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Finding a Job When Relocating

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Moving across the country and finding a job after you move is difficult. I’ve done it before, but it’s not something want to do it again. As I explained in my recent article about finding a job in the hidden job market, many of the available jobs in today’s economy aren’t advertised. They are, in effect, hidden. The best way to find these jobs is to network and meet people. But this is much more difficult when you are relocating to a new area and don’t have any connections there. But just because it’s more difficult, doesn’t mean it’s impossible. These tips can help improve your odds of finding a job when relocating.

Find a job when relocating

Finding a job when relocating can be difficult, but it’s not impossible.

Looking for a Job When Relocating

I received the following question in our article on the Hidden Job Market (from Jake @  Common Cents Wealth):

This is an awesome article. It’s so true that the majority of jobs are never listed on the major job websites. I’ve moved positions twice and both were from internal references. Knowing someone in the company gives you a leg up on most other applicants. My wife and I are considering moving to a different part of the country where we don’t know anyone, which makes finding these “hidden” jobs harder. Do you have any specific suggestions for finding a job while changing locations?

Thanks for the kind words about the article, Jake. Relocating to a new area when you don’t already have a job lined up can be tough. I experienced that when I separated from the military and I had a difficult time finding a job. That said, I would be much better equipped to handle it now because I have done it once, I am more confident in my abilities and my background, I have a stronger resume, and I have more work experience. Beefing up your resume and expanding work experience should be the first steps you take.

Ultimately, your ability to find a new job in a location you aren’t familiar with will boil down to your work experience and accomplishments, coupled with your ability to network with people in the field you want to join. I’m going on the assumption that you have the professional side of things locked down and you don’t have the option of an internal move through your current company. So lets look at two things: researching a new location, and growing your network there.

Here is how I would start the job search process:

I would focus on narrowing your targets as much as possible before you begin your job search. For example, start by deciding two things: where you will live and what type of job you are looking for. Saying, “I want to live in the west coast and want to work in the technology sector” isn’t a great answer. San Francisco and the Silicon Valley area, Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland and several other places fit the location description, and there are thousands of jobs in the technology sector: coding, development, management, user experience, design, etc.

So break it down. Start by narrowing down your job search. If you have one primary skill or career field, then you know what job to look for. If you can work in more than one field, try to narrow your search to as few fields as possible. This will help you focus your search and improve your results.

The next step is to choose a location. If you have already chosen where you and your wife want to relocate, great. If you haven’t decided where you want to live, then narrow it down to a region first and begin researching the area. Research the different cities. Go for an extended vacation. Take a driving tour through the area. Make sure you are 100% certain you want to live in the area before you invest the time and money in a job search and relocation. This will save you a lot of money and frustration. On a related note, I also recommend renting in your new location before buying. This will give you a better idea of the homes and neighborhoods before you make a massive financial commitment.

Be strategic with your visit. There are also professional benefits to visiting the location where you think you want to move: you have the opportunity to learn more about your chosen industry and how it is doing in that location. You may also have the opportunity to meet people in the industry before you try to find a job.

Before you visit, try to get an idea of which companies in the area might be a good fit for you professionally. The idea isn’t to go out there to seek job interviews immediately, but rather to make some connections in your chosen industry and get a feel for how the industry is doing. Is it growing? Are companies hiring? What are the needs in the industry? Are your skills a good fit for the growth areas?

To accomplish this, you will need to set up some informational meetings with people in your chosen industry. This will require a little work on your end. You will first need to research your industry and the companies that are the big players in the location where you want to move. Then you will need to identify a few people who work at the companies you are interested in and ask them if they would be willing to meet you for a coffee or for lunch. This sounds intimidating, but many people are willing to help you if you just ask.

How to meet a cold contact. Since you don’t know this person, you will either need to cold-contact them, or get an introduction from a common contact. LinkedIn can be a great way to gain introductions to people in your field. Cold-contacting someone may not be as difficult as it sounds, as long as you are genuine and you let them know you aren’t expecting anything from them—you just want to learn more about the industry. Spend a little time researching the person, their company, the industry, etc., and tell them how they came to be on your radar.

Your email could be as simple as, “Hi Joe, I saw a paper you wrote in XYZ publication and it resonated with me because (fill-in-the-blank). I’m going to be in your city next week and I wanted to know if you have a few minutes to grab a coffee our lunch, my treat!”

Here are more tips on cold-contacting someone, and another by using LinkedIn.

What to do, and what not to do during the informational interview. The key to making this work is listening. You contacted this person because you feel they have something to offer in regard to the industry. So learn from them. Prepare a few questions that show you are knowledgeable about the industry, then sit back and allow them to talk. Learn from them and let them know you are interested in the industry and you are considering relocating to the area. But don’t outright ask them for a job. This goes against the reason you invited them out and can leave a bad impression.

If you impress the person you meet with, they will let you know what they know about the industry, their company, which companies or segments of the industry are growing, which companies are hiring (or laying off workers), etc. This knowledge is incredibly valuable if you are planning on relocating to the area. You can use this information to help form the basis of your job search.

This process works even better if you can meet with several people while you are visiting the city. Different perspectives and more contacts can help you in many ways.

Meeting in person is great, but isn’t required. In-person meetings are always the best way to create a more lasting impression. But it’s also possible to make a connection via e-mail, LinkedIn, phone, etc. My preference, however, is meeting in person.

Then the job search begins. Once you have researched your location and industry, you are ready to begin the job search. Start with the company websites, and try to get in contact with some of the people who work with the company, and specifically in the division where you want to work. You may also try asking for an introduction from one of the people you met when you visited the city on your fact-finding trip.

I admit, it isn’t easy. But it’s a good place to start.

Readers: do you have any recommendations for getting a job in a new location?


Published or updated April 29, 2013.
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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jake Erickson

Wow, Ryan, thanks for the detailed answer! I love everything you mentioned here, now I just need to get off of my lazy butt and make it happen. I’ve kind of realized that sitting back and waiting for a job to come to me isn’t going to work, so I’ll have to be more proactive and I’ll start with the steps you gave above. I’ll let you know how the whole process goes and thanks again for answering my question!

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2 Ryan Guina

My pleasure, Jake. I started answering your comment on the original article, but as you can see, the answer grew and grew until it got too big to be just a comment!

To be honest, I’ve only scratched the surface of what you can do when looking for a job in another market, so it would be a good idea to continue researching in other blogs or in books. This is your career, so you will need to be as proactive as possible!

I hope this at least gets you pointed in the right direction and I wish you the best in your transition!

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3 krantcents

If you have a network, you may have someone in your network who knows somebody at a company in the new city. For example, I have a friend I have known since high school who is an insurance broker in San Francisco. I know he knows people who could help me if I wanted to relocate to that city.

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4 Ryan Guina

Excellent point. I’ve found that as I grow older, I know people in many states and cities. Some of them may be able to help me find a job directly, and others may be able to put me oin touch with someone in that area, even if they don’t work in the same direct industry as me. Having a network is extremely valuable!

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5 KC @ genxfinance

Thanks to technology it’s required to do some initial interview anymore. The internet can say a lot about it it and all you need to do is make yourself visible online.

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