Finding a job in a new city: 5 tips

People always say that ‘networking’ is a great way to find a new job. What happens when you’ve just moved to a place where you don’t yet have a ‘network’?

You’ve heard it before, probably a thousand times:  “The first place to start when you’re looking for a new job is your personal network – friends, family, former colleagues.  Just put the word out that you’re in the market for a new job and presto!  Someone will refer you to something!”

And it’s true, as far as it goes:  You’ll always do better going for recommendations and referrals through people who already know you and can attest to your brilliance.

But what happens when you move to a whole new city – maybe you’ve just gotten married, your spouse has been transferred, you have to be close to an aging family member, whatever – and you don’t have those kinds of resources?  How, exactly, do you go about looking for a job when your only friend within 50 miles is your cat?

IMPORTANT: Before you start trying to build a new network, be very clear about the kind of job(s) you’re looking for in your new city.  I know you think that saying “I’ll take anything!” will make you sound eager, willing and enthusiastic, but the truth is that when you’re too vague, your new contacts simply won’t know how to direct you properly, and you’ll end up with either the wrong kinds of leads or no leads at all.  The more specific you can be about the kind of job you’re looking for, the easier it is for people to steer you in the right direction.

Here are 5 tips to help get you started:

1.  Work your social media contacts individually

If you’re like most people, you’ve probably got 200+/- Facebook friends and 200+/- LinkedIn connections, half of whom you’ve forgotten existed.  Take another look – you’ll probably discover at least a couple who actually live in (or near) your new hometown.  Send them a message, letting them know you’ve just moved to their area.

You can take one of two tacks, depending on how well you know/knew them:  (a) Ask them for coffee or lunch (listen, you’re new to the neighborhood and you haven’t got a job – why not have lunch or coffee with someone new?  At the very least it could help your new social life); or (b) Ask them point-blank for advice on job-seeking in their city.  “Do you find it’s best to go to recruiters, or should I be using job boards…?  What’s your expert opinion?”  Most people are flattered to be asked for their advice, so they may make an extra effort to connect you to a recruiter they know, or a friend whose company is hiring, etc.  You never know!

2.  Work your social media contacts en masse

If you’re a regular Facebook user, you might have some luck posting a status message about your move and asking your Facebook friends if they know people in your new city.  You may find that a former colleague or university friend has a close friend or sibling in your new hometown, and can connect you. From there, you can try either tactic suggested in #1, above.

Yes, I know #1 and #2 require a little bravery on your part, because it can be a bit scary to ‘put yourself out there’.  However, as a person who gets at least 2 of these kinds of messages per month – from long-lost contacts, Facebook friends’ siblings/colleagues/former roommates, you name it – I can assure you that a nicely-worded message, with a little flattery thrown in (“So-and-so said you’d know who I should talk to because you’re an expert in this stuff…”) never goes awry.  Sometimes I can help; sometimes I can’t – but either way, you’ll never know until you try.

3.  Try Craigslist

I know, I know – there are a lot of  ‘junk’ jobs on Craigslist.  But amidst all the junk, there are often interesting opportunities, typically at small and mid-sized organizations which don’t have a lot of money to spend on advertising their job opportunities or hiring recruiters but might make a great first job in a new location.  It may take a bit of searching, but I’ve seen some great jobs posted on Craigslist that don’t turn up anywhere else.

4.  Contact recruiters

Spend a few hours with Google and find the names of the recruiters in your new area who specialize in your industry, role or field.  (I repeat:  Find the ones who specialize in your industry, role or field – don’t just compile a list of every recruiter within a 100-mile radius.)  Then send them a nice email saying that you understand they specialize in recruiting for X roles; that you’ve just moved to the area and are looking for X roles;  that you’ve heard they’re the local expert in X roles; and do they have any advice on how to get your foot in the door in your new city.

This combination of “I’ve done my homework” + flattery + low-key approach may get you a more helpful response than just sending them your resume.  Sure, some recruiters won’t get back to you – but I can almost guarantee that sending 10 emails like this will get you at least 2 responses.  And that’s two more recruiters than you knew before!

5.  Go direct to local companies

Do some research about your new town/city.  Who are the big employers?  Which organizations look like they might be interesting to work for?  Have you passed any interesting office buildings or heard about any local businesses which are growing quickly?  Check out their websites:  They may have job postings you can apply to, or even an HR/recruiting contact you can approach.  Here again, the combination of “I’ve done my homework” + flattery (“Your company looks like the kind of place I’d love to work”) + low-key approach may help you get a foot in the door that would otherwise be difficult.

I know it’s not easy to get your bearings when you move to a new place – years ago, I moved from Toronto to Philadelphia, so I’ve definitely been through the “where do I start?” problem – but you might be surprised to find that people are actually quite sympathetic to newcomers, and, when approached in the right way, will go out of their way to help you make the transition.

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