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If I land a game dev job in a new city, can I get help with moving costs?

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In this episode of Game Industry Career Guide Podcast, I answer a question from Kit, who asks “I live in a state where there is no real game development work around, which puts me in a pickle because when I graduate I will have a degree but nowhere to use it. I already know that my best bet is to move to another state like Washington, but how does someone like me who will be new to the industry land that first job when migration cost has to be a factor? I’ve heard that some companies will help with this if they really want you to work with them, but I will not have a reputation at this point so I don’t see that happening. Do you have any suggestions?”

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • Why you shouldn’t move until you’ve signed an offer
  • Why game studios might pay you big bucks to relocate, even without experience
  • The 2 most effective ways to ask – and get – free money to pay for relocation

If you have a question you'd like to get answered on the podcast, leave a comment below or ask me anything here.

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Hello and welcome to the Game Industry Career Guide Podcast. This is episode number 38. I’m Jason W. Bay from GameIndustryCareerGuide.com, and this is the podcast where I answer your questions about getting a job and growing your career making video games.

This week’s question comes from Kit, who sent me an email to ask this: “I live in a state where there is no real game development work around, which puts me in a pickle because when I graduate I will have a degree, but nowhere to use it. I already know that my best bet is to move to another state like Washington, but how does someone like me, who will be new to the industry, land that first job when migrating cost has to be a factor? I’ve heard that some companies will help with this if they really want you to work with them, but I will not have a reputation at this point, so I don’t see that happening. Do you have any suggestions?”

Get to a video game hotbed

Kit’s question is actually relevant for quite a lot of people because if you are hunting for your first job doing game development, odds are that you aren’t living in a game dev hotbed city yet. And that means that you’ll likely want to relocate to a different city to get your first job at a game studio.

Now, the first thing that we should talk about is that it is very common to search for jobs outside of the city where you’re currently living. Employers know that there are talented developers all over the country and all over the world, so they routinely look outside of their own cities to find qualified candidates.

Get the job first

But one question that I get a lot, which is a variation on Kit’s question, is from people who are planning to move first and then start looking for a job. They’re stressed out because they’re wondering, What happens if I move to a new city, but then it takes me weeks or months to find a job? How will I pay for my rent and my other expenses without any income? What if I can’t find a job at all in the new city?

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Well, the answer is simple: Don’t move until you get a job. You can apply to jobs in other cities, and you can interview over the phone or using video conferencing software, like Skype. Then when you find a company that really likes you as a candidate, then you can drive or fly to their city for an on-site interview. Sometimes they’ll even pay for your flights and for your meals, so there’d be no expense for you. People do it that way all the time. It’s totally normal. So I do not recommend moving to a new city until you land a job. Get the job first, then move.

Prepare for the moving expenses

Okay, fine, but moving to a new city can be expensive. You’ve got to pay for packing supplies, you might have to ship some stuff, you might need to rent a moving van. There’s probably an airplane ticket or at least gas for your car. Or if you have a house with a lot of stuff, you might need to pay for professional movers to transport your furniture and other possessions.

If you’re moving really far away, you might need to pay for hotels and meals during your trip to the new city. It can really add up, and if you’re fresh out of school, you might not have much money saved up to pay for all of that. Luckily, there are a few ways that you can try to get your new employer to help out with the expenses.

Relocation benefits

First of all, the employer might actually have a relocation benefit as part of their standard benefits package, but they don’t always mention it right away. If they didn’t mention it as part of the job offer, you can call or email the recruiter or the human resources person that helped you schedule your interviews and ask them about it. It could be just as easy as that to get what’s essentially some free money to help you pay for your moving costs.

Relocation stipend

If the company doesn’t have a relocation benefit, there’s another tactic that you can try. You can ask for a moving stipend as part of your job offer. How does that work? Well, when you receive your initial job offer, you can counter offer and ask them to add some help for moving expenses. Most employers actually will go for that. They’ll give you some money to help out.

Now, some of them might also add restrictions, saying that you’d have to repay the relocation money if you quit the job within the first year, for example. That’s up to you to decide whether you want to take it, but normally you’d expect to stay at a job for longer than a year, so it’s probably fine.

How much could you get?

So, how much money would a game studio give you to help you with moving expenses? In my experience, it can be anywhere from a few hundred dollars up to a couple thousand dollars or more. It usually depends on how far away you live, and it can depend on your job level. More senior positions usually get more money.

Also, if you have a house and a family, most employers will also offer more, since it costs more to move additional people and additional stuff. Basically, they’ll try to give you an amount that’s conservative but still helpful, based on your specific circumstances.

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Why would they bother?

Now, if we go back to Kit’s question, he seems a bit skeptical that any company would pay him to relocate because he’s fresh out of school, and he doesn’t have much experience yet. Would a company really pay extra to help relocate an entry level game developer?

The answer is Yes, they would. And they do all the time. Look, it costs a company a lot to find good talent. By the time they found you and made a job offer, they’ve already spent dozens of hours on searching, sourcing and interviewing people for the job. You might not have much confidence in your abilities since you’re new to the industry, but I promise you that if a company is making you a job offer, then they have confidence in you, and they’re willing to make that investment, even if you’re new. So don’t be shy about asking for relocation expenses. The worst that can happen is that they say no, but most companies won’t say no. Most of the time they will try to help you out.

You can get relocation help

That’s how to get help with moving expenses, even if you’re getting an entry level job at your first game studio. It’s a normal part of the process, and almost every employer does it. But remember, they may not offer it initially. It may be up to you to ask for it, either as part of a benefit that they have but maybe didn’t mention right away, or as part of your counter offer.

Thanks to Kit for that question, and thank you for hanging out with me today. Whether you’re a long time listener or a new listener just dropping in for the first time, I want to let you know that I appreciate you, and I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to give you a little advice that might help you in your adventure as a game developer. If you’d like to help me out, then please share this podcast or any article from my website with your friends on social media. Just one tweet or one post on Facebook or one little mention on SnapChat would be so appreciated. Thank you. For more information and inspiration on getting a job and growing your career making video games, visit me at GameIndustryCareerGuide.com. I’m Jason W. Bay, and I hope to see you again next week right here on the Game Industry Career Guide Podcast.

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READ: Start Your Video Game Career

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