The Demand for Relocation Counselors is Moving Upwards The Buzz


Today's job market is literally a global marketplace. Employers recruit throughout the world.

But once a new employee is hired, how does that person and his or her family handle the moving process? With the help of a relocation counselor, that's how.

This rapidly growing field is not new, but it has expanded swiftly in the last decade. According to the Employee Relocation Council (ERC), nearly 880,000 heads of households make job-related moves each year. Corporations spend about $30 billion each year to relocate those employees.

This booming industry is expected to continue to grow.

"It's growing rapidly now for a few reasons," says Anita Brienza. She is an ERC spokesperson.

"More employees are expressing a need for specialized relocation assistance. More corporations are outsourcing such assistance, rather than handling it in-house," she says.

"I believe the trend is growing, and will continue to grow, for several reasons," says Julie Champion. She works with a relocation counseling company in Salem, Oregon.

"Many U.S. companies now have subsidiaries outside the U.S. in order to expand their presence. Also, many U.S. companies, especially high tech, cannot find the number of workers they need inside the U.S. and need to hire foreign workers," she explains.

Relocation counselors typically work for either a corporation or company that specializes in real estate or relocations.

Relocation counselors might arrange for the household goods to be transferred or help a family work through the issues and emotions associated with moving.

"Relocation specialists run the gamut," Brienza says.

"This might describe the individual from a real estate firm that is assigned to show you around town because you're moving for a new job. Or it might be the person who is working with your spouse to make sure that he or she can become re-employed once the relocation occurs."

"Relocation means being a resource for personal and corporate people that are in need of assistance when relocating," says Tony de Michele of a real estate firm.

"Most of the time, employers don't give very much support to their moving employees. That's where I step in. I become a confidante and a very useful resource for the relocating person and their family."

"Being a relocation specialist means having a thorough understanding of all the components of a relocation: compensation, benefits -- all the services needed to make a relocation happen," Champion says.

"It requires understanding the needs of the people who are being moved and knowing how to address those needs. One must be able to develop unique and creative solutions based on an employee's needs, the employer's policies and the restrictions of the home and host countries."

Income levels vary in the field, depending on the relocation counselor's employer and experience. However, Champion estimates that in the U.S., an entry-level position probably earns between $20,000 and $25,000 per year. Those with more experience can rise above $50,000 a year.

Brienza says relocation counselors enter the field in a variety of ways.

"You'll see many different backgrounds in the relocation specialist field. Some come into it through real estate, some through a human resource position. Some are individuals who have relocated several times, [have] seen a need for a particular service and started a business to provide it."

There are many ways to learn how to become a relocation professional. Some take courses and become certified. Others learn on the job.

ERC provides networking opportunities and professional support. It also offers training programs. Its certified relocation professional program recognizes those who have mastered the principles and practices of relocation.

This is intended to raise professional standards in the industry. It also lets relocation professionals demonstrate their competence.

However, others learn by doing. Champion has no formal training for her job, but a previous job in customer service taught her many of the skills she still uses today.

"This was probably the very best training I could have gotten," she says. "When it's all said and done, relocation -- and all human resources functions -- are actually customer service: solving problems and keeping people happy."

Champion recommends a background as a human resources generalist. Psychology courses are also good. Those interested in international relocation might want to consider some international business courses as well.

De Michele suggests those interested in the field hone their people skills. "This is a field that needs to become more personal," he says. "The combination of your knowledge and genuine caring can make sure those people are truly comfortable."

That relationship is one of the greatest benefits of the job, according to de Michele. "Don't get me wrong. Income is important. But I enjoy the joy and appreciation my relocation clients give me when they know someone isn't out for money, but for the love of the experience."

"There are tremendous personal rewards in this industry, and from a financial standpoint, there is a fair amount of stability," Brienza says.

"One should remember that relocation stays very constant because corporations relocate people whether the economy is good or bad. Even when the regular consumer moves are down, corporate moves don't decrease by much. The opportunities are very good."

Links

Employee Relocation Council
A comprehensive resource for the newest relocation trends

International Association for Human Resource Information Management
Helping businesses achieve their goals