The One-Way Road Trip: Moving Cross-Country for a Job

Relocation for a Job

I was born and raised a proud Virginia girl. I lived in the same small, farming town until I went to college at the best university in the old dominion state- Virginia Tech. And that small college town, 4 hours from home, was the furthest I lived away from my family. I branched out ever so slightly to go to graduate school and start my first job in North Carolina, still only 3 hours from home and near my mom’s family. While I knew I would never move back to my rural roots due to the fact there were no major colleges for me to work at there, I always figured I would find my way back to Virginia eventually. But life had other plans…

In the fall of 2014, I went through tough life changes that made me want to completely start over somewhere new. After the second consecutive overly-rough winter, I decided I needed to go somewhere it didn’t snow and decided on Texas. When my owl-loving heart discovered Rice, I knew fate was telling me it was time to take that giant leap. And here I am now, a year and a half later still happy with the decision I made but I learned a lot along the way.


Choose the right location.

There are many things to consider before making such a big decision and making sure you will be happy with where you are living is vital. If you cannot tolerate cold, don’t go north. If you thrive on the bustle of the city, you will not want to move to a rural area with little to do. No matter how great the job/pay is, if you are unhappy outside of work, it won’t be worth it. For me, I was tired of having to commute 30 miles to work and drive an hour and a half for decent shopping. I knew I wanted to be in a bigger city so I only targeted my search for opportunities in Houston, Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas. These were also all cities where at least one person I knew lived and having a friendly face nearby was important to me.


Express your strong desire to relocate in the application process.

An employer does not want to spend the time/money to hire someone who will decide after the offer that a cross-country move is not what they want. Unless you make it very clear that you intend to move there whether it is with them or another job, they may find it less risky to proceed with a local candidate. I made sure to note in my cover letter for Rice that I was looking to move to Texas and to talk about the positives I was looking forward to experiencing in Texas during my interview to show my seriousness about the relocation.


Do your best to interview on-site.

Visiting your potential future employer is critical. It helps you ensure that the employer is a good fit for you and shows them your commitment to the move. Most second round interviews are done on-site, but an employer may give you the option to Skype that second interview for your convenience.

If you are given a choice, go for in-person because it can be very difficult to sell yourself and allow your true personality to come through virtually.

Some employers may offer to fly you out for the interview on their dime, which is awesome so definitely rearrange your schedule to make it work. At the same time, they may not have the money to pay for your trip, especially if they are a smaller company. This is where you have to evaluate your interest in the position and company and decide if it is worth the risk of spending the money and possibly not getting the job. If it is somewhere you really want to work, choosing to pay travel expenses yourself will show the company your commitment and strong desire to work there, helping your chances but not guaranteeing you the job. If you just can’t afford it, you can still take the Skype option and still have a chance at getting hired. Do not go into major debt in an effort to find a job. If you do fly in, whether on their dime or yours, be prepared for a whirlwind interview. When I interviewed at Rice, I was in Texas for less than 24 hours. It could have been very overwhelming and affected my interviews had I not been mentally prepared.


Negotiate a relocation stipend and ask about assistance finding housing.

Many employers will offer a stipend to assist with travel expenses as part of the job offer for someone who lives far away. Even if you aren’t offered one initially, you can try to negotiate one; this is often much easier to get than an increase in pay. Even if it is not much, as little as $1,000 can make a huge difference when it comes to the high cost of moving.

Always ask your employer if they have a relationship with a realtor/apartment finder or can recommend one. This was a saving grace for me. I had no idea what areas of the city were safe, what would be most convenient for getting to work, or what would be a good deal. Rice was able to connect me to a realtor who could help me free-of-charge and got me set up with a great apartment on a short timeline (I had one month from the day I accepted my job until my start date).


Do what you can to make the move as easy as possible.

If you are moving straight out of a college dorm room or your room in your parent’s house, you likely don’t have too much stuff and may be able to make the move with just your vehicle or a small Uhaul trailer.   If you are like me and had an entire apartment’s worth of stuff to move, you are going to need something bigger. If you have a huge moving budget, there are many companies that will drop a giant pod in your front yard for you to fill and then they will deliver to your new front yard. If your budget is not quite that large, companies, like Uhaul, will allow you to rent their trucks one-way where you return it in your new home city.

I recommend doing a purge and moving with minimal things. If you can afford it, it feels good to start your new life with new things. I took only my bed and coffee/side tables when it came to furniture. All of my previous furniture had been hand-me-downs so I gave them to friends who needed them and purchased my first grown-up furniture (read: Ikea) when I reached Houston.

While you can tow your car behind the truck, I would recommend seeing if you can find someone to make the road trip with you. I was lucky that my mom was able to take vacation to help me and fly back home. If help is not an option, you can also hire movers on both ends to help load/unload the truck. One last recommendation: plan your route ahead of time and reserve hotels, rather than just winging it. You will have enough stress during the move, so a plan can help prevent additional stress.


Get settled and get connected.

Once you have made the move, furnished your place, and started the new job, you may think you are done. Not really! It is important for you to meet people to create a support network and get to know your new home. This can be tough, especially for introverts, but it is necessary to maintain your sanity and not feel as homesick. You can make friends at work, join a religious community, or start volunteering in the community. My personal favorite was signing up for Meetup and finding activities to do with people who had similar interests. This helped me not only meet new people but also explore Houston more than I would have on my own.

Scared to take the leap? So was I.

For many of you, you traveled cross-country or across the globe to attend Rice, so this is no big deal for you. For many others, myself included, this is a huge, terrifying endeavor. There were times I second-guessed my decision and wondered if I could really do it. That is completely normal. However, part of adulting is being able to take calculated risks for major rewards. In my case, it paid off. I am currently working in my dream job, in a city that never disappoints when it comes to things to do, and I have grown so much. Despite having not lived at home since I was 18, I didn’t really feel like an adult until I moved cross-country at 26. I always had my safety net just hours away and now I am finally independent and it feels good. While I miss my family and old friends, am sad to miss smaller family events, like birthdays, and wish I could visit more, the distance has actually created a stronger bond with family and friends because I can no longer take their physical closeness for granted. Plus, it is really fun to show them around Houston when they visit.


At the end of the day, the road goes both ways— if you don’t end up liking your cross-country adventure, you can always return home, but you could also end up falling in love with a new city and the freedom that comes along with it. When it comes to these big life decisions, have confidence in yourself and your abilities— You never know what could happen.

Kim Yackel, M. Ed., Assistant Director, Career Development at Rice University, Houston, TX

Authored by: Kim Yackel, M. Ed., Assistant Director of Career Development at Rice University, Houston, TX

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