Quintessential Careers:
New City, New Job: How to Conduct a Long-Distance Job Search

by Katharine Hansen, Ph.D., and Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.

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  • You've decided it's time for a fresh start in a new location. But how do you go about landing a job in a new locale when your current location is far from your destination?

    Making a geographic move to enhance your career should not be a hassle if you do some planning before you move. What are the best strategies and tips for a long-distance job-search? Here are some steps to consider when mounting a long-distance job search:

    • Learn as much as you can about the city to which you wish to relocate, if for no other reason than to make sure that's where you really want to be. Make sure you'll be able to afford the cost of living in that city. Decide whether you'll be content with the city's climate and cultural offerings. Lots of sites on the Internet can help with city research and relocation information. See our expanded relocation resources, especially the sites that rate various cities.
    • Devise an overall strategy for relocating. Decide approximately when you'll make the move. Determine whether you'll be able to make one or more scouting trips to the area before you relocate. The ideal would be to make two trips -- one exploratory trip to expand your network, conduct informational interviews, and investigate housing, and a second trip dedicated to job interviews and finalizing details. Knowing that the average job search can take anywhere from three months to a year, ask yourself if you can afford to make the move if you don't have a new job lined up at moving time. Develop a relocation budget, and don't forget security deposits, rent, mortgage payments -- possibly in both new and old locations -- and incidentals, such as postage and long-distance phone costs. Be prepared to discuss some of the details of your relocation (such as timing and your reason for moving) in your cover letters and interviews with employers in the new locale.
    • Determine your job opportunities in your new location, which you can do in a several ways. Conduct research to find out which major employers are located in the city to which you wish to move. You can go to a library and get a phone book for your new city. You can also check out geographic-specific job sites at Quintessential Careers. For books that tell about job opportunities in various cities, see the Adams JobBank book series in our Quintessential Careers geographic-specific bookstore or in your library. We also have a few relocation-specific books in our relocation books bookstore. You should also contact the Chamber of Commerce in your new city and request a membership directory. Also remember to consider the possibility that employers in your current location, including your own employer, could have offices in your target city.
    • Another great resource for getting a feel for the employment scene in a new locale is through the career-planning Web sites of local colleges, advises career counselor Doris Flaherty in her Q&A interview with Quintessential Careers. "As always, some Web sites are more informative than others, but I usually come up with several good leads for the geographical area of interest. Any college usually has more focus on its surrounding area since the majority of the graduates will find work there," Flaherty says.
    • If you're a new graduate, explore the possibility of reciprocity agreements between college career centers. Your own college likely has a reciprocal agreement with colleges in your new locale that will allow you to use the resources of those colleges' career centers. These reciprocal arrangements may even be available to alumni, or perhaps you are an alum of a college in your new city and can use its career center.
    • Make a list of employers to target in your new city and identify key people to contact. A list of about 20 employers is a good goal to shoot for, and you should conduct additional research into these target companies using our guidelines to researching companies. Our Quintessential Careers Directory of Company Career Centers can help you research and contact major targeted companies. Plan to "cold call" any employers at which you don't have a potential contact. Cold-calling consists of writing (and then calling) hiring managers at these organizations and ask about job openings and possibilities. You may want to read Cold Calling: A Time-Tested Method of Job-Hunting. The cold-calling process includes submitting your resume with a cover letter to various companies in hopes of establishing a relationship and inquiring about employment opportunities. Your cover letter is an extremely important part of your cold-calling direct-mail campaign, and you can use the research you've done on your targeted companies to show off your insider knowledge. For help with cover letters, visit Quintessential Careers: Cover Letter Resources, which includes a link to our Cover Letter Tutorial.
