The 5 First Things to Do When You Want to Work in a New Town


Or, maybe it's a desire to get closer to family. Or a spouse who just landed a new job, in another state.

Or, perhaps, you just can't take another day of the stinking cold weather.

Whatever prompts your goal or need to find work in a new town, the common denominator is typically this:

It's intimidating. Confusing. Kind of foreign feeling. Not fun.

But it certainly doesn't have to be impossible. In fact, there are a few reasonably easy things you can do -- right away -- to help accelerate the time between now and when you sashay through the doors of your new employer, in your new town. Here are the five first things to consider:

1. Figure Out Who The Players Are, In Your Field (In this Town)

One of your most immediate goals should be to line up with the thought leaders, the movers and the shakers in your geography of interest. Follow their Twitter feeds (and retweet their most interesting stuff), ask questions in geography-specific LinkedIn groups, study the local business journals and try to ascertain the "who's who" in your sector. Head over to and find a gathering (assuming you can pay this town a visit) at which these types gather. Go to said gathering.

Introduce yourself to these people. Politely ask a quick question.

The more efficiently you can meet and align with the key players in your sector, in the town you want or need to move to, the better. This tactic will increase the odds that you'll hear about something you'd not have found otherwise, and give you a solid jump start on making new contacts and friends in your new town.

2. Use the "I'm New Here" Thing to Your Full Advantage

On this same note, by all means, use the "new kid in town" (or, "about to be the new kid in town") thing to your full advantage. I live in Portland, Oregon, and we are one of the most welcoming communities I've ever seen when it comes to helping out the recent transplants.

We all tend to root for the new guy. We want him to win, and we'll go out of our way to help him (or, of course, her). That being the case, be sure and use your "I'm going to be moving there soon" status as your door-opener when working to start conversations and figure out what's what and who's who in this new geography. 

3. Find a Recruiter Who Specializes in Your Field, In the Town You're Targeting

You're for sure not going to be any sort of an expert on which employers are amazing and which ones to steer clear of when you're looking in a new town. Likewise, you're probably not going to have many direct or indirect connections to people on the inside of companies of interest.

That said, you may find tremendous value in figuring out who the top recruiters are in this new town, especially the ones that represent clients, industries and / or job functions in which you're most interested. Call them up and introduce yourself.

One of the primary functions of a recruiter is to go out and find talent that aligns with their clients' current job openings. If you contact one who specializes in your sector, and introduce yourself proactively, you're likely doing them a favor -- you're taking one step out of the job that they're paid to do (go find you).

4. Find a Few Companies You Love, And Then Get to Their People

And don't just look for the obvious ones. (e.g. Nike = Portland, General Motors = Detroit, and so forth). Everyone and their brothers will be applying for jobs at the smack-in-the-forehead obvious employers in your future hometown.

Instead, try and uncover smaller regional (or local) firms that are doing work that you love (and have experience doing) and seem to have amazing corporate cultures. Pick your top 3-5 and then set about a plan to introduce yourself to people working in roles you admire, at companies you're eyeing.

You don't have to be weird or too in their faces as you approach. Simply introduce yourself, alert them that you're moving to town (Here's that "I'm the new guy" thing again), and see if you can ask a couple of questions about the company and / or their specific roles there.  

5. Make Your Plans Clear in Your Cover Letter

Employers sometimes wonder "What the heck?" when an out-of-town (or out-of-state) candidate applies for their open positions, especially if they have no budget dollars or plans to offer any sort of relocation package. Thus, unless you explain right out of the gates the reason why this gal from Tampa is applying for a job in Duluth, decision makers may swiftly dump your resume into the "no" pile before they've given it a second glance.

If you're specifically targeting one particular geography -- and, especially, if the wheels are already in motion for you to move there, you should clarify this in the cover letter. Imply that the wheels are already in motion and that this move is imminent. That way, you immediately and proactively ease worries on the part of the decision makers as to why you're applying, and if you're going to expect a handsome relocation package.

Try something like this: 

"As I prepare for a family relocation to Minneapolis, I've discovered that XYZ Company is currently looking for a senior project manager..."

Simple, and to the point.

Keep in mind that no one on the receiving end is a mind reader. They don't just automatically know why you're applying for a role so far from your current residence. Make this step easy for them.

While you may wish to sit behind the safety of your laptop screen and just apply for job after job that looks cool in the town that you're targeting, you're going to do yourself a HUGE favor by taking on a more proactive, networking-based approach.

Get on their radar. Endear yourself. And see if that doesn't get things moving along a bit faster.

Because, remember: Everyone roots for the new kid in town.

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons (Austin Kirk)