Survey: Workers Are Ready to Get Up and Move – But Only For the Right Job

Take it from someone who has picked up and moved a few times for a better job: it ain’t easy, and it’s not always worth it.

My experience has been that it is generally easier to find a job if you are willing to leave your geographic area, but it is a tough balancing act if you do, and, sometimes doesn’t turn out as well as you thought it would.

But given the sluggish economy and slow job growth, a fair number of people are game to get up and go somewhere else for work if they think it will pay off, as this latest survey from Kelly Services points out.

Two-thirds of Americans will move for a job

It found that two-thirds of American respondents (66 percent) would be willing to move for the right job, with many even prepared to relocate to another country or continent in order to secure their preferred position, according to the Kelly survey. And of those who say they are prepared to move, the largest share (25 percent) are only willing to move to another city or town, but 22 percent are willing to relocate to another state, and 12 percent to another country or continent.

The survey findings are part of the Kelly Global Workforce Index, which obtained the views of approximately 97,000 people worldwide, including more than 19,000 in the United States. The survey, conducted from October 2010 through January 2011, also reveals a significant number of people working in unconventional arrangements, involving long or unusual hours, multiple jobs, living away from home or excessive travel.

“Across the board, we see that many individuals are ready to move where the work is located, rather than waiting for the work to come to them,” said Kelly Services Executive Vice President and General Manager Mike Webster, in a press release about the survey. “Increasingly, we are experiencing the growth of a workforce that is flexible and willing to bridge cultural and language differences that once served as a barrier to work mobility.”

That may be true, but take it from someone like me who has worked in some pretty “unconventional arrangements, involving long or unusual hours, multiple jobs, living away from home or excessive travel” — it’s not easy, and most people only do it when they really need a job. It’s not the first choice for most, and my educated guess is that more people are willing to get up and go now simply because the job market has been so bad for so long.

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Millennials the most willing to move

Here are a few more highlights from the survey:

  • 19 percent of Millennials are prepared to travel abroad for the right job, compared with 13 percent of Gen X and only 9 percent of baby boomers. Men are also more willing to move than women.
  • Among various industry sectors, those working in oil/gas, and engineering are the most prepared to shift countries for work (24 and 22 percent, respectively).
  • The overwhelming factor preventing people from moving abroad for a job is family and friends, cited by 55 percent of respondents, followed by cost of moving (25 percent), language barriers (11 percent), and cultural differences (2 percent).
  • The desire to move to a different continent is driven by the experience rather than setting up permanent residence, with almost three-quarters (71 percent) prepared to stay for three years or less.
  • More than a quarter (27 percent) are working in what they consider unconventional arrangements. Of these, the most common grievance is unusual hours, affecting 30 percent, followed by multiple jobs (23 percent), long hours (22 percent), and living away from home, and excessive travel (both 7 percent).
  • More than half (52 percent) of those working in unconventional arrangements believe they can only continue doing so for up to one year. However, more than a quarter (26 percent) say they can sustain it indefinitely.

“There are many skills that are becoming truly global in nature, and can be applied in any part of the world, particularly in sectors such as engineering, science, finance and health,” said Webster of Kelly Services. “For many, the opportunity to relocate can be a rewarding personal experience, as well as a significant career advantage.”

Yes, it can help a career to get up and move, but it can take a huge toll on a family as well. And if you are ever involved in one of those “unconventional arrangements” the survey talks about — like working in one place while your family still lives hundreds or thousands of miles away, it raises the question of whether it is all worth it.

If nothing else, the Kelly survey says this; Americans are resilient and willing to do whatever it takes to get a job in this economy — even if it means pulling up stakes and moving somewhere a longs ways away.

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.


1 Comment on “Survey: Workers Are Ready to Get Up and Move – But Only For the Right Job

  1. I hope things don’t get worse where you HAVE to move in order to get a job. I think that’s in the forecast to come though. Jobs positions where lets say 50 people filled, now only need less than 10. One day I think we are going to wake up and there’s not going to be a single job out there that we like. Oh wait, it’s called life in 2008-present.

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