I recently switched jobs (and switched states) and used several approaches that I haven’t heard used anywhere else, so I wanted to share what worked and what didn’t work.

How do you make sure you’ll have a good fit with the weather, housing market, job market & culture before you actually move? Research!

The job market research

I started with the initial job market search. I’m the primary breadwinner of my family, so it was important that I find an area of the contry that had plenty of opportunities for my skill set. I figured a good approach might be to use a job website that I trusted (Dice.com in this case), and compare the same keyword search across cities. I’m a software developer that uses C# as a ‘core skill’ at work, so I decided to use that for my ‘apples to apples’ search.

For the initial ‘paring down’ of our list of 10-15 cities, I used a single search keyword (“C#”) on Dice and tracked the number of jobs posted in the last 30 days in several major cities that I knew my wife and I had chatted about possibly moving to. I came up with a range of 10,000+ matching jobs in New York City to 54 matching jobs in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Yes, Hawaii – a guy can dream, right?)

Protip: Automate your job market comparisons

I knew we weren’t going to move any time soon (we had to save up to move!), so I wanted to be sure of my choice in job market. I was able to automatically track the job markets over the course of a year. In Dice, I tracked each search in its own RSS feed. (Not sure what RSS is? Watch a video explanation). In Google Chrome, you’ll notice that each search that you do on Dice will present itself as an RSS feed. Just subscribe to each feed and track in your favorite RSS reader – mine is Google Reader.

I was able to objectively compare my current job market with my target job market, and see that my target job market consistently had 3-4 times as my jobs!

Weather research

Climate research can be important when trying to make a decision of where to move. After all, do you really want to bake in 120 degree summers in Arizona, or shovel snow several months out of the year in Boston? My family and I decided that weather was important to us, and used AccuWeather and climate-zone.com to compare monthly weather trends in cities.

In Accuweather, use the ‘month’ forecast to see what the average high and low temperatures are for a given day in the target city. Here is what this looks like for Atlanta in May (be sure to check out the awesome temperature graph at the bottom of the page). To see key data averaged over every month (like precipitation data) use climate-zone. Here is climate-zone.com data for Atlanta.

This climate data was even a book report opportunity to enlighten my girls, 12 and 15 at the time. Using the information on these sites, we discovered Atlanta actually had more annual precipitation than Seattle, but also had more sunny days. Score one for research!

Housing market research

Our plans included buying a house in the future, so it was important that we could afford to buy a house in our target city. Our tool of choice for housing research was Zillow. Using Zillow, we quickly ruled out our first choice of Seattle, WA (mostly because you can’t get anything under $200,000 anywhere near Seattle which meant it was outside of our budget).

So that’s the initial research. Now what?

Stay tuned for Managing a job hunt: Part 2.