Maybe you want to, maybe you need to. But if we’ve garnered your attention by that title, you’re probably finding yourself set on moving to a new city without a job lined up first. And we don’t mean moving from one suburb to the suburb next door, we mean moving across state lines and time zones. You wouldn’t be the first person in this situation, but other people’s prior successes won’t help you unless they share their secrets. While they were hesitant to do so, we brought their tips and tricks out for you.
Should You Set Sail?
First things first, as always, make sure this is the right decision. This isn’t just referring to the idea of relocation as a whole – although yes, it’s also important to ask yourself if moving this far away is what you should or must be doing. But moreover, are you moving to the right place at the right time for the right reasons?
Consider whether the industry you wish to work in is thriving in that area. People look for tech jobs in Silicon Valley and energy jobs in the Great Plains, but it would be an uphill battle if those locales were switched. Is your industry of choice one you’re already well entrenched in, or just one you’re looking to get into? If it’s the second one, finding a job far away would be harder than getting some experience closer to home.
Furthermore, cities are big. Are you looking in the right part of town for where you’ll be living (more on that later)? How well do you actually know this place?
If you want to move to this place specifically because you’ve never been there and it seems like a mythical wonderland, you may be setting yourself up for a lot of disappointment. If you have the time and money, you absolutely should try to scout out and familiarize yourself with your target city.
Plotting Your Course
Are you still sure this is the right idea? Alright then, it’s settled. Now it’s time to strategize.
Cast both a wide and a narrow net. You’ll get more tangible results if you target a few specific companies to apply to in your desired city rather than just passively signing up for email alerts for a job board. But you know what? Subscribe to that job board, too. When it comes to things like jobs, you can never have too many options. Though it would still be best to put more of your energy into a select few.
Utilize your network. Reach out to friends, colleagues, former classmates and anybody else you might know in your chosen city who can help get you a lead on a job.
Don’t have much of a network? It’s never too late to start building one. LinkedIn actively encourages reaching out to strangers so you can see how you can help each other out professionally; it’s like one never-ending networking event. An added bonus is the LinkedIn Groups feature, which acts as an incubator of sorts for professionals in the same line of work in the same place.
Examine all your options. Is it possible you have enough saved up to survive off a part-time job or a temp-agency gig until you find something more substantial? Don’t rule it out if the clock’s ticking. Would your current job allow a transfer to that location and you just don’t know it yet? Or better yet, maybe they’d let you work remotely from your new home? Are recruiters and headhunters in that town itching for someone like you, but they can’t find you because you’re not in their region yet? You might not know what possibilities there are right in front of you.
Lifting the Anchor
This one might be the hardest to pull off correctly, but if you can do it, it will greatly better your chances: make it convenient for them. To get a job, you need to have an interview eventually, correct? Some places might be cool about it and let you have a Skype interview from home, but these are the exceptions. Most companies will still want you to be there in-person.
So, the question that remains is, “If they call, can you be there?” If you can’t find a way to get yourself there when they want you there, that’s understandable. Life is messy, it doesn’t make you stupid or evil, but it also doesn’t make you a likely candidate for the job.
There’s also the classic job-searching quandary of “How much do I play myself up?” versus “How much do I make myself seem like a bargain?” A major reason why companies will often simply ignore applications from out-of-town isn’t just because it’s annoying to interview them, but because it’s business etiquette for them to pay for your relocation expenses if they hire you, and they probably don’t want to do that.
Do you want this new job in this new city badly enough to formally declare in your cover letter you don’t want them to pay for your relocation? It’s not an option everyone can exercise financially. But if you can afford it, maybe then they’ll feel like they can afford you.
Some would even suggest you go as far as to deceive them just a little bit to make yourself seem more accessible. For example, if you’re dead set on moving to this place, you might as well change the location on your resume and LinkedIn profile before you even leave or drop some hints in your cover letter that you plan to move to that city regardless in the near future. I’ve even heard of people using a friend’s place as a return address for applications or getting a P.O. box in their destination city for the same end.
This is much from the same school of thought as, “You have to lie a little in your interview to get any job.” So, if you’re comfortable with a tad bit of trickery, you’re welcome to give it a try.
When to Drop the Anchor
There is, however, one burning question left. Some other writers might try to stretch it out into a-whole-‘nother article, but I think the answer is pretty straightforward:
What do I get first: a job or a place to live?
The answer: Get whichever you can get first. If you find a place before you find a job, make sure you have enough to get by until something comes together, and preferably some extra in case the job market in that town isn’t what you thought it was.
If you find a job first, then you won’t be waiting for income while you find a place to call home. In an absolute emergency, you can crash at a friend’s place or rent out an inexpensive room until you find a more permanent solution.
In both these scenarios, you can’t really make the jump safely on a budget of exactly zero dollars, so you will probably need whatever backup funds you can scrape together. But while we don’t know your situation, we trust you’re doing your best and you know your options better than anyone. Now, you also know the strategy.