    • Include headhunters/recruiters/executive-search firms among those organizations you contact in your new city. You can search for these professionals by location using one of more of the directories found in this section of Quintessential Careers: Recruiter/Headhunter Resources, Directories & Associations.
    • Although only about 5 percent of job-seekers find their jobs through employment ads, want ads are still a viable part of the job search, especially when you're relocating. In the "old days," job-seekers who wanted to move to a new city would subscribe to the new city's newspaper, particularly the Sunday edition, so they could scope out the employment ads for that city. In the Internet age, it's much easier to check out employment ads because most metropolitan newspapers have their employment ads available online. So, be sure to check out those ads, many of which can be accessed through Quintessential Careers: Classified Job Listings Sites.
    • Also read the non-classified portion of your new city's newspaper, particularly the business section, to learn about employment trends and especially new businesses opening in or relocating to the city. Most newspapers can be perused online.
    • Remember, though, that networking is the best way to get a job, so brainstorm ways you might be able to network in your new city. Start contacting those in your network, especially in your new location, and let them know you are relocating and looking for a new job there. Also think of ways to network with people in the companies you decided to target. In a survey we did to research our book, A Foot in the Door, professional associations were cited as, by far, the No. 1 venue for networking. Locate chapters of professional organizations in your field and in your new city and join them. Once you join, you often receive a membership directory. Start networking with members of the organizations using methods described on Brian Krueger's Web site, College Grad Job Hunter. An article on the University Job Bank Web site describes a job-seeker who sent a postcard to every member of the professional association she belonged to her in her area telling them she was relocating to San Francisco. She asked them for names of contacts they knew in San Francisco. Focus your efforts on building a network of people in your desired new location not only through professional associations, but also through friends and colleagues. Another great networking source is alumni associations, not only of your college but your sorority/fraternity or other college clubs.
    • People often relocate to be with a spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, or fiance/e; tap into your significant other's network, as well. If you're moving because a spouse or fiance/e has been transferred, check into whether your significant other's company offers any consulting or monetary resources for your job search.
    • As mentioned above, ideally you should plan to make at least one trip to the new city before your actual relocation. If you are able to make a preliminary exploratory trip, you can use it to conduct informational interviews to expand your network in the new city. These interviews will provide you with a networking "in" at companies at which you previously didn't have one. You can ask interviewees which companies would be the best to apply to, advice for breaking in, and names of other contacts for your network. Find out more about how to set up and conduct informational interviews. Although not ideal, you can also conduct informational interviews via phone or e-mail from your current location.
    • When you contact prospective employers in your destination city by letter or e-mail, explain that you are relocating and tell them when. If you are relocating for personal reasons, it's fine to say so. People move all the time, so changing geographic locations should not be an issue. Whether writing cover letters that respond to ads or "cold-contact" cover letters to employers in your new city, offer the employers the possibility of conducting a phone interview with you in advance of an in-person meeting. Employers may be more willing to conduct initial screening interviews with long-distance candidates by phone if they can avoid worrying initially about the expense of getting you to a face-to-face meeting. You may want to read our article, Phone Interview Etiquette Can Propel You to the Next Step in the Hiring Process.

