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According to the Cibyl Graduate Research UK 2021 survey, which had responses from 67,688 university students and graduates, the decision on whether to relocate for work was a mixed bag. While 49% planned to look for their first job across the UK, 16% planned to look for their first job at their place of study and 26% in their original home region, with 10% planning to look abroad.

Whether you should stay close to your hometown or university city, or start from scratch in a completely new place, ultimately depends on what is likely to work best for you. If you do decide to relocate for a graduate job, you need to carefully consider the area you move to – in terms of affordability, the general feel of the place and its distance from work and from home. This article explores some key points to consider and advises on how to make your relocation as smooth, stress-free and successful as possible.

In this article: Relocating for work vs relocating for uni | Should you relocate? | What to consider when choosing where to move to | How your experience of moving is influenced by your employer | Tips for settling in after relocating

How relocating for work is different from relocating to go to uni

The main difference between relocating for a graduate job and moving to go to uni is in finding accommodation. At university it’s relatively simple for most people: you sign up for accommodation before your first year and when you come to look for a house for second year you’re searching with your friends and are already based in the area you’re searching in. As a graduate, you’ll have to find a room straight off, and as you’re not based in the area you may have to rent with people you don’t know.

Other differences to consider include the fact that you’ll probably have to make a longer commute than the short walk to uni lectures – and on top of a full working day too. Making friends at work may well be different to uni, too, unless you join a graduate programme with lots of other graduates starting at the same time. While many freshers at university were all going through the same experiences and actively looking to make new friends, your colleagues will have been in the workplace for different lengths of time and may have different commitments in their personal lives.

Should I relocate for a job?

There are certainly advantages to relocating for a graduate job, but many people find that staying at home and living with parents is the right option for them. While we can’t make these decisions for you, we can list some things to take into account before making your choice.

Benefits of relocating Benefits of living at home
Potentially saving on day-to-day travel costs (if it is possible to travel from your home location each day but moving would mean a shorter commute) Potentially saving on rent and council tax (if you share with family either rent-free or for a smaller contribution, or if home is cheaper than where your job is located), a deposit and moving costs
You may feel a sense of excitement and independence from making a fresh start away from people you know Avoiding the daunting prospect of moving somewhere new when you’re already facing the unfamiliarity of a new job
Potentially increasing your earning potential if moving to a more economically productive region Living costs may be lower back home
More opportunities to network and get involved in after-work social activities Staying close to friends and family
Breaking into a particular sector, if it is only or mainly located in certain geographical areas Many industries have graduate jobs across the country

Everyone is different so you should explore all options and focus on making the best choice for you, rather than misconceptions about what most graduates do. For example, moving to London has traditionally been a popular choice for graduates but it is by no means essential if life in the capital isn’t for you. Graduate roles in engineering, law, property, IT and more can be found across the country. Even sectors that are predominantly based in London, such as publishing and finance, increasingly have opportunities elsewhere with smaller companies or regional offices of larger ones. A higher salary for London-based roles may look enticing but there will also be higher living costs.

As employers start to return to workplaces after the Covid-19 lockdowns, some are implementing flexible or hybrid working: giving their employees the option to work remotely either part or all of the time. For some graduates, this arrangement could remove the dilemma about whether to relocate or stay at home – but you should think carefully about whether it’s right for you. If you’d be travelling into the office two or three days a week and your home isn’t near the office, you’ll still need to weigh up whether it’s worth looking for accommodation nearby (whether renting a room or staying in B&Bs or similar for ad hoc overnights). Working from home full time may sound appealing if you don’t want to leave your hometown, but you may find it harder to make friends with your colleagues and get yourself known within the organisation.

Our articles on why working from home can be bad and good for your career will help you decide if it’s right for you.

See our career location article for more advice on graduate careers in different regions and whether you should consider remote working.

What to consider before moving to a new area

There are several factors to consider when thinking about choosing an area to live in for your new job.

  • Where you could realistically commute from every day and the length of this journey. A couple of hours a day may not seem like much, but you have to be willing to do it five days a week. It’s also easy to underestimate the length of a commute – so, if possible, do a trial run before your first day to discover traffic bottlenecks (if driving), walking times to and from stops (if using public transport) and how long the journey would take at the time you’d be travelling.
  • The affordability of the area you want to move to. You should bear in mind your starting salary, the cost of living in the area and your travel costs when budgeting.
  • The distance of your new location to home and your friends – and whether you’d be OK with this, as you may feel a bit left out when life at home carries on as normal. If you want to be able to go home a lot, you should think about the costs of getting there and how long it takes.
  • The type of area you want to live in and whether it suits your interests and lifestyle. You may want the nightlife and entertainment of living in a city or prefer the quiet of the countryside. A good starting point is to see whether there is a club for your favourite hobby and to visit the area so you can get a feel for its character.
  • The climate of the location and whether it differs from home. For example, if you’re moving from the south west of the UK to the north east you can expect it to be colder and darker in winter, and if you move from east to west there may be more rain.

How your employer/ graduate scheme will affect your experience of relocating

Your experience of relocating may vary depending on your employer or the size of your graduate scheme. If you’re about to begin a large graduate scheme, your employer may advise you on relocating or put you in touch with other new starters, so you’ll have opportunities to make new friends from the outset. Some may even cover the costs of moving with a welcome bonus or relocation allowance.

However, if you’re going to be employed by a smaller organisation, you might have less support in finding accommodation. It’s unlikely that there will be a pool of fresh graduates joining at the same time, so you’ll be more reliant on making friends in the local area.

Tips for your first weeks in your new location

  • Even though it’s tempting, try not to head home too much, especially at first. Persevering and spending time in your new location will make it easier for you to settle in.
  • Make use of weekends to get to know the area so that you can start to feel at home. You could look out for interesting exhibitions at nearby museums or use a map to plan walks and bike rides. Also make sure to go further afield to explore nearby cities and the region more generally.
  • Try to say yes to social events that come up at work so that you can get to know your new co-workers. However, it’s also good to have a balance. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to immediately try to make a new set of friends; you’ll exhaust yourself if you try to do too much in addition to taking on a new job and living arrangements.
  • Once you’ve settled in, sign up for something that you’ll enjoy outside of work, such as a local club or society. While you won’t find the same wide range of societies as at university, many towns have their own sports teams, photography clubs and music groups, for example. This will give you the chance to meet people outside of work and will help you to begin to feel at home. Your employer itself may offer clubs, which can also help to combat the initial isolation that comes with relocating.
  • See if the town you’re moving to has a Facebook group, or look for a local paper or news blog. This will help you to find out more about the area and any clubs it may have going on, as well as a sense of its atmosphere.
  • Know that it will a while take to feel truly at home in a new area – perhaps even as long as a year. However, if the job is right, the social life often falls into place.

Last updated: 22 September 2021.

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