Several of my coaching clients have faced the same difficult decision: Should they relocate to Seattle to work for Amazon? They had worked hard to prepare for their interviews and ended up getting great offers. Now it was time to decide.
I’ve been through this myself. After getting my MBA over a decade ago, I moved to Seattle, started a job at Amazon, and got married. These were three major life events in three months. It was relatively stress-free, because we didn’t have kids. If the Amazon gig didn’t work out, I reasoned I could always move back to Silicon Valley.
But if you have a family with school-age kids and your spouse also works, relocating to Seattle is much more complicated. Moving is hard on a family. Plus, Amazon is not an easy work environment. It has high attrition rate. And prices for real estate in the greater Seattle area have gone up a lot.
On the other hand, a job at Amazon can give your career a significant boost. Amazon is a leader in several key areas: ecommerce, cloud computing, voice computing, digital publishing, etc. The Amazon name and experience can add a lot of value to your resume.
Amazon also pays well. Some of my clients received offers that were 20-40 percent higher than their previous salaries.
How should you decide? I’ve developed a six-step framework to help you figure out if you should relocate to Seattle for a job with Amazon.
1. Know what you want
Location, job content and pay are the three pillars of a new job. The chance that all three pillars align with your priorities is small.
If staying at your current location and minimizing the impact on family is your number one priority, then don’t even consider relocating.
If job content or compensation is your priority, you might want to sacrifice the location factor.
Knowing what you want will guide your decision-making.
2. Gather intel
Find out as much about the position and your team as possible. Ask the recruiter to set up calls with the hiring manager and key team members. Your goal is to know exactly what you will be getting yourself into. Questions to ask include:
- What will I be working on during my first 90 days?
- How will my performance be measured?
- Is my position a new one? Or was there a predecessor?
- If there was a predecessor, why did they leave? Did they do well?
- How am I positioned to succeed at this job?
As you’re gathering this information, ask yourself if you think you would enjoy working with the team members and the hiring manager. If you don’t think so, that could be a sign to say no.
3. Assess if you can survive the worst-case scenario
The worst-case scenario: You accept the job. You move the whole family to Seattle. Your spouse quit their job. Your kids don’t like Seattle. You work at Amazon for a few months and get put on a performance improvement plan (PIP). Your only path is to quit and move the family back to where you came from. You have to pay back your sign-on bonus.
I didn’t make up the worst-case scenario to scare you; it’s happened to others. Most people will be fine afterward, but the worst-case scenario is pretty stressful. Can you handle the stress? Be honest and realistic.
4. Mitigate your risks
Take the following actions to reduce your risks:
- First move to Seattle by yourself. Have the family remain in your current city while you get acclimated. At the one- or two-month mark at Amazon, consider moving your family out.
- Don’t burn any bridges with your previous employer. Tell them it was a hard decision to leave, and who knows, you might end up returning one day. Leave the door open.
- Ask Amazon to provide temporary housing for four months or more. Your first three months at Amazon will be very intense. You will not have whole lot of time to look for housing.
- Network aggressively to build an initial set of contacts in Seattle. Reach out to college alumni groups in the city, attend church or nonprofit events, and/or sign up for a gym. Be open and be engaged.
- Now, if Amazon doesn’t work out during your first 60 days, you can always move back. You’ll also have made some new friends and expanded your network.
Take your family to visit Seattle before you make the decision. Different neighborhoods have different feels to them, so consider touring a few. Here’s a map of Seattle neighborhoods.
A word about weather: Seattle is practically perfect during June, July and August, and you should know that if you visit then, you’re not getting a “real” taste of Seattle weather (which is cloudy and rainy).
6. Figure out finances
Finally, determine if you’d be better off financially if you made the move. Washington has no state income tax, and folks moving from California would be saving quite a bit of money. However, cost of living in Seattle is rising. There are numerous cost of living calculators (here’s one) to estimate how your expenses will change if you move to Seattle. Get a clear picture of your personal finances to help you decide.
Change is good
Greater Seattle is one of the best areas to raise a family. However, it’s not for everyone. By following these six steps, hopefully you will find a solution that creates a win-win situation for your career and your family.