Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Let me tell you why I am here.

My correspondent in Bucksnort reached out with a question about relocation. While I addressed relocation in a general way in a post a few weeks ago, I think this question hits at a slightly different area. Bubba writes:
What are some tactics for a job search that will require relocation? It's not like Google is hosting a job fair in Bucksnort, TN any time soon.
Should I get a dummy phone line in every city in which I'm looking? Get a friend in that city to agree to let me use his address and have things forwarded?
With the job pool being what it is, it seems foolish to let the phrase "local candidates only" preclude my applying to an otherwise perfect position in terms of job requirements, description, and pay. But it also flies in the face of not applying for positions that don't allow me to meet the posted requirements.
Is this where you tell me that networking, online and personally, is vital?
Yes, Bubba this is where I tell you that networking is vital. In fact, I will not belabor that point and will assume that if you are interested enough in a career blog, you've probably adopted a "network first" mantra of some kind. Following are a few things that you should weigh when seeking work elsewhere.

As the blog's title suggests, it is important to let prospective employers know why one of their top applicants has an address in Uzbekistan... or Bucksnort. It has to be something other than "I really hate Tennessee and can't wait to leave this carnival of doom." If you don't like where you are now, what indication do I have that you will not ditch me the same way your did the Volunteer State? Likewise, you should probably not lead with "ailing parents." Does that mean that you will be completely consumed with their care until they pass, at which time you will move on? In short, your relocation should be based on positives about the organization and not negatives about your current life.

Likewise, you should cite your professional goals first and any connections to the area second to support the belief that you are a viable candidate. When I relocated to Alabama a few years ago, I shared that I loved California, but wanted the opportunity to be a part of a smaller university system that would allow me room for growth. I pointed out that I had family and friends in the area to make the transition smoother, but it was not given as a primary reason for my seeking employment there. From talking with one of the decision-makers in my hiring, I know that they chose me as a finalist because my goals were aligned with the position and only considered my attachments to the area as a secondary selection issue.

You're not from around these parts are you, stranger?

There are a number of reasons that a company might want to limit their recruitment to local candidates only, but most of them would violate some labor law or code somewhere. As a result, it is increasingly uncommon to see the "local candidate" restriction on job announcements. It sometimes cleverly masquerades under such guises as:
  • Candidate must be familiar with Goosecreek County regulations regarding hamster tossing.
  • Seeking applicants with a thorough background in Dutchess City renovation projects.
  • Qualified candidates will have a well-established network of contacts in the Tri-City area.
Clearly, if such requirements are enforced, and you are hamsterless, you are not likely to be competitive in a job search in Goosecreek County, but making your case is an important step in getting past the screen. In the long run, one should not decide not to apply for a position simply because a job announcement seems to indicate provinciality as a requisite. The world has grown increasingly smaller and you may need to remind a prospective employer of that fact. In a difficult job market, it is too easy for an employer to be overwhelmed by marginal local talent that will not have to relocate, so your making it clear that you understand the "lay of the land" is vital to serious consideration.

I work in an industry (higher education) in which recommendations are part of the recruitment process from its earliest stages. It is not unusual at all for letters of recommendation to be a required part of an initial application. On the other hand, I know of students who are given job offers that are contingent on good recommendations, meaning that references are not even requested until there is an offer on the table. If you are applying outside of your home turf and you know someone in the vicinity of the "new job," consider having them submit a recommendation for you early in the process. Certainly if you know someone at the prospective workplace have them write or speak to someone on your behalf. (I am always surprised at the number of times I hear someone remark that they knew a supervisor or director at an organization at which they had applied and they never spoke with them about their application.)

The Proviso

After the forgoing, allow me to offer one proviso: Don't go any place where you feel unable to live for five or more years. Ironclad, lockdown rule. Five years minimum. Although most initial jobs seldom last more than two years, life becomes unbearable when you plan on sometime taking two years to mature and time conspires against you. Several years ago, I worked with a young couple whose job search was a massively huge net of openings that included literally all of the continental US of A. I will not get into the logic of why broad job searches work so poorly, but they do. He got an offer for a position in a portion of the South that I knew quite well. I cautioned him to tread lightly and get information about the surroundings, adding that it was a very rural area and would be much different than he was used to in Southern California and perhaps waiting for more familiar territory would make sense. Had he waited this would not be a compelling story at all because three weeks after he moved to the South, he had an offer closer to home. He felt (appropriately) that he should honor his commitment to the new organization and stay. A year into his time with them, while home on vacation, he paid me a visit and told me how miserable he was in the new place. The great irony was that as he looked for another job and was having difficulty for two reasons: employers on the West Coast were leery of hiring someone from Arkansas and concerned about the fact he was looking for another job so soon after starting.

Relocation signals flexibility, but it should be flexibility... not desperation.

1 comment:

  1. I recently attended a small networking event and found many students willing to relocate to find jobs. As you said, people are more worried about getting a job than where they will be working. From personal experience, where you work definitely affects how you work. I did an internship last summer at place not exactly close to home. I loved the company but the commute really destroyed my experience. This summer I asked to be relocated to a office closer to home. Looking back, I was really desperate to get a good internship and I felt it was too late to find another opportunity. Students should check out these video interviews with bloggers that relate to your post about career advice and personal branding