You know exactly where you want to live – you’ve identified the city or state that will be a perfect cultural fit for you. The problem is that you don’t yet live there, and you don’t yet have a job there. You know that your current distance adds to the challenge of job hunting, and you’re not sure how to go about finding work in your desired location. Fortunately, you can take proactive steps to find a job before you move.
Understanding the Market
Before you go anywhere, you need to do your homework. If you haven’t already, get busy and do some research on your target location and the local job market.
The local chamber of commerce and city offices of economic development will be useful in getting a pulse on the employment landscape in your new area. Check out Glassdoor.com to compare salaries between your current and desired locations. Get in touch with the career services departments of the local universities and see if they have reciprocity with your own alma mater. Find out if any professional organizations you currently belong to have local chapters where you want to move.
After you’ve done your Internet research, begin compiling a list of target companies you might like to work for and keep on your radar. Then drill down and do company-specific research on those that made the top of your list.
Start planning a scouting trip or two. Ideally, you would take two trips to your new city – the first for informational interviews and the second for final interviews. Maybe your finances only permit one trip, but it is to your advantage to create a relocation budget before you embark on this process.
Networking in a New City
Any career expert will tell you that the best way to land a job is through networking. Now that you’re armed with your market and company research, it’s time to plumb the depths of your current network and start building a new one in your new community.
Start with your current networks – both personal and professional. If you don’t have to keep your move and job hunt a secret, tell everyone you know that you’re looking to move and ask if they have to know someone (or know someone who knows someone) who works in your target location or in any of your target companies. Colleagues, friends, family, neighbors, your barista – you never know who will provide you with your next contact. If your move is not exactly common knowledge, then obviously you need to be more discreet about your conversations. But it’s still possible to network without telling your current employer about your plans.
Use Facebook and LinkedIn to your fullest advantage. Join their location-specific groups for your industry and new city and contribute to the conversations. Search for group members who work at your target employer’s and ask your connections to make an introduction. Your goal is to get your name “out there” and known in the professional circles where you want to work.
Building on the research you’ve done, join the local chapters of professional organizations for your industry. Join local Meetup groups that sync with your field or professional interests. Be on the lookout for conferences or networking events that you could tailor a trip around. Ask your alumni career services office to put you in touch with alumni who live in your new area.
Talking to Employers
You’ve done your research, leveraged your current contacts, and begun to develop the foundation for a new network. The next step is to reach out to potential employers. Here is where things can get a bit tricky. Some employers will shy away from candidates who don’t live in the area, so you want to delay that conversation as long as possible.
Initially, it’s not necessary to tell potential employers that you don’t live in the same city. How can you get around this? First, remove your current address from your resume. It’s not relevant to your experience. Specify a date you are available to start in your cover letter – but make sure you can actually commit to that time frame. Also, consider passing on asking for relocation compensation. Many employers don’t want to pay it, and it might unfairly disadvantage you.
Networking is a personal endeavor, and you have the best chance at making a real connection in person. Ideally, you should try to schedule a trip around some informational interviews. Consider it an investment in your future. If you live really far away from where you want to relocate, however, you probably can’t afford to hop a plane every time someone is available to meet with you. If possible, ask to schedule initial screening interviews over the phone or Skype.
When the subject of your location does come up, be honest and prepared to explain why and when you are moving. Address it head on, and reassure the employer that you are committed to living and working in the area.
Getting a job before you move can be challenging and may take more time than if you were job hunting in the same location. But with some diligent research, committed networking, and strategic communications with employers, you will vastly improve your chances of landing a job and making a new start!