By Adam and Rachel Thoms
xxx Last year was filled with changes for us when in January Adam accepted a new position at Iowa State University as an Assistant Professor of Commercial Turfgrass. Before taking that position, we had to think about many items and decide if it was a good move for us. It is our goal that this article helps those of you that are thinking about a job change, and that some of these topics help make your transition a smoother one.
When thinking about switching jobs, one of the first topics that came to mind was making sure this was a move in the right direction for our family as well as for Adam. We hope that it would be a highly important topic for you, too.
Adam: I had enjoyed working at the University of Tennessee and with the great turfgrass team there, but I also wanted to be able to build my own research program and take it in my own direction. I was also excited the Iowa State position offered so much Extension opportunities with it, so I could increase my interactions with the field mangers. I had been in a heavy research position, so this would be a big change of pace. I think day-to-day work operations are relevant to any field manager looking to make a change. You have to consider whom you will be working with daily, and if you will enjoy working with them. Additionally, you should consider if you will still get to work with the field, or will it be more of a managerial role? Also important for any field manager is how well will you be able to communicate with the coaching staff or staffs. You have to feel comfortable being able to have a conversation, especially explaining what you are doing to the field and why the coaches need to move drills. Try to avoid situations where personalities don’t match up well, especially with coaches or superiors, as you will only be making yourself miserable.
In addition to your facility, you should also get a feel for turfgrass management in that state. I contacted several turfgrass managers in Iowa to help me get a feel for what issues they are facing, if there were new management restrictions, and how strong was the network of sports turf managers in Iowa. Every athletic field manager that I contacted, I felt gave good information to prepare me for what I would see in the first year on the job. Your professional network is a great resource to help you through anything that may pop-up while trying to manage your field, because they are probably seeing or have seen the same issues. In my case, the job change also meant I would no longer be working with warm-season turfgrasses and onto cool-season turfgrass management with a new set of weeds. Make sure you know what you are getting into if you are switching turfgrass species or growing conditions.
Other benefits available
Do not forget to have negotiations with your future employer about more than just pay. You should try to negotiate for them to be willing to pay for memberships to national and state professional organizations and travel to meetings every year. This is critical to ensure you will not lose that professional network you can lean on when things get tough, and it will allow you to stay updated on the latest information. I have heard others negotiate for vehicles, more vacation, flexible work hours, new equipment, a moving allowance, and even additional staffing. This is your chance to get some things you might struggle with getting later after you have your job, so make the most of it.
Any change of jobs and move is not complete without considering your family. Make sure to research the cost of living, taxes, and where you might want to live in addition to information on your future job. States vary widely on income tax and property taxes, and those can really take a hit on your take-home pay. Also check to see if you would have to get different work-related licenses, or if they would transfer.
We were lucky because Rachel is a nurse so her job is in demand anywhere in the US, but we realize not every career has that flexibility. Having your spouse find a job they are happy with can be just as important. To make things more interesting, 2 weeks after Adam accepted the job at Iowa State, we found out we were having a baby!
For Rachel, it meant finding a new doctor and hospital to deliver in as soon as we moved. This created some stressful days while searching for a doctor.
It also meant selling our previous home and finding a new one in Iowa, both of which were patience-testing experiences, while waiting for others to make up their minds on if they liked our offers or counter-offers. One thing we did to help sell our house was to offer a small financial incentive to the realtor who sold our house. This greatly increased showings of our house after a slow start. Once things were sold/bought we found out that many forms can be filled out electronically, so you don’t even need to make a trip back for closing.
We also found having the right realtor can make a world of difference, and they can provide a wealth of information about the new town. Our realtor helped us with where to live, potential taxes, what parts of the town flood, where the town was growing, and what school districts you would be living in. We decided to buy a house because I was familiar with the area, but for many renting is a great option for the few months while they get comfortable with an area. Many realtors can get you out of a lease if you rent from their companies’ and buy a home with them when you are ready. This can be a cost saving option so you don’t have to keep paying housing expenses on two places, and you aren’t rushed to make a decision.
Moving can also present several choices, do you move yourself, or hire a moving company. Make sure in negotiations for your job that you at least work in a moving allowance. You can save money on boxes by looking online, or finding someone else who recently moved to get once-used boxes. Also, keep track of costs for moving such as the cost of boxes, packing supplies, the cost of actually moving, and any nights in a hotel while you are moving for potential tax deductions. If a moving company was for you, keep track of boxes that you bought and packed compared to those that the moving company supplied and packed. I have heard several stories from individual’s saying they had to question how much their bill really was from the moving company because of sloppy accounting by the moving company.
We would also suggest making a list of all of your bills, financial institutions information, insurance, memberships and any other mail you may want to keep receiving before you move so that you can easily update this information once you have a new address. Some bills will arrive late if you rely on the mail service to forward them to you. This will also help you when it is time for tax season and you need to get those annoying tax forms to complete your taxes. A job change may also require a change in health insurance providers, keep track of when one job’s coverage expires and the new one starts so you are covered.
We certainly haven’t covered everything that might come up, but hopefully this gives you a starting point of items to think about if you are considering a job change. In addition, hopefully some of these things can help make your move a little less stressful. We survived new jobs, a multi-state move, and a baby all in one year. Best of luck to all of you on the growing season, and to anyone considering a change!