Hey Coach! How Do I Rebuild My Network After a Cross Country Move?
Welcome to Hey Coach!, a career advice column hosted by SoFi’s Career Advisory Group, a team of expert career coaches dedicated to helping SoFi members reach professional success. Got a tricky career question of your own? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
My husband and I have made the decision to move across the country so we can live closer to our families in the Bay Area. We’ve been living in New York for the last ten years and have really planted roots—great friends, families and jobs—but we’re looking to start a family of our own soon and know being closer to loved ones is the right choice.
I’m an introvert, so networking has always been a sore spot for me, and my husband works in a really niche field, so mining online job boards always ends in more frustration than anything. Our apartment lease ends in three months, and while we have a nice nest egg to keep us afloat for a while, neither of us wants to be unemployed for too long, not only for financial reasons, but also because we don’t want this to look bad on our resumes.
It sort of feels like a perfect storm where we’re dealing with one too many changes at once, and I’m getting overwhelmed. Where do we start? What advice can you offer?
On the Move
Hey there, On the Move,
First off, let’s acknowledge the fact that you’re right. Moving is tough, and in this case, you’re not just moving, but also job searching, trying to overcome personal challenges AND thinking of starting a family. Phew! Before you start digging in, know that you are brave and resourceful, and even though this feels like a lot, you WILL get through it.
For now, let’s tackle things one by one.
1) Since you brought up the idea of networking (and how much it scares you), I think you already recognize its importance. In general, we see that upwards of 80% of jobs come through networking connections, not just because they open doors to unpublished positions, but also because relationships can facilitate fast-tracking and greater levels of attention to your candidacy. Particularly for your husband, whom you state works in a less common field, it sounds like tapping into his current network AND continuing to build upon it, is going to be integral to getting off to a running start.
As for you, I get it. I’m an introvert too, and I like nothing less than going into a crowded room and trying to make small talk. But know that in-person events are not the only way to network. LinkedIn has profiles from millions of professionals from around the world, and even with a standard account you can send a connection request to anyone. Start doing some research now about the companies you might be interested in working for and send out informational interview requests so you can learn more about the culture, organizational structure, etc. After your initial conversations, stay in touch with the people you connect with, and over time those relationships may blossom into something more. Even if they don’t, these people may be able to introduce you to others who can add value to your search or they may wind up being friendly faces you can meet for coffee in your new city.
2) I’m really glad to hear that you’re making this move after some serious thoughts about what it will take to be successful financially. Not only that, but being motivated to find work quickly is never a bad thing. All that said, I want you to recognize that the average job search takes roughly six months, so don’t take it as a personal affront if you wind up having to search for a little longer than you expected. Perhaps this is obvious, but the amount of time you need to spend will vary too, based on market indicators for your chosen field and what you’ve identified as “must haves” for your next role (i.e. salary, hours, culture, level, etc.) Remember, moving isn’t exactly cheap either, so make sure to factor in the possible 6 month job search into your budget, or look at ways to finance your move like selling furniture or taking out a relocation loan.
The best job search strategies I’ve seen are ones in which the candidate attacks the search from as many angles as they can. This means not only active networking efforts, but also customized resumes and cover letters, strong online personal branding (often exhibited in a great LinkedIn profile) and practiced and prepared interviewing techniques. Depending on how much you thrive on structure, you may want to create a job search plan with weekly or bi-weekly milestones that can keep you accountable to your goals. It’ll also help you feel accomplished if you can celebrate small wins–like sending out 5 networking requests or customizing 2 cover letters–rather than placing all of your happiness into the ultimate goal of landing a job.
Finally, I’d encourage you to not get too hung up on this move looking bad on your resume. If you had something significant like a 3-year gap, sure, a hiring manager might ask questions. But remember that you are in control of how you position yourself, so as long as your story is solid–and from what you’ve shared it sounds like it is–I’d be surprised to hear if someone held this type of sabbatical against you.
3) I have some final thoughts on moving. I relocated to Philadelphia from central Florida about 4 years ago, and I thought that within 6 months I’d be settled, have a ton of friends and know the area like the back of my hand. I was shocked when a year and a half later I still felt like a stranger in my neighborhood. Now I love living here, but the process of changing locations, industries, and jobs at the same time proved way more difficult than I expected.
Be kind to yourself. Although it sounds as though you may have some connections in the area, give yourself permission to feel and process all of the emotions that pop up in this transition period. Lean on your loved ones for support. Stay open minded. Know that most things have a tendency to work themselves out in time. You got this!