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Searching High and Low

By Bonny Georgia

Finding a job in a distant city takes planning, patience, and perseverance. Here are some strategies for making your next cross-country career move a smooth one.

Here are some strategies for making your next cross-country career move a smooth one.

Maybe you left your heart in San Francisco, or perhaps you think that the Windy City is the perfect place to jump-start a career. Whatever your reasons for relocating, you've got your work cut out for you if you're long-distance job hunting. Here are some strategies that can help make your cross-country career move a smooth one.

Do your homework
Relocating to the city of your dreams can be a nightmare if you don't do your homework. If possible, visit your chosen destination to get a feel for the lifestyle, the job opportunities, and even the potential commute). Read local newspapers, visit community web sites, and talk with friends, family, or other professionals who live in the area to gain valuable insight on the community's character before you make a commitment.

Don't forget to research the cost of living, because it's a nasty surprise when your new paycheck doesn't cover expenses. Use one of the tools available online, like's Salary Wizard to find out how much you'll need to make when transferring from Boise to Baltimore.

Word of mouth connections
Spread the word about your relocation to everyone you know, and use these connections to get your foot in the door. Personal contacts were instrumental in helping Denise Garner relocate twice--from Tampa, Florida, to Boston after graduation, and later from Boston to Atlanta--to advance her career in public relations.

Both times, Garner began her quest for a new job by researching the philosophies and reputations of specific PR agencies before making initial contact via email. "If it happened that I knew someone, I used my contact as a springboard," Garner says.

Having an inside contact is especially critical when interviewing across the miles, says Karen Jorgensen president of Jorgensen HR Corp. in California. Companies are often reluctant to consider out-of-state candidates because they fear these candidates will take any job as a stepping-stone, only to jump ship to something better. "They'll be more likely to take you seriously if you've been referred by a trusted employee or friend," says Jorgensen.

If you don't have local contacts, don't be shy about making some. Attend job fairs, contact your alumni association for a list of graduates in the area, and mine local branches of trade associations like the American Marketing Association for additional leads. Once you have a contact database, you can begin to send out introductory cover letters and resumes. "And use a local address if possible," says Jorgensen.

Pay your way
Unless you're being recruited or you're in a hot industry where qualified candidates are scarce, you'll probably have to pay your own travel expenses. If you're not in a hurry, stretch your budget by planning trips around airline fare wars. Book three to five days for your visit, and call your company contacts as soon as you know when you'll be in town. If you can't interview for an actual position, Garner recommends arranging informal or informational interviews.

Lining up multiple interviews on a short trip takes planning, flexibility, and luck, but it can be done. When Karen Converse wanted to make her move from Denver to San Francisco to advance her career in advertising account services, she crammed 17 interviews into three days. Like Garner, Converse called everyone she knew in San Francisco to get names of professional contacts, then set up job interviews over the phone or by email. Her persistence and initiative paid off. "Once I arrived, I set up additional interviews in between other interviews from a pay phone," she says. "I didn't have a job offer when I left, but I followed up when I returned home and landed two solid offers--both with moving expenses."

Risk and reward
If you don't find the job you're looking for right away, don't be discouraged. "Sometimes it takes longer than you hoped, and people will think you are crazy for wanting to move far away. But if it's right and if it's what you want, opportunity will always present itself," says Garner.

Emily Farber says it's worth going out on a limb for the city you love. "Go to where you want to be," says Farber. "It's risky, but it opens up a whole world of new opportunities." After Farber graduated from business school at the University of Denver in 1997, she wanted to move closer to her family on the East Coast. She chose Boston as her future home and began searching for jobs there in financial services, but was shocked to find many Boston firms reluctant to interview her.

"A lot of companies didn't believe I'd be seriously looking from the Denver area," recalls Farber. Frustrated, Farber took the plunge and moved without a job, landing a full-time position soon after becoming a Boston resident.

If you take Farber's route, you might have to pay your own way or take a less-than-perfect job at first. But if you're committed to making the move, in the long run it will be worth the extra effort.

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