      Is it ever appropriate to request a prospective employer to pay for your airline ticket to an out-of-state interview? The best employers -- and certainly those seeking higher-level executives -- will buy your airline ticket, arrange for your transportation from the airport to your hotel, and pay for your hotel stay. Some pre-pay, others reimburse. Smaller firms, employers in certain industries, and companies hiring lower-level employees often do not pay for travel expenses and use the approach, "When you're in the area, give us a call and we'll set up an interview" to get around paying expenses. If you have any questions about who is paying, be sure to ask. It's better to know beforehand; employers shouldn't be offended by the question.

      Interview travel expenses are one thing; relocation costs are another issue entirely. Stating in your cover letter that you will relocate at your own expense may not be a wise idea. Committing yourself at that early a stage in the job-hunting process to funding your own relocation makes you sound a bit too desperate, and employers tend to shy away from such people. Being available for interviews is what is important at this phase; moving expenses don't enter the picture until a job offer is in the making.

    • In your second -- or perhaps only -- trip to your new city, plan to make the most of your visit by having as many interviews lined up as possible. Before you go, set up interviews with potential employers and recruitment agencies. Schedule these interviews by making follow-up calls to all the employers and recruiters you've contacted so far in your new city. Tell them you'll be in town on such-and-such a date, and you'd like to schedule an interview. You can also see if any career fairs, relevant professional conferences, or trade shows are planned for your new area and even plan your trip based on the date the event is scheduled. If you are not successful in lining up job interviews before your trip to the new city, at least line up some informational interviews.
    • Now, what about those relocation costs? You can ask for relocation help as part of the negotiation of your compensation package, but don't count on getting your relocation expenses paid. Do remember, however, that relocation expenses for work are tax deductible. See our Salary Negotiation Tools for more assistance.
    • If the planned date for your move is looming and you still don't have a job lined up, consider temping in your new city. It's a great way to get your foot in the door in a new locale. See our article Temping Offers a Way to Build Your Resume -- and Much More and our Temping Resources.
    • Temping is one thing, but avoid, if you possibly can, accepting a lower-level position in your new locale just to have a job. You probably won't be happy, and you may be digging your career's grave. The experience of one of our former students illustrates this point: Amy had spent months looking for a job before graduation, but when graduation arrived and she still did not have a job in the city she was relocating to, she moved anyway. She figured once there, she would simply pound the pavement every day until she got the offer of her dreams. A few weeks went by, and her savings began drying up. She heard of an administrative position with a sales and marketing team at her dream company and decided to apply for it even though it did not even require a college degree. She mistakenly thought that once she was working for the company, she could easily transfer to a position that matched her skills and education. She received raves in her performance reviews ; she was a highly-regarded member of the team. About 15 months into the administrative job a marketing position opened in another department, and Amy assumed she would transfer into that department. The other department manager was not interested in hiring and training an "administrative assistant" for a marketing position, and her own manager decided she was "too valuable a member of the team" to push her case. She eventually had to leave the company and regroup before she could finally find a permanent position in marketing -- almost five years after she had graduated with her marketing degree.
    • If, after researching your new city or after an unproductive job hunt there, you should decide you want to stay put, be sure you haven't burned any bridges in your current city or place of employment! An amicable break also will serve you well if you ever want to return to your former city and employer.

    A long-distance job search can be stressful, but remember that getting a fresh new start can be an exciting and rewarding adventure.

    Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker's Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.

    Katharine Hansen, PhD, QuintCareers.com Creative Director Katharine Hansen, Ph.D., creative director and associate publisher of Quintessential Careers, is an educator, author, and blogger who provides content for Quintessential Careers, edits QuintZine, an electronic newsletter for jobseekers, and blogs about storytelling in the job search at A Storied Career. Katharine, who earned her PhD in organizational behavior from Union Institute & University, Cincinnati, OH, is author of Dynamic Cover Letters for New Graduates and A Foot in the Door: Networking Your Way into the Hidden Job Market (both published by Ten Speed Press), as well as Top Notch Executive Resumes (Career Press); and with Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D., Dynamic Cover Letters, Write Your Way to a Higher GPA (Ten Speed), and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Study Skills (Alpha). Visit her personal Website or reach her by e-mail at kathy(at)quintcareers.com.

    QuintCareers.com Founder Dr. Randall Hansen Dr. Randall S. Hansen is founder of Quintessential Careers, one of the oldest and most comprehensive career development sites on the Web, as well CEO of EmpoweringSites.com. He is also founder of MyCollegeSuccessStory.com and EnhanceMyVocabulary.com. He is publisher of Quintessential Careers Press, including the Quintessential Careers electronic newsletter, QuintZine. Dr. Hansen is also a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. He's often quoted in the media and conducts empowering workshops around the country. Finally, Dr. Hansen is also an educator, having taught at the college level for more than 15 years. Visit his personal Website or reach him by email at randall(at)quintcareers.com.