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How to handle a long-distance move when changing jobs

Relocating across the country for a job can be a great opportunity—and a huge headache. Here’s how to get there in style

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Canada’s Best Jobs 2016: Man packing up and traveling for a new job

(Illustration by Aleksandar Savić)

The past couple of years have demonstrated that opportunity doesn’t just knock; sometimes it calls long distance. Alberta famously drew job searchers from across Canada for years, before the latest downturn in the oilpatch made the other provinces competitive again.

Even so, less than half of Canadians would even consider relocating for a job, according to a recent survey for the Canadian Employee Relocation Council (CERC). Canadian workers are notoriously difficult to move, in part because the country’s massive size makes the logistics such a pain. Even with a 10% raise, only 10% of people would move immediately, CERC found. But if you’re even open to the idea of resettling elsewhere for work, congratulations! You’ve got the upper hand.

“Most companies have a relocation policy and will provide assistance in many areas,” explains Stephen Cryne, president of CERC. It costs the average Canadian homeowner $53,500 to relocate—a very large sum to waste if they decide to move back in a year. “Any excitement to move will soon wane if the right support’s not in place,” says Cryne.

When he’s not moving employees himself, Alberta-based HR president Bruce Baker has relocated twice in this lifetime: First from South Africa to Toronto in 2001, then from Toronto to Edmonton in 2005. Guess which move was harder? “When you’re brand new, you’re expecting everything to be different and taking things as they come,” says the president of HR All-In Inc. “Once you’re already settled in, you’re more aware of everything that needs to be done.”

For the record, a quick list of things that need to be done: Sell or rent your current house, find your new home, squat in temporary accommodation in between, pack and move, close out old utilities, set-up new utilities, update your health insurance and driver’s license, ditto with banking and vehicle registration, deliver said vehicle to new location, ensure spouse and children have jobs and school/daycare placements, find childcare in between if necessary, settle everyone in. And of course, you’ll be starting a new job the whole time.

If you’re switching companies, be sure to negotiate your moving package in advance. “There will be provisions for moving, housing, even ‘miscellaneous,’” says Cryne, noting moving-related expenses like babysitting, van rentals, flights and more.“Depending on your seniority and how valuable you are to the organization,” says Cryne, “you can absolutely negotiate all of these.” If your company can’t sweeten your move financially, by all means ask about flextime, additional vacation days or just regular old time off to make the transition smoother.

Take it from Baker, who completed his 2005 move from Toronto to Edmonton with a four-week-old in tow—do not cheap out on perks. “Make sure you structure a concierge-type moving service into the deal,” he suggests. Destination services companies can help, such as WelcomeHome Relocations of Stouffville, Ont., which has 60 locations across Canada. “We’re the end-of-the-line piece of a relocation,” says president Judy McDougall. “We help people find places to live, get familiar and get settled in.” These kinds of companies help set up bank accounts, health insurance and driver’s licences, as well as register children for schools (they’ll even find you a local hockey team) and introduce families to new neighbours. “Lots of people think moving’s easy and that they can do it all themselves,” says McDougall. “Some can, but it’s much more difficult without any customized help.”

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