Making the Move Elsewhere

Those contemplating relocation advised to look before they leap.

Given the depressed economy and the hypercompetitive IT job market, its not surprising that a growing number of underemployed workers are considering relocating to find a job.

But, say experts, its important to look before you leap. How should you research a move to ensure it will result in career and salary advancement—or even net you a job?

For one thing, said Carol Covin, author of "The Best Computer Jobs in America," a nationwide guide to companies that hire technology professionals, its a good idea to begin your relocation planning one or two years in advance. Long-term planning, said Covin, should be focused on enhancing your name recognition. Speaking at conferences or working on standards bodies can help.

Between six and 12 months before relocating, Covin recommends that IT professionals begin to join professional associations in the new, targeted geography as well as local alumni chapters of their alma maters. (For a sample of such organizations, see "Tips on Relocating.") Members of these groups can provide job leads and give insight into the health of local companies and industries.

And about six months before making the move, you should begin to talk to recruiters and update your résumé and Web page, Covin said. In addition, perhaps most important, target companies you want to work for. The key there, said Covin, is to study which industries are thriving and, therefore, most likely to represent good employment potential.

Covin has analyzed Inc magazines annual Inc 500 list of the fastest-growing medium-size businesses to determine which industries are shining. What she found should offer a glimmer of hope to IT workers.

"The thing that struck me most when I first started looking at this list was how many of the [thriving] companies offered technical services or products," said Covin, in Bristow, Va. "Software and technical services alone represent 42 percent of the companies. When you add in telecom and hardware, that brings it up to 47 percent. IT people can take some comfort in the fact that, even in this down economy, nearly half of the small, high-growth companies represented by the Inc 500 are providing technical products or services."

Apart from technical services and products companies, Covin said that services is a healthy sector: Staffing services, for example, represent 4 percent of the companies on the Inc 500 list. Combined with companies that lease equipment (1 percent) and companies that provide other miscellaneous services (16 percent), its apparent that services constitute a substantial proportion of thriving companies, supporting Covins assertion that companies are buying services rather than adding staff or purchasing equipment.

Other growth industries include mortgage banking, thanks to low interest rates; defense, due to homeland security needs; and health care, assisted living, and health and life insurance sectors, which are growing due to an aging baby boomer population. All these industries spawn IT jobs.

Identifying growth industries will also naturally lead to concentration on hot spots for relocation. The defense industry, for example, is clustered in northern Virginia and around Washingtons Beltway. Southern California is becoming an epicenter for the health care industry. And health- and life-insurance-related IT job opportunities will be most abundant in the Northeast.

A note of caution: If you do make up your mind to move, dont assume companies will foot the bill. Because of budget crunches, companies arent paying relocation expenses as they once did.

"People considering relocating have to factor in the possibility theyll have to pay their own expenses," Covin said.