapids was starting to feel a bit too monotonous. Although I believe Grand Rapids is a fantastic place to live, I had lived there for 10 years and was ready to experience something different.
Additionally, as I looked around the Grand Rapids Atomic office, I could not see a clear path of career growth for me within the office. This left me feeling a bit stifled both in my career and my personal life.
So, when Atomic announced the Chicago office, I was eager to jump on board.
My Primary Motivations
- New life experience of living in a big city (something I had never done before)
- New career opportunities and growth
2. How will this life change impact your family?
When considering relocating, family is, of course, a top consideration. Does your partner want to move? Can you see yourself raising a family in this new location? How might you cope with living farther from your extended family? Do you have pets to take into account (they are family too!)?
I am not married and I do not have or want children. However, I do have a partner I’ve been with for a decade. His family is in Michigan, and we have a very close relationship with them. I also have a dog and a horse.
When people first learned I was moving to Chicago, they’d ask me “Is your partner excited to move to Chicago? I assume the horse will stay in Michigan?” Most were surprised when I said my horse was coming with me and my partner was staying behind.
My partner does not thrive on change. In fact, I’d say he’s pretty darn change-averse. He wasn’t excited about Chicago. My dog and horse are non-negotiable. I would never consider a move where they could not come with me.
After discussing it with my partner, we determined it still made sense for me to move. Remaining in a situation where I felt stifled was not great for my mental health or our relationship. The last thing either of us wanted was for me to feel regret and resentment about pressure to stay in Grand Rapids.
Impact on My Family
- Long distance relationship with partner
- Cannot see extended family as frequently
- More difficult to find rentals with dog (pit bull)
- Logistical challenge of living in a city and boarding a horse in the country
3. What growth opportunities will exist for you?
I’ve been surprised by the variety of growth opportunities I have experienced since moving. I’d encourage you to think a bit outside the box with this one.
Consider what your job may look like in this new location. Are you able to negotiate and adjust what your job responsibilities are to better match your interests? Are there relationships you can foster at work that might help you reach your goals? Is there an entirely new role you could advocate for?
Don’t forget about your personal life too. If you’re an avid hockey player, are there multiple hockey leagues you can join? Let’s say you’ve always wanted to become certified to teach yoga. Will you now have access to a program to do so?
I was excited to help spin up a new office because it meant I would get to wear a lot of hats. I always loved when I could participate in the hiring process in the Grand Rapids office, so I was delighted at the thought of helping interview, hire, and onboard many new folks in Chicago. I also had thoughts on how to best structure teams and was eager to be part of the Chicago office’s team scheduling.
Outside of work, I was also quite excited to have access to an amazing dressage coach and trainer, who I knew would help me and my horse grow as a team.
My Growth Opportunities
- Wear more hats, have more influence at work
- Top quality dressage training and showing
4. How will this move impact your social life?
You may have noticed by now that I think personal life factors should be just as important, if not more important than the career factors when deciding if a move is right for you.
It is important to consider what your social life might look like in a new location. Do you already have friends where you will be relocating? Are you the type of person who can easily put yourself out there and make friends? Do you know your coworkers already, and do you like them enough to want to socialize with them outside of work?
Making friends as an adult can be hard. It is also important to be realistic about the fact that being new in an unfamiliar place can be lonely.
Many folks these days meet friends at work or while doing hobbies. If you know your coworkers already and would enjoy spending time with them outside of work, great! However, I also recommend putting some sort of plan in action to meet new people. Sign up for a dance class. Attend a trivia night. Join a neighborhood running club.
Because our Chicago office started so small, our group of people has gotten to know each other quite well. Our culture is welcoming, and I can genuinely say that we care about each other. I’ve certainly made friends with my coworkers.
I was also lucky to already have a few friends in Chicago prior to moving. Additionally, I’ve made new friends through horses (hobbies!).
Impact on My Social Life
- Opportunities to connect with friends who already lived in Chicago
- Made new friends via hobbies
- Made friends with coworkers
5. What will this move cost you?
Lastly, it is crucial to consider what types of costs will be associated with moving for your career.
There are obvious initial financial costs, such as hiring movers, renting a U-haul, flights, etc. There are other pesky financial costs too, like getting a new driver’s license, transferring vehicle registration, special city parking permits, and furnishing a new space.
Other financial factors to consider include a general difference in cost of living. Will you be paid based on local market data? Do your homework to make sure you understand what your monthly budget will look like with different living costs/salary.
Do also consider the non-financial costs, such as how your commute may impact your day. If you have a longer commute, does this impact when you need to leave the house? Will that impact when you need to wake up? Will that impact when you need to go to bed? Etc. Logistical things like this can have a chain reaction that greatly alters your day-to-day living and happiness.
Living in Chicago and having a horse has certainly stretched my wallet. My expenses are higher here, so I need to be very cognizant of how I spend my money — something I didn’t need to micromanage too much when I lived in Grand Rapids.
Additionally, in order to ride my horse four times throughout the week, I have made other sacrifices too. I drive 1.5 hours to get to the barn. This is three times the commute I experienced in Grand Rapids. My five-minute work commute in Grand Rapids is now a 35–50 minute commute to our office in the West Loop (depending on if I take the L or bike in).
Costs I Have Experienced
- Move itself was more expensive than anticipated
- Longer commute to work makes planning around dog’s schedule tricky
- Longer commute to barn leaves little flexibility for other areas of life
Is relocating the right move for you?
Only you can determine if relocating for your career is the right move for you. Introspect on what your motivations are. Consider what impact a move may have on your family and social life. Weigh that with both the growth opportunities and costs of relocating. Then, hopefully, you will have a more clear picture of if moving is right for you!