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10 BEST TIPS FOR CORPORATE RELOCATION – GAME DEVELOPER EDITION
Moving is one of the top life stressors but sometimes well worth it in the scheme of upward career mobility and gaining a wealth of experience that wouldn’t happen while staying in one place.
January 16, 2024
9 Min Read
To all my fellow game developers who have been laid off, I feel you. I sympathize, I empathize. I echo back the frantic express train of thoughts, not limited to:
“When am I going to land my next job?”
“How much money is there before it all runs out?”
“Where are we going to live?”
“What’s my plan?”
“What do we tell the kids?”
I have been there with you, more than twice. Cross-border. With and without immigration limbo. Without and with children. And while I could fill pages ranting about horrible corporate practices surrounding layoffs (e.g. laying off people around the end of year holidays or at the start of a new year, executives not even saying goodbye to a decade-long employee, etc.), that’s for another time.
I will say though that I wish that every C-Suite understood the ripple effects of layoffs and studio closures. The number of people who need to find work at another studio; pivot industries; or just leave completely. The spouses who pick up the pieces; leaving and finding new jobs; settling kids into new schools and daycares and extracurriculars to keep life seemingly normal after uprooting but often to new places without any support systems. They supervise house sales and moving, unpacking a house full of boxes with kids underfoot, devoting months to finding new locales that some people consider routine for their entire lives; only to do it again every few years.
I am that spouse. Throughout our marriage, we have moved at least 9 times, not counting the temporary stays in between of 4-10 weeks while waiting for house sales to close. Two of those moves were self-financed for personal reasons, the rest were corporate relocation. We’ve lived in Toronto (then Burlington); Montreal; San Francisco (Redwood Shores and Fremont); Los Angeles (Torrance); New Jersey (to work in NYC) and now we’re in the metro Vancouver area.
And I am literally writing a book about corporate relocation.
If you’re reading this, congratulations! It means you’re on the cusp of a new adventure as you step into new employment SOMEWHERE ELSE. OR, you’re curious about my moving tips which, in my literal book, work really well for general move purposes too.
Here are 10 of my best tips with the following caveats:
Corporate relocation means that your hiring company is paying for you to move to the place where the job is.
I don’t know what to do with pets except for fish which I assume we’ll give away, smuggle, or carry in a jar with an air bubble.
My school knowledge only extends to elementary school age.
I am only referring to moving within North America.
1.ORDER YOUR DRIVER HISTORY ABSTRACT.
This is for being able to exchange your driver’s licence for one in the destination province or state as smoothly as possible, if it is possible. The California DMV did not accept our Quebec driver’s licences, and so we had to start the licencing process from scratch, like teenagers.
New Jersey is one of three states that does not share its driver database with British Columbia so one needs a physical paper copy certified driver history abstract.
Ordering a driver history abstract is strangely the thing that takes the most time, especially if ordering it online requires a User ID # that must be physically mailed to you while you still reside at the mailing address on your driver’s licence. Also ensure that your driver’s licence is not up for renewal. Rather renew it first before travelling; otherwise that causes complications because you cannot swap out an expired licence.
2. IF LEAVING THE COUNTRY, TAKE CARE OF YOUR CAR LOANS AND ANY KNOWN RECALLS.
American title documents for cars are very different than the provincial documentation you get for Canadian cars, so importing vehicles across the border is complicated. One thing that helps is taking care of outstanding loans or payments on vehicles before leaving the home country. Prerequisite smog and safety inspections must also be passed before import documentation is issued (and thus car insurance can be bought).
3. GET YOUR REQUIRED DOCUMENTS TO THE IMMIGRATION LAWYER’S OFFICE ASAP.
Most large studios will already have a relationship with a law firm, but if they suck, like the company assigned to do our Canadian and US taxes last year) and/or you’re able to switch, I will shamelessly plug my dear friend and former colleague, Anna Di Stasio, and her Montreal-based firm, New Era Immigration, as the best. Anna will guide clients through basic US visitor visas all the way to US and Canadian citizenship.
Back when I was a student, Anna taught me about having a different dimension kind of attention to detail, but the consistent mark of a good client is one who cooperates and sends you the things you need right away so you can get applications going, instead of waiting until the last minute, wreaking havoc on schedules, and leaving you all relying on the rare miracles of courier service speed.
Also, if you live as common-law spouses in Canada, you need to get married for any spousal visas to be issued in the US.
4. GO WITH THE MOVING COORDINATOR AND PACKAGE; DON’T TAKE THE FLAT RATE PAYOUT.
Moving is incredibly expensive cross-country, especially with the more stuff (which is measured by weight) you have. More doesn’t mean merrier, it means a higher likelihood of stuff breaking. Flat rates also don’t account for the many unexpected expenses associated with moving, and with a standard studio relocation package, there’s a miscellaneous allowance so you can do things like buy your movers lunch and have that reimbursed. (On second thought, we might have just done that and saved the allowance for shipping the second car – shipping one is usually included in the package.)
