Tech & Work

First person: The grass is always greener

Thinking about relocating for a job? Don't make the decision lightly. Read what TechRepublic member Paul Clemmons has to say about the experience.


ByPaulJ.Clemmons

Recently, there have been some articles published on the TechRepublic site about the national shortage of IT workers. Some of the responses to those articles have said, “Move to where the jobs are.” That is a simple thought, but being the veteran of two geographic relocations (one pre-World Wide Web and one present), it is really not so simple. Here are some things to consider.

Location, location, location
Being stuck in the snow in the dead of winter in Minnesota, do you dream of sunny days in California? Do tornados, earthquakes, and hurricanes get you down? Tired of paying a king’s ransom just to stay in a one-bedroom loft in (fill in your favorite metropolitan city). Everybody has a preference as to where he or she would like to work, whether it is for family, climate, or job possibilities.

But where will you find the most opportunities for work? The following areas in the country have high concentrations of high-tech jobs: Silicon Valley (San Jose, CA), Silicon Alley (New York), Silicon Beach (California coastal cities), Silicon Desert (Phoenix/Tucson, AZ), Silicon Forest (Portland, OR, to Seattle), Silicon Prairie (Dallas/San Antonio/Austin, TX), Silicon South (Atlanta), Research Triangle NC, Boston and surrounding areas, Chicago, and Denver. Each area has its own distinctive advantages and disadvantages in terms of climate and culture.

Family
If you are married, are your spouse and kids ready to pick up and move? Do you own or rent? This is key in looking at companies, since most do not offer relocation or reimbursement for moving. If you are in a house, you might have to go to the new location while your spouse sells your old home. This usually means having enough funds to support two households at the same time. This is definitely not an idea to pursue while unemployed for a while.

Resume
Of course, you will need a well-written resume that highlights your talents and experiences. I have heard that you should have several resumes written, depending on the job description. I believe that you should have a resume that accentuates what you want to do, not necessarily what you have done. Pick a job that you want to do and write your resume based around that idea. If you don’t want to aspire to a better position, why bother changing jobs?

Here is the situation that I just went through. I hope it will help out those of you who are considering relocating.

Following the IT rainbow
A couple of months ago, I was approached by a friend to work for his company, a huge one with plenty of benefits. At the time, I was not really considering moving, but I sent him my resume to be considered for a position here in Phoenix. He came back and told me that the position there was already filled, but there were other positions available for San Diego, Los Angeles, Denver, and Seattle.

Having been born and raised in California, I really didn’t have a desire to move back there again, which left Denver and Seattle. After approaching my wife about this, she told me that wherever I wanted to go was fine with her (the heat and dust here will get to you after a while). I decided to pursue Seattle, since bone-chilling cold was not what I really wanted to work in for half the year. Yes, I know—Seattle and rain—but I had been stationed in Washington before, so I knew what to expect.

The difference the Web makes
The big difference that I have noted from this job search and my last relocation in 1993 was the presence of the Internet. The previous time I relocated, I was spending time in the library and on the phone finding out about cost of living and looking through the local papers. This time I simply searched the Internet and found out all the information that I needed to make an informed estimate on how much I would need to make to live there. That, in addition to being able to view apartments, features, and pricing in areas where I was considering living, made my job much easier.

The Internet as a job-hunting tool has become, at times, a bit overwhelming. You can search the major job banks and find hundreds, even thousands of jobs. There are two approaches to this. I started by registering on about 10 different sites and having e-mail notifications done daily. As a result, I was sifting through well over 300 job listings per day. Some of the positions also list the name of the company. If they do, it's good to do a bit of research into the company, personnel, benefits, and products/services they provide. Always remember that you are looking for a position that you would like, people with whom you would like to work, or a company for which you would like to work. You are shopping as much as the companies are. Apply for the positions that are both interesting and work in technologies or products with which you would like to be involved.

The value of a recruiter
You may also have some success finding job leads through headhunters or recruiters. Now before you get into any negative connotations about recruiters, I would like you to know that the position I just accepted was through a recruiting firm. The advantages of using recruiters or headhunters are that they match your abilities—and more importantly, your personality—to their clients.

I had a wonderful recruiter named Angela who took the time to find out my personality and desires. Even though we went through a couple of different companies, we finally hit one that offered me a job within 24 hours of interviewing with the hiring manager.

If you work with the recruiters, they will go that extra mile to be in front of that company for you. This is very important when you are trying to land a position that is in another geographic location—which brings me to my next job-search tool, the telephone.

You cannot get around the telephone as the initial (and in some cases, follow-up) interview tool for both recruiters and companies. You must be able to, on very short order, get your personality and competency across to the person on the other end of the line. This initial phone call is where you leave your first impression. The way I approached the phone interviews was to imagine that I was in a room with the person and putting as much energy and enthusiasm as possible into what I was saying. Remember, you will probably not be seeing a person until you get past a couple levels of phone interviews. If you tend to "freeze up" over the phone, practice with a friend or your spouse. And make sure you are in a quiet, comfortable setting for the call. I tend to get up and walk around the backyard of my house, since it is generally quieter and I am not distracted by the TV or computer.

Don’t give up
There may come a time during your search, if it takes more than a couple of weeks, when you will feel like it is a fruitless endeavor. I was able to remind myself that all was not lost by having a background on my computer of the place I was trying to get to. It allowed me to re-focus my energies and get a revitalized sense of purpose.

Once you finally get to meet face-to-face with the person in charge, you need to remember a few things.
  • If they are flying you to another location for the interview(s), take an extra set of dress clothes and a set of casual clothes, just in case an accident happens. Plus, when flying back home, you will be more comfortable in casual clothes.
  • Have a number in your mind for your salary and moving costs. The first is at least what you are presently making and, if the cost of living is higher, a percentage or so more. The second you can estimate by going to a moving site (U-Haul, etc., for the do-it-yourselfer), finding out the cost of trucks, mileage, etc. (don’t forget the gas), then adding to that the amount for an apartment, plus deposit.
  • Don’t forget deposits for electricity, water, phone, cable, etc. If you are lucky, a company might foot the bill for the relocation, but generally you are on your own. Sometimes you can get an advance on your pay, but you have to pay that back almost immediately.

Some parting words
The rest of the interview is pretty standard stuff, but always remember that the company just flew you out to their location at their expense, and they wouldn’t have done so if they didn’t think that you had potential. Don’t disappoint them.

Remember to be flexible and don’t get discouraged. You may lose out to people who are already living in the area. However, being immediately available for work, or available within a week or so, may put you further up on the list.

Also, don’t discount the effect of a well-written resume. Generally, the resume is the first thing the hiring manager will see. If you don’t portray yourself well in writing, they won’t look at you again.

In the job I just accepted, I was the perfect candidate on paper, but I still needed to meet the hiring manager to make sure I had the right “chemistry,” that I would work well in the company. After a false start (my plane was cancelled, which blew my chances at interviewing that particular week because schedules were tight), I met the hiring manager at the airport here in Phoenix for lunch and received an offer the next afternoon.

Paul J. Clemmons has been a computer systems engineer for the past 15 years working in pretty much every part of the computer industry. He has just accepted a position as technical sales engineer for OpenPages, Inc., for the Pacific Northwest region. To comment on this article, please post a comment below or follow this link to write to Paul.

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