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Ask The Career Coach – How to Relocate for an Out-of-State Job

June 12, 2013

Today’s blog post comes from our “Ask the Career Coach” Column by Denise Riebman, Director of Career Development and Alumni Services for the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration at George Washington University. You can submit your professional development related questions here.

Question:  What is the best way to land a position in another state?  How do I market myself and my AmeriCorps experience in other geographic areas than where I served?  And how can I afford the move?

2013.06.Across the River

Imagine you’re hiking on a trail which ends at a river bank.   The other side of the river is calling out to you as that is where you want to go!  How do you get across?

First, assess the situation.  Second, prep your gear.  Third, tap into your resources.  And finally, move forward onto that first steppingstone.  Landing a position in another geographic area requires the same thought and preparation to successfully navigate to a new destination!

Moving to a new city and finding the right job at the right organization is a lot to pack up into a figurative U-haul so think about steppingstones.  Since the average job search can take 3-12 months, a short and long term strategy is critical.   You might take a short term job in your current city while prepping and saving for the move.  You can take a leap of faith and take a temp job in a new place.  You could accept a good position with a decent organization that will give you a foothold in the new town.   It’s all about what’s right for where you are in your life, career and risk tolerance.

Here are some strategies to consider as you plan your move:

  • Assess the Situation

Job-ChangeDo your research about where want to live including knowing the cost of is a fun website to help you think through factors that matter in a new geographic location.
If you can afford it, plan a visit now and set up as many networking meetings as possible.

I worked with a student who focused for 6 months prior to graduation on landing a job in her dream town of Austin.   Finally, she landed a job interview and flew down to Texas.   Although the interview didn’t go well, she had also set up a post-interview networking lunch with a woman from another organization who was so impressed that she asked if she had time to meet with her colleagues before her flight that night.   By the time she landed in Boston, she had a job offer in her inbox and started the week after graduation.

If you can’t afford a visit, networking via phone/Skype is a good alternative option. I’d also encourage you to schedule meetings with temp agencies, especially ones that specialize in your field.  There are many agencies that focus on nonprofit, international development and university placements.  This can increase your network and help you get a foot in the door at an agency.  I temped for 6 months at a university when I first moved to Boston and my supervisor knew (and recommended me to) the Executive Director at the nonprofit where I finally landed a job!

Know how to message your AmeriCorps experience during networking to focus on how you would be value added, rather than a detailed explanation of what AmeriCorps is and its impact on your life.  Practice with people who don’t know much about AmeriCorps.  Clear, concise and compelling is your goal! Finally, if you land the job, they could want you to start as soon as possible so start planning your moving logistics now.  Remember – you are competing against local candidates so you want to be as flexible as possible for interviews and start dates.

  • Prep Your Gear

Not only do you have to make sure that both your resume and cover letter explicitly articulate why you are the ideal fit (especially over local candidates) but you need to use your cover letter to communicate that you are definitely moving to that area.  This is not the time to be wishy-washy. Clearly state that you are in the process of moving or that you will be permanently residing there by xx date. It is also recommended that you indicate that you are flexible for traveling for interviews and to relocate for the position.  Occasionally for high level management/executive positions relocation assistance is provided but in today’s economy that’s even becoming a rare commodity.  You need to be prepared to pay your own way!

The same guidelines apply for building a strong resume (Review: Translating AmeriCorps Onto Your Resume Webinar); however, if you are relocating, you need to make sure that someone not from your area clearly understands your organization/work.  You may need to include clarifying information about your organization in addition to your accomplishments:

AmeriCorps VISTA – Capacity Building Specialist         August 2012 – August 2013

Kids In Action, Portland, Oregon

Spearheaded development of organizational systems and financial backing for a new local nonprofit focused on implementing after-school sports activities for immigrant youth to support community integration and promotion of physical well-being.

