As highlighted in last week's column, when you're looking for a job in a new city, it's possible to do a lot of your preliminary research long distance – and even potentially find a new job before you move. However, while online research is a great way to get general data about communities and companies, the truth is that personal networking is the best way to find out where the jobs are. Fortunately, many professionals, especially those who have moved from city to city, tend to be sympathetic to your need for information about your new locale and its potential opportunities. To make networking as easy as possible, start the process with individuals whom you already know, then branch out to friends of friends and other referrals. Save the cold calls for last.
If you don't know anybody in the town you're moving to, use current contacts as a bridge to professionals in your new location. To begin your networking, make a list of everyone you know who might have friends or acquaintances working where you want to relocate. Then increase your circle of networking contacts by using the following resources:
If your spouse has already been transferred, telling your present employer that you need to move won't jeopardize your job, because you're going to have to resign anyway. If your manager values your work, they might call the branch office in your destination city to put in a good word for you. Staying with the same employer makes moving to a new city much easier – you keep your seniority, benefits and salary, and you don't have to "prove yourself" all over again at a new company.
If you don't want your current employer to know that you're leaving town, be very careful who you ask for help. Office gossip gets around quickly.
Find out from the national office of your trade or industry group if it has a chapter in your new city. Talking with the chapter president can provide up-to-date, inside information on the local economic outlook for your profession, what aspects of your background are most marketable, which companies are hiring, and who else would be beneficial for you to contact.
If you can, try to visit the new location and reach out to group members in person. This way you'll already be acquainted with people who can introduce you to contacts when you arrive, give you a tour of the area, and offer their perspective on local school districts and neighborhoods.
Any time you belong to an organization, you can tap fellow members to help you. Use this connection to your advantage by contacting the local chapter president to get their insights about the area. Aside from providing you with valuable referrals and information, these groups can also be a source of friends once you arrive.
If you're an engineering manager, get in touch with the engineering department at a school in your chosen city. Identify a faculty member who teaches courses in your career specialty, and ask them what's happening in the local job market. This person is likely to be consulting with local companies and keeping track of former students in the area. They can be a tremendous source of information on who's hiring and supply you with a list of contacts.
Many churches have active job seeker groups that meet regularly. Calling a minister in the town where you plan to relocate can be an excellent way to get feedback on the community and plug into the local job network. Ministers, like professors, choose their professions because they enjoy mentoring and serving their constituents.
If you are a hot air balloonist, vintage corvette fan, or breeder of German Shepherds, you'll find a collection of fellow enthusiasts in any city. The fact that you share their passion is reason enough for them to give you a hand. Special interest groups and volunteer associations can both welcome you and offer contacts who may know about jobs in your profession.
Career planners cultivate hundreds of contacts in their communities because networking is a critical part of their service. If you're willing to pay for their time, you can acquire information about the economy, a supply of referrals and maybe a specific job lead or two.
- Branches or district offices of your current employer
- Professional Organizations
- College or fraternity alumni groups
- Professors at local colleges and universities
- Special interest groups
- Career planners
Whether you approach your contacts via email, letter or simply by phoning them, begin your communication by telling them that you plan to relocate to their city and want to get an idea of the lifestyle, economy, cost of living, and demand for persons doing your type of work. By asking about their perspective, rather than for specific job possibilities, you make your request easy to accommodate and set the stage for obtaining valuable referrals in the future. While your conversations will vary according to how you obtained your contact's name, a general outline for your discussion will likely include:
- How you found this person
- Why you're interested in talking to them
- What you would like to know about their city or town
- What they can tell you about the local job market, especially in your industry or career field
- What companies seem to be the industry leaders or the ones currently hiring
- What companies to avoid
- Who else would be good for you to call or visit.
It's generally best to talk with people face-to-face, but the limitations of distance, time and money may make it impossible. If you can't schedule an appointment in person, gather your information via phone or IM, and send a thank you email as you would for any personal meeting.
Networking alone will not get you a job, but it is the best approach for uncovering opportunities long distance. Add a targeted resume and savvy interviewing techniques to your people research, and you will have the most effective formula for finding your next position, whether it's two miles from home, or two thousand.