By: Taunee Besson
While the Internet is a great place to get general data about communities and companies, people are the best way to find out where the jobs are. Fortunately, many professionals, especially those who have moved from city to city, tend to be sympathetic to your need for information about your new locale and its potential opportunities. To make networking as easy as possible, start the process with the individuals whom you already know, then branch out to friends of friends and other referrals. Save the cold calls for last.
If you aren’t acquainted with anyone where you plan to move, use current contacts as a bridge to professionals in your new location. To begin your networking, make a list of everyone you know who might have friends or acquaintances working where you want to relocate. Then increase your circle of possible referrals by using the following resources:
Branches or district offices of your current employer. If your spouse has already been transferred by his company, telling your present employer that you need to move won’t jeopardize your job, because you must resign anyway. If your manager values your work, she may call the branch office in your destination city to put in a good word for you. Staying with the same firm is probably the easiest career transition. You maintain your seniority, benefits and salary in an organization where you already have a track record.
If you don’t want your current employer to know you will be leaving town, be very careful whom you ask for help. Word travels fast through the company grapevine.
Professional organizations. Find out from the national office of your trade or industry group if it has a chapter in your new city. Talking with the chapter president or membership chair can provide up-to-date, inside information on the local economic outlook for your profession, what aspects of your background are most marketable, which companies are hiring and who else would be beneficial for you to contact.
If you can visit the new location, you will already be acquainted with people who can introduce you to added contacts when you arrive, give you a tour of the area and offer their perspective on local school districts and neighborhoods.
College or fraternity alumni groups. Any time you belong to an organization, your fellow members will be eager to help you. You are one of their affinity group and an automatic buddy, whether they know you or not.
College and fraternity alumni seem to have a particularly strong bond. Use it to your advantage by contacting the local chapter president to get her insights about the area. Aside from providing you with valuable referrals and information, these groups can be a wonderful source of friends once you arrive.
Professors at local colleges and universities. If you are an engineering manager, get in touch with the engineering department at a school in your chosen city. Identify a faculty member who teaches courses in your career specialty and ask him what’s happening in the job market there. Unless this guy is a real ivory tower type, he will be consulting with local companies and keeping track of former students in the area. He can be a tremendous source of information on who’s hiring whom and supply you with a list of contacts, if he likes you.
Churches. Many churches have active job seeker groups that meet regularly. Calling a minister in the town where you plan to relocate can be an excellent way to get feedback on the community and plug into the local job network. Ministers, like professors, choose their professions because they enjoy mentoring and serving their constituents. Give your prospective minister the chance to fulfill his mission with you. You will both benefit from the experience.
Special interest groups. If you are a hot air balloonist, vintage Corvette fan or breeder of German Shepherds, you have a collection of fellow enthusiasts waiting to help you in your new city. The fact that you share their passion is reason enough for them to give you a hand. Special interest groups, fraternal organizations and volunteer associations will do everything they can to welcome you, including offering contacts who may know about jobs in your profession.
Career planners. Career planners cultivate hundreds of contacts in their communities because they regard networking as a critical part of their service. If you make long-distance phone call(s) or appointment(s), you can acquire information about the economy, a supply of referrals and maybe a specific job lead or two.
Whether you approach your contacts via email, letter or phone, begin your communication by telling them you plan to relocate to their city and want some resident impressions on the lifestyle, economy, cost of living and demand for persons doing your type of work. By asking about their perspective rather than job possibilities, you make your request easy to accommodate, give yourself time to build rapport and set the stage for obtaining referrals to other individuals. While your conversations will vary according to how you obtained your contact’s name, a general outline for your discussion will include:
• How you found this person
• Why you are interested in talking to him
• What you would like to know about her city or town
• What he can tell you about the local job market, especially in your industry or career field
• What companies seem to be the industry leaders or the ones currently hiring
• Who to avoid even if there are openings there
• Who else would be good for you to call or visit
It is generally best to talk with people face-to-face, but the limitations of distance, time and money may make it infeasible. If you can’t schedule an appointment in person, gather your information via phone and send a thank-you note, as you would for a personal meeting.
Networking alone will not get you a job, but it is the best approach for uncovering opportunities long distance. Add a targeted resume and savvy interviewing techniques to your people research and you will have the most effective formula for finding your next position, whether it’s two miles from home or 2,000.
Taunee Besson, CMF, is president of Career Dimensions, Inc., a consulting firm founded in 1979, which works with individual and corporate clients in career change; job search; executive, small business and life coaching; college major selection and talent management.
“One of the smartest minds in the career field,” according to Tony Lee (VP of CareerCast Operations at Adicio and former publisher of the Wall Street Journal’s Online Vertical Network), Besson began writing for the Dallas Times Herald in the early 80s. Having read several of her columns, Lee asked her to contribute regular articles to the Journal’s National Business Employment Weekly (NBEW) as well. Since then, she has been a triple award-winning columnist for CareerJournal.com and Senior Columnist for CareerCast.com, as well as WorkingWoman.com and Oxygen.com. At Lee’s request, Besson authored five editions of NBEW’s Premier Guide to Resumes and three of its Premier Guide to Cover Letters. She has also written articles and/or been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Business Week, Time, Smart Money and Yahoo among others.
Taunee has worked on community nonprofit boards and committees for over 30 years including Girls Inc., Women’s Center of Dallas, Girl Scouts and Dallas Women’s Foundation, The Volunteers of America and Mortarboard, among others. She was a member of the Leadership Dallas in 1987 and Leadership America in 2003.
In 1994, the Dallas Chapter of the American Society for Training and Development chose her as its “Professional of the Year”. Her NBEW columns were selected for the “Ten Best Article Award” in 1990, 1994 and 1997. In 1999, Alpha Gamma Delta, a 200,000 member fraternal organization, named her as one of three “Distinguished Citizens” at its biannual international convention.