  • Accomplishment
  • Accomplishment
  • Accomplishment

While we hope that everyone knows AmeriCorps, your accomplishments need to stand on their own regardless of how much the employer knows about national service.  Ask someone to review your resume who doesn’t know about AmeriCorps or what you did during your service to make sure that it is clearly articulated. Finally, since many employers will look at a resume first (and in some cases, only look at you resume) be sure to include under your address a note that you will be relocating to xxx city by xxx date.  For example:


1234 Main Street, Anytown, MD 11223 | | 515-222-1234

(Summer 2013: Relocating to Seattle, Washington)

  • Tap Into Your Resources

The beauty of AmeriCorps being a time limited position is that you can tell EVERYONE that you are relocating.  Ask them if they know anyone in that area you can talk to, even if they don’t work in your field.  You never know whose brother’s uncle’s friend’s boyfriend knows someone at the organization you’ve been dreaming of! LinkedIn is your new best friend when exploring 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree connections where you are looking to relocate.


When I was applying for jobs in another city, I saw through LinkedIn that someone I knew USED to work at an organization I was applying to (without LinkedIn I would never have known that she had once worked there) so I reached out to her for advice on how to land the job. Turns out she had insider’s knowledge about the current challenges that agency was facing and recommended that I NOT apply.  Since I didn’t live in that city, I would never have had scoop! However, LinkedIn should not be your only friend.  Tap into every network that you have including, of course, AmeriCorps Alum, which has chapters throughout the country.  And if you’re applying somewhere there isn’t a chapter, use the AmeriCorps Alums LinkedIn Group to reach to people in that area.  Other resources include college alumni networks, sorority/fraternity groups, connections through high school jobs/camps, Facebook, Military Veteran Groups and Young Nonprofit Professional Network chapters.

Another timesaving approach is to look at umbrella organizations.  Examples include professional associations like The Center For Association Leadership, Government Associations, United Way chapters, HandsOn Network Volunteer Action Centers, Net Impact Chapters, community foundations and local nonprofit associations. Check out the career services websites for local colleges as they will generally have listings of geographic specific job boards for their students.   Reach out to your undergrad/grad school to see if they have a reciprocity agreement with other colleges as these often allow alum to use their career resources.

A free resource for everyone is the Career One Stops which are federally funded work development centers located all across the country.  You can also check out Recruiters/Search Firms but be mindful of which ones recruit for what type of positions.  Generally, the more advanced you are in your career, the most helpful it is to connect with Headhunters. Finally, once you land a job in a new geographic area, be sure to circle back with EVERYONE you networked with and thank them for their help. This one little gesture can have major ripple effects in your long term career. As someone who’s lived and worked all across the country, I firmly believe that living somewhere that fits who you are and what you are looking for in your life can make a huge difference in your long term happiness.  Don’t be afraid of taking this chance.  You may get be nervous, get wet or even slip on a stone, but ultimately, it’s worth crossing the river!

AmeriCorps Alums is launching a new series in our career service program called “Ask the Career Coach.” The monthly Career Coach Column will take professional development related questions through our LinkedIn Discussion Group that are professional development related.

Our AmeriCorps Alums Career Coach Denise Riebman, an AmeriCorps Alum herself with 20 years of experience in professional development, training, and career counseling, will select and answer 1-2 questions each month to be featured in both the newsletter and the Career Coach Column on our blog.

Submit your career and professional development questions here.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 14, 2013 2:49 am

    This is spot-on! Over the past three years, I have relocated across the country for various AmeriCorps positions and this article reflects and validates much of my experience! Thank you!

  2. June 14, 2013 11:01 am

    Thanks for sharing Farrin! Great to hear that these tips were relevant and similar to your relocation experience. Any other tips you’d share with Alums on moving for a new job?

  3. Denise Riebman permalink
    June 17, 2013 1:41 pm

    Thank you Farrin for your very kind words! And to echo what Ken said, please feel free to add any other tips you’ve learned through your own transitions.

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