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Moving Day

How to make the move without losing your mind

By Robert Shannon

It is at once a very exciting and a very stressful set of circumstances: You're graduating from college and beginning a new job in a new city. Your future-both professional and personal-lies before you and you couldn't be happier.

However, with change comes anxiety, and two of the biggest changes in anyone's life are moving and taking on a new job.

"I hate moving," says a human resources director for a Chicago-area company, who has relocated twice with her family. "Who doesn't? There's nothing fun about it. You look forward to being at your new place and in your new surroundings, but getting there? Ugh."

I couldn't agree more. I just finished my second cross-country relocation in 18 months. And while I've eagerly anticipated the new opportunities awaiting me, the journey was simply not fun.

As you make the move to a new city and new job, all you have to do is keep in mind a few key points, detailed below. Follow this advice and the transition process will be as painless as possible.

Ready, Set, Go!

As the saying goes: the devil is in the details. And nothing is more fraught with details than relocating to a new city. If you're lucky, your new employer will pay for (or partially defray some of) your moving costs. And depending on the company, they might handle some of the logistical headaches as well.

If your new employer is generous enough to make such an offer, typically one of two scenarios will take place: 1) The employer will cover all your moving arrangements, or 2) you will take care of the moving preparations and the company will cover the costs.

When deciding between job offers, don't underestimate the value of an employer that's willing to hire a company to move your belongings. When I moved from Chicago to Las Vegas last year, my employer hired a moving company; all I had to do was provide the company an inventory of my belongings and make sure they loaded everything on to the truck!

Most recently, I moved back to Chicago; this time I made all of the moving preparations myself. I had to find the moving company and deal with them directly, but my employer covered the costs.

If you go this route, you'll have to get your own moving company estimates. And don't forget to get references. I recently learned that when a moving company says that boxes are part of the estimate, wardrobe boxes are not. Apparently, I was the first person they moved who owned clothes. Make sure you ask plenty of questions and know exactly what the estimate includes.

Keep the lines of communication open with your employer. Make sure they understand that the initial figure the moving company offers is only an estimate and is not set in stone. Moving costs are likely to go up as unexpected fees increase throughout the moving process. If your employer provides you with a flat sum to use for moving expenses, budget it wisely keeping in mind that costs can increase.

Turn on the Lights

Moving day is just one aspect of settling into your new home. Be sure to call ahead and get your utilities set up in your new place. You can do this over the Internet. Just log onto your future city's Web site; there are usually links to the local utilities or a relocation guide. This is not a step you want to overlook, especially if you're moving to a cold-weather city in the winter. You don't want to arrive and realize you forgot to have the gas turned on. If possible, try to give yourself at least two or three business days in your new city before you start your job to meet any service technicians who need access to your new home.

"At one time or another you're going to run into something unexpected," the human resources director says. "The most common thing is just having to wait around all day for a technician who never shows up. You should make sure you're doing this on your own time, not your company's time."

While you're not officially an employee yet, how you handle the relocation process is one of the first impressions outside of the interview that you will make at your new company, so be professional. Don't be demanding or unreasonable. Know exactly what is expected of you and what you should expect from your new employer. If a dispute arises, don't overreact. Discuss it with your contact in the human resources department, and if you need some guidance, contact a career counselor at your university.

Stress Management

Don't downplay the anxiety that comes with moving. This is a very stressful time; you're trying to take care of all the details, get ready for your new job, and say goodbye to friends and family. It's difficult and sometimes overwhelming. You have to make time just to calm down a little. I found it helpful to block out an evening just for myself to read, channel surf, wind-down and re-energize.

Don't let relocating get the best of you. Think of it as large project for school, and approach it in a way that has worked for you in the past. What's brought you success in school? Are you someone who gets organized by making lists? Do you like to attack a project all at once or do a little bit at a time? Do whatever works best for you.

And realize that no matter what happens, no matter what you might forget, or what mishap might occur, it's not the end of the world. You will get there, you will start your new job, and your cable television will eventually get hooked up. Before you know it, you'll be moved into your new apartment, your feet will be kicked up on your coffee table and you'll be relaxing after a long day at your new job. Take it from someone who's been there before: it will all work out!

Robert Shannon is a free-lance writer in Chicago...for now.


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