Tips for job-hunting in an unfamiliar city

How to land a position when you’re the new kid on the block.
By Eddie Huffman

Maybe you've always dreamed of living in a big city, or somewhere with easy access to outdoor adventures. Perhaps your spouse just landed that dream job in a faraway locale, and now you only have a few weeks to find your own new position there. Once you decide to take that leap, the challenges quickly pile up.

Moving requires everything from connecting utilities and getting a new driver's license to finding a gym and enrolling children in school. Landing a job often presents an additional layer of complications — you don't have a local network in place, and the employment landscape isn't laid out on Google Maps. If only it were as easy as finding the nearest grocery store.

The key to your job hunt will be effective networking, according to two recruiters we spoke with. They contend that connecting with people in your target city — inside and outside your profession — will help you find the best opportunities, including some that may not show up on employment websites such as Indeed or Monster.

"It's all trial and error," said Beth A. Berk, CPA, CGMA, an independent recruiter based in Bethesda, Md. "The more people you contact, the more likely you're going to make connections, whether they end up being just social connections or professional connections."

The recruiters suggest using social media, social and professional networks, and good old-fashioned legwork when looking for work in unfamiliar territory.

  • Use LinkedIn. If you can make your job search public, have LinkedIn reflect your target city, advised Mike Assaad, a metro market manager for Robert Half Finance and Accounting based out of the staffing agency's Chicago office. "If someone is looking to move from Chicago down to Phoenix or Charlotte, we recommend they update their LinkedIn profile to say that they are in that area and open to opportunities," he said. "Because then they are going to be looked at by other companies and other search firms."
  • Use LinkedIn to search for other professionals to network with in the target city, Berk said. She also recommended using online resources such as BNI (Business Network International) and Meetup to find people with similar professional or personal interests.

  • Get out there. Berk advocates networking the old-fashioned way by striking up conversations wherever you go, whether on a plane or subway or at a hotel.
  • Not everyone is as extroverted as Berk, she acknowledged, but a successful job hunt may require stretching beyond your usual comfort zone.

    "Talk to everybody," she said. "The hairdresser, the doctor, the dentist. Everybody has clients and patients and knows people; they have family; they have friends. Use your interpersonal skills and open yourself up, and ask how you can help them in return."

    Berk has stumbled across job leads in unexpected settings. A woman next to her at a nail salon once alerted her to a great opportunity that turned into a job: "She told me her friend was the CFO of a nonprofit and was looking to hire somebody."

  • Look for professional organizations. Other avenues for networking include professional organizations, such as state CPA associations, and college alumni groups. Not surprisingly, Berk and Assaad recommended connecting with recruiters to get an inside track on available jobs. But Berk acknowledged that recruiters don't always hear about every opening and may simply not have a presence in smaller cities and towns. "You may have to try other angles like the chamber of commerce or business networking events," she said.
  • Be direct. A more direct approach to landing a job involves researching several potential employers and targeting them by sending résumés and cover letters, even if they're not advertising an opening, Assaad said. Some employers may be more receptive to an indirect approach, according to Berk. "If you ask for an informational interview and information, it's a lot less off-putting to people, and they're more likely to want to help," she said.

Eddie Huffman is a freelance writer based in Greensboro, N.C. To comment on this article or suggest an idea for another article, contact Chris Baysden, associate director – content development, at

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