Here is my advice about job hunting long-distance: Forget it. It’s not going to work for most of you, and you’ll need to relocate before you get the job. But for a few of you, there’s hope a long-distance job hunt will be successful. So, here’s some advice if you must make it work:
Pitch yourself as specialized.
Most people are relocating from a city that is in low demand to a city that is high demand. For example: Tucson to San Francisco. There are not a lot of skill sets that employers have to look outside San Francisco to get. If you want to get a job from Tucson, you need to have one of those skill sets that people do not think they can hire for in San Francisco. Usually this means that you’re very specialized. So, the first thing about getting a job in a city you don’t live in is that you need to be very specialized or in high demand.
The idea behind being a specialist is that you are so good at a very specific thing that people are unlikely to find someone as good as you locally. Sometimes a good career coach can help you rewrite your resume to focus on a specialty. If you don’t have one, a good primer for finding a specialty is reading about the funeral industry, where you have to specialize in something (sometimes weird) in order to survive.
Pitch yourself as a big-city catch.
Some of you are trying to move the opposite direction: New York City to Tuscaloosa. In that case, you can pitch yourself as having big-city know-how that you can bring to a smaller city. I know from having a company in Madison, WI, that when we hear a star performer from a big city is relocating to Madison, we automatically consider interviewing that person. It’s a bias that the competition is so much tougher in big cities that people who have risen to the top are probably worth looking at because we don’t see a lot of those people.
Get a reality check.
If you can’t pitch yourself in either of those ways, then you’re going to have to relocate before you get a job. Think about it: Why would someone fly you in for an interview when there are plenty of local people who could do the job? It makes no sense.
Be amazing at building local networks.
If you are still determined to get a job before you move, you should commit a lot of time to building a network. You know that most jobs come from networking. So you need to have a strong network on the ground where you want to relocate. This does not mean inviting forty people in that city to connect with you on LinkedIn. Those are not the type of connections where the person goes to bat for you. You need a network of people you have real conversations with, and share real ideas with. After awhile, these people will care about you and want to help you. This is one of the reasons that among the professional groups on Brazen Careerist, location-based groups are the most popular.
Choose a city since you can’t choose a job.
Most of you are simply going to have to relocate before you get the job. And, since you are going to have to move before you have a job, why not make sure you are going to the right place? You can read about the research I used before moving here from New York City. (For all my complaining about Madison, I have to say that the research I used turned out to be true, and Madison is probably the right place for me.)
Another resource for figuring out where you belong is Richard Florida’s book, Who’s Your City, which he has conveniently broken up into Web-friendly widgets for your relocating pleasure.
And once you decide on a city, you can use Florida’s analysis to double check your conclusion. Check out these links to best-places lists. (Note: More than 80 percent of Gen Y wants to move to New York City, but frankly, most people don’t belong there. Here’s a test to find out about you.)
Consider your friends and family.
Before you relocate for money, consider that the number-one factor for whether or not your next job will improve your happiness is whether you’ll be moving closer to friends and family. Because, as you already know, money does not buy happiness. And you might not know this, but a job does not make you happy, either. A job can make you unhappy, but once you have the basics of a good job, it’s your relationships that make you happy.