Reader Question: How do I get a job across the country?

Bonnie left the following note on my previous entry:

would you consider doing a post on how you successfully snagged an interview cross-country? My BF and I are trying to GET to California but I haven’t received much of a response from my job applications.

I wish I could be more help in this situation.  I’m always a little surprised when I get interviews, and I’m constantly feeling that my resume is inadequate.  However, Bonnie may be onto something, because most jobs I’ve been offered or interviews I’ve received have been from the opposite side of the country I was currently living on.

The best I can do is share my own process.  This applies to getting a job in general, but there are some tips at the end of the list

1. Know the company you’re applying to.

They always say to do this before an interview, but I have only ever applied to companies where I understood their industry and the different segment I was applying to.  It’s helpful to know people at the company, especially if they’ve worked in recruiting.  I know my company essentially throws away cover letters, doesn’t look at GPA (unless you’re a recent college grad) and rarely looks at activities.  They hone in on your relevant experience.  In applying at my own company, I focus on that. (I  have only ever been offered jobs or interviews with this company, hilariously enough.)

2. Embellish.

If you can talk intelligently about a task you were involved in, it doesn’t matter if you did all the work or part of it.  I have worked on many things at my job where I have been a bit player.  However, if I am able to discuss the details of the situation – the decisions that were made, the technical reasoning behind it, and the outcome – I can put it on my resume.  Don’t lie.  I repeat: Do. Not. Lie.  It’s hard to find out that someone was just taking notes in a meeting, it’s very easy to find out that they weren’t in the meeting to begin with.

This sounds at best a little dishonest and at worst kind of unethical.  I just figure it’s expected.  The best example from my own resume is a satellite design club I was in during undergrad.  I worked on a particular subsystem, but only ever got to work on a small part of it.  Even then, since I was an undergraduate student, I was mainly given the job of coding.  However, I can talk about what the hardware did, how the team produced the algorithm, and the actual coding process.  I don’t say, “I did this single-handedly,” but I also don’t say, “Yeah, I typed up a few hundred lines of code.”

3. Tailor your resume.

This is the advice that everyone gives, but I feel pretty confident that people don’t actually do it.  This is because I am somewhat lax about tailoring my resume, except for jobs I really want.

Everyone always says, look for key words.  How do you know which words are key?  Anything that describes what you’re going to be doing, software you’ll be using, etc.  They’re not looking for buzz words like “team player.”

Some people say that you should focus on accomplishments instead of daily tasks.  I think those people don’t work in engineering, and I also think they’re a bunch of overachievers.  If you have accomplished something – increasing sales or streamlining the bill pay process by creating a website, use that!  But if you’re like the rest of us, explain your task.

4. Don’t waste your time.

It’s one thing to apply for a job that requires 5 years of experience when you only have 4.  It’s another to apply for a job that requires experience in spacecraft design when your past jobs have been land surveying.

This also applies to searching on the big career-search websites.  Applying on is like throwing your resume in the trash.  CareerBuilder is better, but not by much.  Apply directly at the company website, if you can.  If they don’t have a website, find their address and mail your resume there.

5. Apply at smaller companies.

Smaller companies aren’t going to have as many applicants.  They also might not be posting their jobs in too many places, so sometimes you have to look a little harder.

6. Go to the job.

I’m not saying you need to move to California before you get the job.  However, visiting the area you’re interested in will give you more visibility to what is available. There are jobs listed in local papers, or there might just be signs in a window at a place you’d love to work.  Being nearby is immensely helpful.

This is how Chad got his job.  I had already moved to California, and he came out to visit me.  While perusing the newspaper at breakfast, he saw an ad for several job fairs nearby.  The first was a bust, but at the second he was offered a job on the spot- making more than me!

Again, this is just stuff that has worked for me or that I’ve seen working for others.  Finding a job right now is very difficult, especially here in California.  Most of this knowledge would be useful for someone who is technical, but I think the underlying information is the same.  Unfortunately, I am in the position of knowiing exactly what I want to be when I grow up, so it was easy for me to take classes based on that interest and easy for me to apply for exactly the right jobs for me.

Do you have any recommendations?  Share your thoughts in the comments!


6 Responses

  1. I would be surprised if anyone in engineering ever read cover letters. The GPA thing has to be standard — no one cares once you actually have done something besides school.

    Thanks for telling me I don’t have to focus on accomplishments. I also hate the generic advice to “quantify your accomplishments” with numbers. That seriously doesn’t apply in most cases.

  2. These are great tips. It was amazing when my company was hiring, some people came in with the attitude of, “I don’t know what you guys do and I did absolutely no research or prep work when I applied.” I also think the key to your post is the networking. It’s always much better to know someone who knows someone that’s hiring. And yes, being very well qualified like P.A. always helps. ;-D

  3. The 3 websites where job seekers got the best results (from – (networking for professionals) (aggregated listings) (matches you to the perfect jobs)

    For those looking for work, good luck!

  4. Thanks so much for the post, PA!!

  5. For your reader that is looking for a job in Cali:

    The hardest part about moving to Cali is that the cost of living is EXCEPTIONALLY high. So most employers there aren’t going to consider you if you don’t already live there because you have NO IDEA how much it really costs until you’re already there.

    So my advice is this: Find a friend who is willing to let you use their address for your contact address. This way they’ll actually consider you. It is a little dishonest, but the only real way to get employers in California to consider you, without just picking up and moving there with no job in hand. However, my ex-bf did this and got a job within a week of moving at the same company that wouldn’t give him the time of day when he lived in Florida (before the move).

  6. […] Only thing is, I need to figure out how to get them to notice me. Here is a blog that has tips to get a job across the country. It is possible, but it is hard. But I’m gonna do it. And I’m gonna ski ALL THE TIME! […]

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