The alternative and better option is to go with the company’s designated moving coordinators. These are your point people (usually fabulous, incredibly responsive, detail-oriented women) who can coordinate getting you, your family members, your stuff, and your vehicles, to the hiring company’s city.
We once took the payout because that was all there was. It required way too much research on our part, and we settled on the cheapest option that was the worst moving company ever. (I know, it could have been worse, but I don’t want my subconscious dwelling on that for my nightmares.)
5. MOVERS PACKING FOR YOU IS JUST HOW IT GOES
In order to insure your items for damages, movers will need to pack your things. They will literally be absolved of responsibility if the box is labelled “PBO”, meaning “packed by owner”. If you need something in a specific box, e.g. your computer hardware, pack it to the point where your movers can still inspect it, then they tape it closed.
If you’re touchy about movers having their hands all over every possession, you can group as much as you feel necessary in clear totes, Ziploc bags, vacuum pack bags, and envelopes. As a germophobe, I usually group linens and clothing in space saver bags, and things like plushies, small toys with tinier pieces, cutlery, and kitchenware in extra large Ziploc bags. In this last move, our movers washed their hands at key points (like before meals) so that made me feel way better, but I have also had movers show up looking like they’ve just retooled a car engine and where someone ignored my signs and packed the bathroom soap at some unknown point during the day. Which is also strange because movers usually pack the bathroom things LAST.
6. YOU CAN HAVE (OR AT LEAST ASK FOR) A TEMPORARY HOUSING SHIPMENT
When moving from LA to NYC, we drove across the country in our minivan with our then 3-year-old and then 4-month-old baby because we needed so much daily use baby and kid gear for an indeterminate stay that it was cheaper just to road trip and ship one car than any other option. Again, the worst moving company ever.
From NYC to Vancouver, our moving company (this time, the BEST moving company ever, QMM) was able to drop off some of the items at our temporary apartment.
My best advice for this drop is to choose the stuff that you need on a daily basis, and that which will help in setting up your “permanent” new accommodations as quickly as possible. (There are multiple lists like this in my book.) Also, use an overabundance of the same neon-coloured Post-Its to label all sides of the boxes needed immediately to lessen confusion.
7. YOUR KIDS DO NOT NEED EXTRA STUFF ALONG THE WAY
Here’s your basic (everyone uses the toilet age) kids list: beloved plushies, devices, consoles (I know who I’m talking to), swim gear, and summer workbooks if that’s your thing. We also only move during the summer so that we don’t cut into their school years. For my kids, I use workbook pages as a chore to finish before earning video game time. During the school year, they need to practice piano as the ticket.
Pack your consoles (+ cables + controllers + charging stations, etc.) in your hand luggage so they don’t get killed by poor baggage handling in your checked bags.
New toys can be accumulated by any means (e.g. dollar stores, arcade winnings, gift, and thrift shops). Books can be read online or at the library. No need to crowd out limited temporary space with toys. If I could keep this rule all year round for our permanent space, I would, but it’s freaking impossible. Yes, it is apparently necessary to own all the physical Dog Man and Cat Kid books.
8. GET A LOCAL HOTEL ROOM FOR THE NIGHT YOU MOVE OUT OF YOUR HOME
Avoid traveling on the same day you leave your home, in case your movers run late. We’ve had movers leaving the premises as early as 11 a.m. and as late as 11 p.m. Give yourself a buffer so that you leave the next day.
9. OPEN ALL YOUR BOXES SO YOU CAN ASSESS WHAT IS BROKEN
Most people think they can chill for a few months and leave stuff in boxes without even opening it. If you think your moving company was anything less than our best one (where the damages were so minimal, we didn’t even file a claim), open your boxes and file your damages claim within the allotted time frame.
10. WHEN CLAIMING FOR DAMAGES, CLAIM THE REPLACEMENT COST
If any items are damaged, don’t claim the amount that you paid for the item, instead claim for the price it now costs to replace the item.
Larger game development studios will negotiate a standard package where benefits increase the higher up the position. Sometimes it’s also a matter of knowing what to ask for.
Moving is one of the top life stressors but sometimes well worth it in the scheme of upward career mobility and gaining a wealth of experience that wouldn’t happen while staying in one place. As the spouse, I’ll say that maybe one day it’ll be my turn for us to move for one of my opportunities, but the most recent one has definitely been most beneficial to all of us since I’m the one who has family in Vancouver! To follow my book writing progress and/or connect with me, find me on LinkedIn. Please use the Add Personal Note to let me know you found me through this blog. I’m also available for one-on-one consultations for a sliding scale hourly fee.
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