How to Network in a New City Before You Move

We live in a highly mobile society, with people frequently moving hundreds—and sometimes thousands—of miles for family, work, or lifestyle needs.

For many people the desire to relocate often crashes headlong into the reality of needing financial resources for such a move. You end up with a chicken-or-the-egg problem…

What comes first: the move or the job?

Fortunately, unlike our nomadic forebears, modern job seekers have tools that can help pave the road to new opportunities before they reserve a U-Haul. With technology and social media, you can start networking remotely and build a solid foundation for your job search.

Here are some basic strategies I recommend for people looking to network in a new town before they move.

The basics: LinkedIn and Facebook

Here’s a simple, but often-overlooked tactic: start with the people you already know! Never underestimate the power of your own network—you probably know more people than you might think.

Start by letting people know that you’re interested in moving. Post a notice on Facebook or LinkedIn telling your contacts about your goals. Even a small handful of contacts in your desired location can be a huge asset. They can connect you with other professionals in town, tag their own local acquaintances, and give you the low-down about what’s happening on the employment front.

You can also use these social media tools to build your remote network. Do some cyber detective work and track down old college buddies (try your college alumni group), distant relatives, or even folks who used to live in where you want to go. Try to wheedle at least one relevant name from every inquiry and follow-up with each lead. Remember… you want to cast a wide net.

A few promising responses can open up all kinds of doors, particularly if you can find someone in a related field. Facebook is a perfectly fine method of exploration if you’re looking to keep your queries casual, (don’t be shy, making new friends is a necessity), while LinkedIn works best for more serious career-based investigation.

Find your tribe, use your tribe

Whatever you do for a living, there’s probably a relevant professional association with a local chapter in your target city. If there isn’t an official group or association, check out the informal meet-ups that focus on your chosen field of employment.

The people in these groups will have the best sense of the local job scene and should be a focus of much of your networking. Search for groups of like-minded professionals or professional organizations on LinkedIn, Facebook, and MeetUp.com, and make an introduction. Or ask if you can get yourself introduced by a friend or colleague.

(As an aside… attending national or regional conventions for your professional association are an amazing way to make new contacts who can support your future relocation. In fact, many of these events include special functions just for job seekers!)

You can also use your non-professional affiliations to advance your search. Review all of the groups that you belong to. Are you active in soccer, theater, food, environmental causes, Big Brother/Big Sister, movie memorabilia collecting, or classic rock trivia? There’s no reason not to let these groups know about your desire to move. Remember the wide net theory? The more contacts you act on, the better your chances of success.

Always lay your cards on the table. Tell anyone who will listen that you’re looking for work in the field of X in city Y. A couple of names can make all the difference for getting in with a connected crowd. These groups are out there; you just have to find them.

Plan an exploratory mission

Ultimately, nothing replaces a face-to-face meeting. It’s nearly impossible to land a job without at least some in-person networking. That’s why you should plan on making at least one trip to beat the pavement in your desired location.

Before you buy that plane ticket, make sure you’ve made all the introductions you can by email and social media. Let your local contacts know that you’re coming to town (give the specific dates) and try to pack as many informational interviews into the time you have available. Planning ahead will help you make the most of your time on the ground.

If money is an issue (and it always is, right?) look for ways to save reduce travel costs. Rent a room on the cheap using AirBNB. Or, even better, offer to housesit or pet-sit on social media and you can generally find an available couch.

This is exactly what I did in the early 1990s, when I wanted to move from Boston to Portland, Oregon. After thorough research, I packed 30+ professional meetings into a weeklong visit to the Rose City. One meeting, with an aspiring mayoral candidate, ultimately led to a job that was never publicly advertised.

I saved money on housing by housesitting for a friend of a friend. The only caveat was that I had to agree to do the paper route for the homeowner’s son while they were out-of-town!