By Barbara Hewitt
With spring break upon us, I’ve been thinking (a bit jealously I admit) about all the wonderful places Penn students will be travelling to during the coming week. (This week I’ve had students tell me they are headed off to Mexico, Florida, Trinidad/Tobago, and Japan among other places….Ahhhh, the life of a student!)
It is a big world out there, with plenty of places to ultimately settle down for a job. Whether you are looking to return to a place you hold dear to your heart, or seeking to put down roots in a new location, a long distance job search can definitely add a layer of difficulty to the process, which is why I thought I would focus this entry on providing some tips for just such a search.
Before you even begin sending out resumes and cover letters to far-away employers, recognize the challenges that you might face. If the location is entirely new to you, your network will likely not be well established there. Some employers will be hesitant to hire applicants unfamiliar with the area, worried that you may not stay long. If it is an organization that pays for interview travel costs, they will undoubtedly find it cheaper to bring in local candidates. If you are looking internationally, even the communications process can be difficult, as what is the middle of the day for prospective employers may be the middle of the night for you.
However, even with all the hurdles, it IS possible to land a job across the country or the world. During the initial stages of your search, it is wise to focus your search enough to make it manageable. Looking for a job “West of the Rockies” may be a bit too broad to start with, unless you are seeking opportunities in a relatively small industry. Start focused, and then you can expand your search later if necessary. Learn as much as you can about the growth industries in the area, the economy, and the demographics. For example, if you know that the area has a large Spanish speaking population, it would be helpful to highlight your Spanish language skills on your resume. If possible, plan at least one (preferably two) trips to the area. The first trip could be ideal for networking, exploring housing options, and conducting informational interviews, while the second could focus on actually scheduling interviews with employers. (Hopefully you can line up a number of them to help make the trip most effective.)
There are a variety of ways to research potential employers including checking out websites for the local Chamber of Commerce, which often provides a list of member organizations and may coordinate networking events. You might also research regional trade associations in your industry of interest, as they may sponsor conferences (great for networking!) and list available jobs on their websites. An added plus is that often student memberships are extremely affordable! You might also check to see if there are any career fairs that will be held in the area, and plan a trip to the area to coincide with it.
Read the local paper, as it can be very helpful in uncovering employers which might be hiring. That article about the advertising agency getting a brand new account or a real estate firm developing a new shopping center could inspire you to send them your resume! Newspapers will also help you when you go on your interview. It’s important to know how the local sports teams are doing and what the big issues are in the community. You never know what will come up over lunch when interviewing with prospective employers….and a familiarity with the community could be a big advantage.
Online sites such as Indeed.com or SimplyHired.com can let you search opportunities by geographic location and keyword, which can be extremely helpful. PennLink also has an option to search by zip code. The RileyGuide can help you find specific job boards for regions of the country. Specific city web sites can also be useful.
In a long distance job search, networking is critical! Check out PACNet (Penn Alumni Career Network) and regional alumni clubs to see if you might be able to schedule informational interviews with alumni in the area. Talk to other contacts you might have (friends’ parents, parents’ friends, faculty, etc.) about your interest in a particular region. You never know who might have the perfect lead for you!
In your cover letters, discuss any ties you may have to the area and the reasons you want to move there. Indicate if you plan to be in the area in the near future and suggest arranging an interview to coincide with it. It can often move the process along more quickly if the employer knows they won’t have to pay your travel costs. If you don’t plan to visit soon, suggest the possibility of an initial phone interview to discuss the position. Note that the Career Services office also has videoconferencing services available which current students can use to conduct interviews with distant employers. Skype might also be a good option to suggest for smaller employers which might not have more elaborate videoconferencing facilities easily available to them.
A long distance job can take longer and be more challenging than a local search, but it is successfully done by job seekers every day. (Want proof? California is the second most common destination state for Wharton graduates in most years.) You can land a position in a far-away place…you just need to be willing to put some extra effort into the search.