If you’re in the market for a new job, relocation may be unavoidable. Depending on your unique situation, relocation may be the most strategically positive next step in your career transition. For most, picking up and moving across the country is easier said than done – especially when you have to consider the impact on a spouse/partner. A 2016 Atlas survey found that 55% of employees who declined relocation did so because of a spouse or partner’s employment. For the other 45% - what happens when your new job is in one location, but your partner’s job is in another?
If you’re in a relationship and relocating for work, your accompanying spouse/partner —the person who plans to follow you to another location because of a work assignment—must plan for a transition too.
While it may seem daunting to consider moving two people and their careers, there are plenty of ways you can support each other to ensure you’re set up for success.
Consider these six ways to make relocating with a spouse/partner smoother:
- Make the decision together – talk it out
- Consider creative solutions
- Leverage employer provided programs
- Know your legal options for financial support
- Create a plan you both feel great about
- Showing empathy and compassion for each other
#1: When in doubt, talk it out
Deciding whether or not to relocate can be a very difficult decision when you’re making it only for yourself. Involving another person, or your whole family, in the decision - and knowing your choice will impact their lives - makes choosing even more difficult.
When deciding to relocate for work, you’re choosing more than a new job or company. Moving for work means you’re making the decision to leave your town, your friends, and the comforts of familiarity to venture into a new city, possibly a new state, and sometimes even a new country. If spouses/partners plan to follow along, not only are they leaving friends, groups, and possibly family members; in most cases, they’re also leaving a job. In some cases, accompanying spouses/partners may have to face leaving a job they love.
Long before you consider a job offer that involves relocation - ideally even before you take an interview for a distant role - decide whether or not relocation is a realistic option for you and your partner. Knowing this beforehand will help you to narrow your focus and eliminate the need to spend time pursuing opportunities that aren’t a realistic option for you. It’s much easier to decide where and when you’re willing to move before you land your dream job, than to receive an ideal offer and have to turn it down because you’re not able to make the move. Be sure to discuss what you both need—whether it’s proximity to family or a set of experiences that will set you up for career success in the long run.
#2: Weigh the options for your spouse/partner
Just because a spouse/partner is “accompanying,” doesn’t mean they have to give up everything to support a relocating spouse. In today’s connected job environment, businesses often support relocation, telecommunicating, working from home, or working from a coworking office space. Before asking your partner to quit and run away with you to a new location, check on company policies to see if working remotely is an option. If your accompanying spouse/partner does need to find a new job, give ample time for your partner to start the job search process well before you plan to move, if you can.
Even though your own transition is stressful, you’ll need to reserve a little energy for your partner’s job transition and relocation. In the midst of all the change and chaos, take time to be happy for your partner’s progress and never forget to celebrate the small steps and achievements of both your careers along the way.
#3: Leverage outplacement programs
If you have been laid off from your past job and have access to outplacement and career transition services, ask your former employer about spousal outplacement. If your company is already investing in programs that improve employee engagement, protect the employer brand, and demonstrate commitment and loyalty to their transitioning employees by providing outplacement services, chances are programs for spouses/partners are included. For example, RiseSmart’s Accompanying Partner Program is designed to help laid off employees’ partners land on their feet after relocation with coaching, personalized job concierge services, and access to Spotlight™, its all-in-one job search platform and content library.
#4: Realize the financial and legal implications
As a consequence of deciding to locate, your spouse/partner may have to spend some time in the new city looking for a job. For couples relying on two incomes, there can be financial implications. In most states, there is financial assistance people who have chosen to move as part of a family unit due to the necessity to relocate for a job.
Before you assume that you’ll have to survive on one income for an undetermined amount of time, check to see if your state has a “trailing spouse” provision written in its unemployment laws in the interest of keeping the family unit together when relocation is necessary. Taking advantage of unemployment insurance for your spouse/partner can make the transition easier and less of a financial burden on the family.
#5: Create a plan
If you decide to relocate, create a plan to ensure your partner’s transition is stress-free. Work ahead by connecting with people in the new area and researching the job market. Then create a plan and a timeline that includes your relocation date and other important events, from choosing where you’ll live to a target date for both partners to be working again. While plans can always change, it’s helpful to have a plan to keep you on the same page throughout the entire relocation process.
#6: Remain empathetic
Empathy toward your partner will help mitigate stress and added pressure from the job search and relocation process. Time.com suggests “letting your spouse or partner know that you understand how much he or she will have to sacrifice.” The more compassion and gratitude you extend toward your partner, the smoother the transition will be for both of you.
Be ready to support your partner through the relocation process and let your loved ones that you’ll likely need to lean on them for encouragement, too. Searching for a new job, interviewing, and relocating can be stressful and require mental, physical, and emotional energy. If you don’t have a spouse/partner, find a support network to lean on both in your current location and in your new location.
Before you move, or consider moving for a job, make sure you’ve taken everything into consideration. If you can’t see yourself living there or haven’t discussed the impact it will have on your spouse/partner and your family, you might not be ready to move. On the other hand, when you picture yourself in your new town with a new job and you smile and feel excited, it might be time for a change.