Back in the day, relocating for one’s job was a very common practice, as employees (who often worked for decades at large organizations such as IBM, Xerox, GM, etc.) would often be transferred from town to town as they climbed the management ranks — or as companies expanded into new markets and needed to send some of their experienced veterans to lead the charge.
These days, relocating for work seems a lot less common. In fact, a preponderance of the people I come across don’t seem very interested in moving to a new locale, frequently because of their roots in a given community or because they have children happily ensconced in the local school system. This being said, however, there certainly ARE still plenty of folks who might want to pull up their stakes and pursue their professional dreams in a different city, state, or country. So how does one go about this? What are some keys to improving your odds in a scenario like this, given that many employers seem to have a strong preference for only hiring local candidates?
1) Jigger the location listed on your career documents. While admittedly, we’re straying into morally-ambiguous territory here, those job hunters interested in moving to another city should seriously consider listing their TARGET city at the top of their resume and on their LinkedIn profile, versus the actual city where they live now. Doing so will immediately improve one’s odds, since the first cut in resume screening often involves ruling out non-local candidates. Also, since most resumes don’t include addresses any more, you won’t actually have to “fake” an address of any kind. Just put the city name on there all by itself. Or if you want to be a little more transparent, list your current city AND target city, as in “Seattle, WA & Austin, TX” or something similar. When questioned about this later by employers or recruiters, just tell them you’re “in the process of making a move” to the city in question — and happen to be out of town at the moment — but will gladly fly down for an interview, if needed, or set one up on Skype or a similar platform.
2) Address your relocation motivations in your cover letter. Next, in terms of what to say about relocation in your cover letter, you’ll increase your odds of success if you mention some clear reasons for wanting to move to the new geography in question. If you’ve got family in the area or have lived there in the past, say that. If there’s something about the target city you really enjoy or admire, mention it. This helps put a human touch on your application and will assuage employer fears that an out-of-the-area candidate might SAY they’re open to moving, but actually not end up liking the new location once they’ve moved — and jump ship. Additionally, if you’re willing to pay to relocate on your own dime, include a statement mentioning this so the company knows they wouldn’t necessarily need to pay thousands of dollars in relocation costs to bring you on board.
3) Do some homework on the geography in question. If you’re seriously thinking about moving elsewhere, make sure you actually know what you’re getting into in terms of a given area’s culture, demographics, economic situation, and cost of living. One fantastic tool to help with this is www.bestplaces.net, which provides you with all of these details — and more — for thousands of cities. There’s even an area on the site that lets you directly compare the attributes of two metro areas, side by side, as well as a “best places quiz” you can take that will tell you what cities in the U.S. come closest to meeting your ideal lifestyle parameters.
4) Consider scheduling a reconnaissance trip. If you’re truly interested in living and working in a new geography, and can afford to do so, you might make a series of periodic trips to the target location to engage in some face-to-face networking and job hunting activities. Should you decide to try this approach, start reaching out to appropriate contacts and organizations weeks in advance to pack your schedule with appropriate coffees, conversations, event visits, and (possibly) even interviews. While networking by phone and e-mail can certainly be effective, it’s no substitute for having actual boots on the ground and meeting people, eyeball to eyeball.
5) Talk to influencers and connectors in the market. When it comes to getting help finding work in a new town, not all networking contacts are created equal. Certain types of individuals tend to more receptive, knowledgeable, and helpful than others in terms of being able to support your efforts and lend a helping hand. So whether you use Google, LinkedIn, or other possible resources to do so, see if you can track down and reach out to a mix of association executives, recruiters, real estate agents, chamber of commerce members, and possibly even career coaches to share your plans and see if they can provide any useful input. While some folks may be more helpful than others, a handful of them will usually be more than happy to give you the lay of the land in the new market, if you ask nicely, and might possibly even suggest some useful referrals or organizations to target!
6) Focus on your sweet spot. Given that remote candidates are already facing a headwind, as far as gaining consideration from employers, you can improve your odds significantly if you directly target those companies and industries most closely related to the work you’ve done in the past. These are the organizations that will most “get you” and see the value in your skills, increasing their odds of being willing to import you from elsewhere. So tap into the many available corporate directories on the web to build a list of suitable firms in your field — located in your desired geography — and don’t be shy about reaching out to these places to pitch yourself.
7) Use LinkedIn as your networking secret weapon. Last, but not even close to least, we’ve now got a tool in LinkedIn that “makes the world smaller” and will allow you to do some killer networking even in cities, states, or countries you’re not highly familiar with. To accomplish this, go to the Advanced People Search page on the site and try running some searches for “1st Degree” or “2nd Degree” people in your target location. If you get too many results, you can tighten the search further using the Title and Industry options. Regardless, you’ll likely be surprised at how many appropriate people come up, and for any 2nd Degree folks who materialize, just send a message to the mutual friend who knows you both and ask them to make an introduction. Alternatively, you can try using the School search box to hunt for fellow alumni in your target geography, since that bond is often strong enough to compel some useful assistance, as well!
So there you have it — a quick rundown of a few tips and techniques that can increase your odds of success if you’re seeking to jump state lines and take your talents on the road. While not foolproof, these methods will definitely get you farther than the approach most people take, which is to simply pound the online job boards and send resumes in for published job openings, wondering why they almost never get called back. Hope this helps a few of you out there facing this situation, and as always, if any of you have any further suggestions or ideas on how to search for work remotely, don’t be shy about chiming in!