The Long-Range Job Hunt

Last Updated Aug 4, 2009 4:38 PM EDT

In today's job-hunting environment, opting to stay put
is a luxury few of us can afford. A February survey by the Pew Research Center
for People and the Press found that 80 percent of Americans thought that jobs
in their local area were hard to find, up from 72 percent in December and 64
percent in October. As a result, many people are choosing to consider moving
somewhere else where work opportunities are more plentiful. "Now, it's
a matter of survival," says Lauren Milligan, CEO of ResuMAYDAY, a
career outplacement and resume-writing service based in Warrenville, Ill.

But conducting a long-distance job search comes with big
challenges, from finding out about the best local opportunities to convincing
employers that you're serious about moving if you get an offer.
Following these steps can help get you going in the right direction.



Make Local Connections


Job sites like href="http://www.monster.com/">Monster and href="http://www.careerbuilder.com/">CareerBuilder are a good starting
point to find out about the local job market and who’s hiring, but
they won’t let you find out about the unadvertised positions that are
the source of many of the best job leads and opportunities.

To find these, you
need to talk to people in the local professional grapevine. Start by asking
everyone in your own network if they know anyone in your target city and
requesting an introduction, particularly to people who can give you insight
into the local job scene. If you’re not already on them, join
social-networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to search for past
colleagues, college classmates, and other contacts who may now be living in
your planned destination or have lived or worked there in the past.

On
LinkedIn, you can search your connections for city names listed in their
profiles, while on both LinkedIn and Facebook, you can join any number of
professional groups centered around different cities. href="http://groups.yahoo.com/">Yahoo Groups and href="http://groups.google.com/">Google Groups that are organized around
finding jobs in many cities offer similar chances to connect to local residents
and fellow job seekers and find out the inside dope.

Finally, find out if any
professional associations have local chapters in your target city and if so,
reach out to the people there and even try to attend a meeting if possible.

Hot Tip

Let Employers “Try Before They Buy”

If you need to move to a new city without a job because of a
spouse’s job offer or other unplanned situation, try signing up for
high-level temporary work through the growing number of agencies that
specialize in providing contract jobs to professionals.

Flexible Executives,
based in Atlanta, for instance, helps corporate executives all over the country
find temporary contract positions in fields from investment banking to law for
assignments lasting from a few hours to a few months. While many clients are
looking to fill a short-term opening or complete a small project, “a
certain percentage absolutely lead to full-time jobs,” says founder
Jamie Pennington.


Level the Field With Local Candidates


Employers dread wasting time and money interviewing out-of-state
candidates, only to see them change their mind about relocating after they get
an offer, says ResuMAYDAY’s Milligan.

To allay this unspoken anxiety,
you must convince employers that you are serious about moving to their locale.
Because you’ll need to research each city where you apply to make
your case effectively, it’s best to focus your search on a few key
localities to which you truly want to move.

Also, while it might not be
feasible to jump on a plane tomorrow if a potential employer wants to meet you
for an interview, you can offer to do a phone interview right away so a local
candidate doesn’t snag the position before you’ve even had
a chance to introduce yourself.

Many employers will be especially open to
conducting a first interview by phone if the job has a big phone component, says Lynne
Sarikas, director of the MBA Career Center at Northeastern University in
Boston. “If they can engage me over the phone, they can engage a
customer,” she says.

Checklist

Moving Places: How to Show You're Serious

To show you’re
serious about moving, include these elements in your applications:

  • A line in the first paragraph of your
    cover letter that gives a clear timeline for your move to a given city. For
    instance: “Within the next quarter, my family and I are finalizing
    plans to move from Buffalo to San Diego, which is why this particular position
    caught my eye.”
    • A parenthetical note next to the
      address in your resume that refers to your planned move. For instance: “(Relocating
      to Buffalo.)”
      • An indication next to any
        professional memberships on your resume that shows you will transfer them. For
        example: “Joining the Buffalo chapter in the second quarter.”
      • Finally, if an employer invites you
        for an interview and your spouse already has job prospects, mentioning it will
        help your case. For instance: “My wife is so excited. She’s
        already lined up three interviews, and it looks like two are going to turn into
        offers.”


Get the Most Out of Your Travel Budget


In today’s economy, most employers won’t pick
up the tab for your initial interviews. So to get more out of each plane
ticket, try to book several interviews on each trip, even if you can only talk
employers into informational interviews, advises career coach Judi Perkins,
owner of Find a Perfect Job in Bethel, Conn. “If you are going to be
there, there is a much better likelihood that the companies will be willing to
see you,” she says. “A lot of my clients have found jobs
this way.”

However, if a potential employer asks you to return for a second
interview, it’s reasonable to ask if the company will at least split
your travel costs with you. “If the company said no, that would be a
small red flag,” says Perkins. “It would tell you that it
is not willing to invest in its people.”

Danger! Danger! Danger!

Don't Fudge Your Address

You’ve probably been advised to present yourself
as a local candidate by using the address of a friend or family member who
lives in your target city — or a local P.O. box — for
employment-related correspondence. It’s probably best to ignore it.

It’s never a good idea to start things off with a potential employer
on a note of dishonesty, and chances are it’ll come back to haunt
you, especially if you get an invitation to come in quickly for an interview.
Plus, it could complicate any discussions about getting relocation support if
you do end up getting an offer.


Minimize Relocation Costs


While it can’t hurt to ask a company to help with your
relocation costs, don’t be surprised if they say no. “In
this economy, very few companies are willing to pay for relocation,”
says Jaime Klein, president of Inspire Human Resources, a consulting firm in
Hoboken, N.J., that helps corporate clients with hiring and other services.
Klein says that while it’s still customary for companies to pay
moving expenses for hires at the C-level, anyone below that is going to have a
hard time convincing companies to loosen the purse strings.

If a company does offer to pay some of your moving
expenses, you may have to sign an employment contract in exchange that
specifies you’ll have to return any relocation support you received
if the job doesn’t work out, says ResuMAYDAY’s Milligan. If
that happens, try to include terms that say that if you are let go for any
reason other than poor performance or illegal activity, the company will
continue to pay your salary for several months. After all, in a worst-case
scenario, if you get downsized by a new employer for whom you’ve
relocated, you want to have at least some kind of a financial cushion.

  • Elaine Pofeldt

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