Career opportunities in a new city may seem enticing, and even necessary in some circumstances, but job hunting outside your immediate area comes with its own set of challenges. With more people scouring the job market, and with ongoing technological improvements, the need for companies to scour the country for talent has diminished, according to Erica Gamble, a Society for Human Resource Management member and vice president of human resources for Bank of America Merchant Services. "Be prepared that things aren't how they used to be," Gamble says. "If you are putting yourself in the market out of your city or state, be ready to really sell you and your skills."
Although out-of-town job searches may be difficult, by spending a little time researching the field, crafting résumés and cover letters, and connecting with professionals, you can set yourself above the competition and land the job you aspire for.
Educate yourself and be realistic. Before applying for any job, thoroughly research your desired new location. "Have an understanding about what is going on with inflow and outflow with employees in that area," says Brett Good, senior district president with the job recruiting firm Robert Half International. "Understand where you want to go and what pulls and draws are associated with that place."
This research can be conducted by looking at potential employers' websites, exploring the local industry and its workers on networks like LinkedIn or even through existing professional connections. "If you currently belong to a professional organization in your field, certainly that group will have branches in other areas of the country, so leverage those connections and use that to help introduce yourself to others in that area," says certified career coach Hallie Crawford. "If you are set on relocating, really work on expanding your network as aggressively and quickly as possible."
Once you are sure you want to move, take a step back and evaluate the potential costs that can come with a dramatic career change. "If you are applying for a job, you need to be thinking about your next steps if you do land one," Gamble says. "Be realistic. If you get a job offer, are you prepared to move in less than a month? Relocation stipends are rare and much of the moving costs will likely be put back on you."
Put extra effort into your cover letter and résumé. Because you are selling yourself and your skills from afar, making a good first impression is crucial. "You need to expect or anticipate the possibility that [employers] might prefer someone local or in house, so you need to be that much better about selling yourself and why you are unique and different," Crawford says.
Cover letters and résumés are often the first lines of communication between yourself and a company, so don't skimp on these areas. Craft these two pieces specifically for the desired position and be truthful. "Put yourself into it, and make it real," Gamble says. "Be honest and forthcoming about your experiences. Don't try to make it portray someone you are not. When things don't match up with a résumé/cover letter and the initial conversation, that is a big red flag."
If you are worried that an employer may not give you a second look because of your current location, address the situation right away so there are no questions later. "You can phrase it like, 'I am currently living in X, I am moving on X date and this is what I bring to the table,'" Crawford says. "Keep it short and sweet. The more you focus on it, the more they will."
In addition to the written elements, the ability to sell yourself during phone or Skype interviews is crucial. "Attitude, spirit and personality are especially important because we are not face to face," Gamble says. "I want to hear the excitement you have about the job."
Articulate clear reasons for relocating. Over the course of the job hunt and interview process, be prepared to reiterate why you want to relocate for work in the first place. Employers are somewhat leery about "pack up and move" scenarios, according to Good. Because of this, "candidates need to carefully articulate what the primary drivers are that are causing [them] to relocate," he says. "If you hear a candidate say something like 'a whole bunch of my college buddies are living in this area, and I'm going to move so I can be around with them more,' that really doesn't give the employers a lot of confidence that if things get tough, you won't pack up and move and end up wasting [their] time."
It's certainly not uncommon for people to relocate for reasons such as being closer to aging family members or to try a new career path, but consider how you approach this topic. Regardless of what's driving you to move, "employers want to see that you are really looking to make a positive impact at their company," Gamble says.
Another way to prevent what may appear to be a passive job application or sporadic relocation is to avoid sending multiple résumés to the same company for different positions. "If you submit a résumé for multiple roles, that is certainly a red flag," Good says. "Are you really a specialist or are [you] just sitting in pajamas across the country pressing send, send, send all the time, trying to get some action somewhere?"
Be prepared to invest some time and money. If you are serious about finding a job in a completely new area, get ready to invest more than just a few hours of effort on application materials. "Start by making a list of the people you want to meet with through the networking and/or a target list of the top 10 places you would want to work," Crawford says. "Then plan about a weeklong trip to a desired area, and reach out to potential employers for meetings. It's OK to say something like, 'I am moving to X on this date, and I'd like to come in and talk with you about a little bit about your firm.' You don't have to ask for a job right off the bat."
However, remember that money for travel will most likely be part of your job hunt expenses. "Unless you are fortunate enough to be a candidate with a very validated, hard to find skill set, employers will not typically pay to bring you out for a meeting or initial interview," Good says. "Try to orchestrate multiple job interviews while in that area to get the most out of your trips and its costs. The more you can connect with the organizations and people in the area, the more helpful that will be."
If your desired contacts are unable to meet with you during your trip, present the option of a video conference or phone call instead. "You really need to cover all your bases in this case because it can be tough," Crawford says. "Find a way to make it as easy as possible on employers to hire you."