Although it feels like yesterday, 14 years ago, I experienced a major career change: not only did I reinvent my professional brand by switching fields, but I also relocated back to my hometown. To the many job seekers trying desperately to relocate, I get it, it’s not easy, but, if approached strategically, it’s entirely doable. In my experience both personally and as a career coach, the process usually takes 3-6 months from conception to completion, so those of you who are approaching the one-year mark, you’re doing something wrong.
But before I go get into the “dos” of relocating, let me first share the big “don’t” – don’t take a job simply to get into your desired area. Believe me, most employers will see through that lazy strategy, not to mention it won’t bode well for your professional reputation. Before embarking on the journey of relocation, a completely different animal than a regular job search, be sure that you’re doing it for all the right reasons and that you approach it strategically.
GET NOTICED FOR AN OUT-OF-TOWN JOB
Be prepared to take time off. Make sure that you have a goal in place, even if it’s as simple as “to secure a position in [insert place] by next fall.” Assess your financial situation, unused vacation days, and personal time off. Decide when you’re going to visit your dream destination (where you’d like to work), and be prepared to spend some quality job-search time there. Yes, you may need to use up some of your precious vacation time to scope out the employment scene, take long weekends to attend interviews, or even consider dipping into your savings to move before you have the job.
Research your options. Before you make the risk of moving to another area, be sure that you’ve done your research to ensure that there are plenty of available opportunities in your field. Sometimes people make the grave mistake of moving only to find that there are no job prospects available for advertising in the middle of Iowa. Once you’ve confirmed that the move is a “go,” connect with the companies you’re interested in and get in touch with local recruiting firms that can act as a major resource to you during your search.
Consider taking the plunge. The reason relocation can be so tough is because many employers prefer to hire locally rather than chance their investment on an out-of-towner. Other than the expense of flying a candidate in for 3+ interview rounds, employers are fearful of the possibility that you’ll walk out on them soon after accepting the offer. And their concerns are valid – most employers, at one time or another, have taken on new hires who decide they feel homesick, don’t like the area, or are unsatisfied with the position. Like in relationships, in the employment world, sometimes it’s not you – it’s the guy who broke her heart that came before you. Bottom line, your chances of getting hired are much stronger if you become a local. Also, keep in mind that if you take on the burden of your relocation costs, in many cases, it becomes grounds for salary negotiation when you do get your big break.
Confirm your commitment. In our office, we’re fond of the saying, “fake it until you make it.” If you can manage to slap a local address onto your resume, whether it’s a relative’s or a friend’s, you demonstrate that you’re sincere about making the move. Because employers are fearful of making the wrong hiring decision, which often costs them tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue, they’ve adopted a “guilty until proven innocent” mindset when it comes to long-distance candidates. By consistently reminding them that you’re relocating, whether it’s for this job or another, across all mediums, the more at ease you put hiring managers. If you don’t have a local address you can steal, be sure that your resume (objective), cover letter, email signature and LinkedIn profile clearly states your dedication to relocate to another region. Don’t just assume that because it’s in one place, employers will see it – be sure your message is consistent everywhere.
Become tech savvy. If you’re not local, you’re immediately put at a disadvantage, which means, you need to use every resource available to you in order to stay competitive. No matter how you feel about social media or video chatting, it’s time to get over your fear and get with the changing times. Many employers will opt for a videoconference as a means of conducting a first round interview. Sign up for Skype – it’s a great communication tool that’s user-friendly on both PCs and Macs, and did I mention it’s free? And as an out-of-town candidate, you can’t afford to not be on LinkedIn. Employers will be scrutinizing you more heavily than the locals – you need to have a strong online brand that showcases all your latest accomplishments. And I’m not just referring to an updated, robust profile; you also need to remain active by building your network, following trends in your field, and contributing to group conversations that speak to your skillset. Employers WILL see your efforts and it’ll demonstrate your passion for your field and show them you can easily adapt to change.
Are you trying to relocate and are experiencing any of the frustrations mentioned above? Tell us about it on Career Reform’s Facebook page! We’d be happy to give you personalized advice and give your job search the right momentum to move forward.