How to get a job as a "trailing spouse"

Sometimes your spouse gets a great new job -- but it's across the country. If you decide that the new job is worth moving for, you become what is known as a "trailing spouse." And while you can be really excited for your spouse's new job, if you have to go find a new gig now, it can be a pain in the neck.

Here are some tips to help you in the job hunt if you're a trailing spouse.

Ask your current boss about telecommuting or working in a different office. You may be surprised at the response. If your job is something that is done sitting in front a computer for most of the day, your boss may be happy to keep you on board, even if you move a time zone away. If that's not a practical long term solution, you can also volunteer to telecommute for 3 months to help them while they find someone new to replace you. It's a win-win situation, as you have an income while you look for a new job, and they get a smooth transition.

Ask your spouse's company for help. Lots of companies have spousal relocation assistance, and some companies that don't will be happy to help you anyway. They want you to be happy because an unhappy spouse means that their employee will be less likely to be happy with the move (and they need your spouse to be productive). Some bigger companies will even give you priority if they have a position that fits your skills. (Generally, this only applies for big companies because they don't want you and your spouse working in the same department, or supervising each other.)

Network! This seems really hard when you're moving someplace new. You don't know anyone local! Well, of course you do. You know your real estate agent, your new neighbors, the people at your new church, and the people back home. Society is quite mobile. Just because you met someone in California, it doesn't mean they don't know someone who is hiring in Ohio. Keep talking to people. 

Be honest -- but not too forthcoming. The problem with looking for a job as a trailing spouse is that title means that you've put your spouse's career as the priority. There is nothing wrong with this -- and two career couples often have to make a decision over which person's career is going to have priority. There is some fear that if you state in your cover letter, "We transferred here with my wife's job," that they may think, "Uh, oh, and will he quit in 2 years when his wife gets transferred again?" On the other hand, not having a job because you relocated with a spouse's job is seen far more favorably than "I relocated because I thought, 'I've always wanted to live in Cleveland!'" So, you need to balance that out, and have an answer as to "What brought you to Cleveland?"

Give yourself some time. Even though the job market is improving, it will take time to find a new job. Go into the search with that in mind. It's a lot less stressful if you've given yourself a realistic time line. Also, be realistic in what is available. If you're career has been in a specialized field that isn't popular in your new town, you may have to adjust your expectations and even your career goals.

Start now. You don't have to wait until you've shown up in the new town to start looking. Start looking as soon as you've agreed to move. Include the explanation that you'll be moving at the end of March in your cover letters so that the recruiters aren't freaked out by your out of state email address. Put your cell phone number down as your contact number because that can come with you. (And if it can't, get a new cell phone plan immediately so that you don't lose out on opportunities because of a disconnected phone number. Yes, most contacts will be initially via email, but don't take that risk.)