In 1998, I left my job and moved from Atlanta to South Bend – without a job lined up. Moving from a growing metropolis (Atlanta was still in the post-Olympic economic honeymoon) to a struggling small city did not seem like a smart move professionally. Here is the catch, I wanted to move to South Bend to work at Notre Dame, and since ND was not going to move to Atlanta, I had to move to South Bend. So, I began applying to, and receiving rejections from, a variety of jobs with the University.
Recently I was speaking with a young professional about his job search and his struggles with being the “Out of Town” applicant. He felt that his skills/experience were strong for the positions to which he was applying and yet he did not receive offers for any interviews. He landed on the fact that not being local was stalling his job search. Losing out to local candidates is a common experience for many entry or early career job seekers as there is often enough local talent to meet hiring needs and thus no reason to interview out-of-area applicants.
During our meeting, I shared my story of packing up the 1992 Honda Accord (and selling anything that did not fit in it) and moving 800 miles with no job in hand. Sounds a bit crazy, but moving can be a job search strategy to consider. So, when do you know it is a good idea to move in order to help your job search?
- You can financially handle the move and subsequent unemployment: This is huge as there are no guarantees about when you will land your next job. It is wise to have at least 3 months worth of expenses in savings in addition to funds to cover the move and set-up in your new city. During my move in 1998, I took on a temporary part-time job, the project lasted six weeks, to help stretch my savings a bit longer. If you cannot afford to be without a paycheck, you cannot afford to move without a job in hand.
- You have tapped out the networking from afar: Prior to my move in 1998, I had developed relationships with several people in the South Bend area. They knew my timeline, understood the types of positions I was looking for, etc. – the groundwork was laid prior to my move. This same scenario has happened with recent grads who are trying to enter the film, television, advertising, and other communications-oriented businesses. Often, they develop contacts in their future city to the point of hearing from the networking contact, “There is nothing more I can help you with until you can move here.” That is when you know you have tapped out your networking from your current location.
- You know the issue is location: If you are hearing phrases like the one above from your networking contacts, or if you hear that you have lost out on job opportunities to local candidates, then you can reasonably assume that location may be the final obstacle you need to overcome in your job search. Be honest with yourself about other possible obstacles (interviewing style, job hiring outlook, personal skills/qualifications). Moving does not solve every problem. If you are a below-average candidate from out-of-town, you will still be a below-average candidate, just a local one.
- Evaluate the landscape: I recommend taking a recon trip prior to moving. About a month before my move to South Bend, I traveled to the city for a few days to meet with several people with whom I had conversations. I packed my days with meetings – I wanted to meet as many people as possible during my time in the area. From those travels, I was able to better assess my employment possibilities as well as strengthening some networking contacts.
Moving 800 miles should not be a snap decision but it is an option when faced with a Long Distance Job Search. For full disclosure – I did not have dependents or other extenuating circumstances (ex: long-term illness that would have made losing health insurance a severe risk) – my decisions and lack of a job were only affecting me at the time. This strategy is oriented for the young professional and should not be made lightly. Moving to a new location is not for everyone, you will be met with financial struggles, self-doubt, and a host of other challenges, but, if you are serious about the new location and you have done everything you possibly can from afar, it may be time to pack up the car and go.
Have others tried this idea? And what has been your experience?