Easing The Stress Of A Job Move

Some firms have generous relocation packages but it helps if you look into what's available

September 14, 2005|By Anne-Margaret Sobota | Anne-Margaret Sobota,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

While movers carried furniture and boxes out of her family's home in Hudson, Ohio, Kate Baker looked wearily at her 4- and 5-year-old sons wrestling in the middle of the living room floor.

They had spent the morning playing hide-and-seek behind stacks of boxes and now needed a more physical outlet for their excitement about moving to a city 10 hours away in Maryland.

Kate Baker's husband, Ron, recently took a job with Perdue Farms Inc. in Salisbury, and without the generous relocation package the company had offered, Kate said, she never would have been able to handle all the costs and details - especially since her husband had moved a month earlier, leaving Kate behind to make final arrangements.

"I'd think twice about it before I'd move without the relocation package," she said, in between instructions to the movers.

Relocating involves many of the most stressful events that occur in life. Nobody likes the thought of leaving family and friends behind, yanking the kids out of school or asking a spouse to give up a perfectly good job. It's crucial to negotiate the best package for yourself and your family to minimize the financial and emotional stress of moving.

Most larger companies will have some kind of formal relocation package. Common elements may include moving of household goods, temporary housing and house-hunting trips.

The Bakers were able to make two house-hunting trips to Maryland and will have temporary housing until their home is built.

Many companies have a tiered policy, based on experience, said Joseph Benevides, senior vice president of Paragon Global Resources Inc., which helps companies around the world develop their relocation packages.

"They'll have a policy for college recruits, and they'll have a policy for new hires with little experience, and then they'll have a policy for existing employees being transferred within the company," Benevides said. "As you get higher up in the corporation, you get the maximum amount of benefits."

You also should do a little research before sitting down to negotiate, said Tony Lee, publisher of CareerJournal.com, an executive career Web site affiliated with The Wall Street Journal. Get estimates from several moving companies, ask friends or associates at other companies what their relocation policies are and know what you personally need to make the move worth it.

But be careful of broaching the subject too soon, Lee warned.

"Don't bring it up before you've received the offer," he said. "And if they bring it up before the offer, you've got to do your best not to commit."

If you're asked about moving during the interview, show you are willing. "I would consider it under the right circumstances" is a good answer, Lee said.

And if you were asked what the right circumstances are, come back with something such as: "So that it makes good financial sense for my family."

Family issues are at the heart of many relocation concerns, said John Challenger, chief executive of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an outplacement firm in Chicago. Many employees are worried about finding a job for their spouse, good day care or schools for their children and even care for elderly parents.

"Companies are trying to be much more responsive to the individuals they want to hire," Challenger said. "If they can meet [a need] for you, they will. It's very important to be open. That may be the thing that clinches the deal."

Just remember to keep in perspective what rung of the corporate ladder you stand on, said Paul Helm of Strategic Research Network, a business intelligence broker in Milford, Mich.

"You have to come as close to a realistic request as you can," Helm said. "But if you don't ask, you don't get."

Some companies will research and compare real estate brokers and neighborhoods for the person who is moving.

Perdue Farms took care of finding and arranging movers for the Baker family, which Kate said allowed her to focus on more important things, like finding a school.

"For me to find a mover and compare costs would have been overwhelming," she said.

It was also the company's relocation specialist who eventually found the Catholic school she chose for her sons and suggested a few good hair salons in the new city.

But the most important, and usually most costly, element of relocation is the sale of your home.

While it is rare nowadays for companies to buy a transferee's home, it is common for them to pay closing costs and real estate agency fees, said Anita Brienza of Worldwide ERC, a global organization of companies that regularly relocate employees.

Most companies will reimburse all the costs - aside from your mortgage payments, of course - associated with the purchase of the home at the destination location, Brienza said. But that may also depend on your current job level and homeowner status.

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