Working on being there

Fed up with harsh northeast winters, Sal Cincotta longed to live and work somewhere that would let him put his winter coats into cold storage.

So a year ago, the New York contract programmer began looking seriously at moving to a warmer climate. Florida seemed like a great choice – until he did some research using on-line job boards.

Companies in Florida “were paying considerably less than anywhere else in the country,” Cincotta said. A few scattered job postings for Visual Basic programming, one of his specialties, promised US$85,000, but Cincotta wasn’t buying.

“You’ll find those jobs are less secure,” Cincotta said. “You’re going to work for a company that’s a dot-com start-up; maybe the funding’s not there.”

Eventually, Cincotta found himself a permanent job in Nashville as a senior technology specialist at Microsoft Corp. The job, and the new locale, were just what the doctor ordered. He says he’s glad he took the time to check more carefully into what the reality of Florida would have been, and he now offers advice to other IT professionals considering major relocations.

What’s It Like in…

If you have the desire to move, no matter what the reason, there are many resources that will tip you off about the weather, cultural activities and lifestyle you can expect in other regions. Before packing your bags, though, it’s wise to research the job and technology markets at your proposed destination. That means learning what skills are in demand, the local pay scales, the strength of the economy and the business terrain.

The best way to determine the skills that are in demand and pay that you can expect is by looking at actual employment advertisements, according to Cincotta. Both Web-based job sites and technical magazines can offer some guidance on the pay you might expect.

Some publications even have yearly salary surveys that offer a national perspective.

On-line Want Ads

The Web sites of the newspapers in the area you’re investigating will often have job listings that parallel those in their Sunday print editions. This can give you a concentrated view of the jobs and salaries you can expect. If job listings aren’t available on-line, call the newspapers and have them send you a Sunday edition.

Salary Surveys

Another interesting source of American salary information is the Salary Wizard at, a site operated by Wellesley, Mass.-based Inc. Choose a job category and provide either a ZIP code or a metropolitan area from a list. The wizard takes national salary averages for that type of position based on information from human resources professionals and then weighs them by location.

It’s far from perfect, because IT salary patterns can vary from those of other fields. But it’s a place to start. The site also provides links to several IT-related salary surveys.

But be forewarned that no salary survey can credibly forecast salaries for every IT job title in every city. The smaller the metropolitan area you’re checking out and the more specialized the job, the less data probably went into calculating a salary average.

Local Resources

It pays to check out the broader economy in the area you’re considering. Obvious resources include chambers of commerce and economic development agencies.

Such organizations – easily found by searching under a city name on a search engine or by checking the state listings at Relocation Central’s Web site – typically have lists of their member companies and employment and business statistics on their Web sites. But take the economic data with a grain of salt, because it’s often promotional and sometimes geared toward specific marketing campaigns.

“They’re here for one purpose – that’s to promote the area,” said Ryan Renz, head of newsroom computer and technology systems at television station WNEM in Saginaw, Mich. “Not everything’s as great as they say it is. You have to be able to do comparisons wisely and know not everything is as it seems.”

Sherman is a freelance writer in Marshfield, Mass.