1.5 Relocating

Learning Objectives

  1. Understand what is different when you are looking for a job based in a location other than where you are.
  2. Get strategies for how to successfully complete a long-distance search.

Conducting a Job Search from a Different Location Presents Unique Challenges

You might be attending school in a location that is different from where you want to live after graduation. You might have personal reasons for wanting to relocate now. You might want to experience working in a different country. A number of positive explanations might exist for why you need to conduct a long-distance job search. This doesn’t make it any less challenging:

Your network and support system may be smaller. Your contacts are more likely to be where you live. In the case of a long-distance search, you won’t have as big or strong a network in your target geography.

You have additional planning and scheduling constraints due to travel. You need to travel to your target geography several times during your search. Phone interviews and networking meetings are fine to start, but you absolutely have to meet people in person during your search. Planning and accommodating travel into your schedule are concerns you must address if you are a job seeker who is relocating.

Your long-distance search can be expensive. Some employers will pay for interview travel, but even then, only at the later stages of an interview. For networking or exploratory interviews, you need to foot the bill. In addition, some but not all employers pay for relocation. National conferences or career fairs in your target geography give you a chance to meet and possibly interview with prospective employers. You need to budget and plan for the fees and travel accompanying these resources.

If you are relocating internationally, you have the added complexity of different time zones, different currencies, different employment laws, and different job search protocols. Imagine a search for someone in Asia wanting to work in the United States or vice versa—even the simplest phone call needs to be planned due to the time difference. When you research salaries or even company or industry revenues, you will be dealing with a different currency. You also have to check how you will be classified when working abroad—sometimes you can be paid in your home currency. You need to research what visa or other authorization you need to work in a different country. Finally, your job search tactics need to take into account cultural norms abroad.

For those students who wish to return to their home country, perhaps you have friends and family who can help to make connections. You will want to use your time wisely when you travel back home during breaks and holidays, and arrange interviews and meetings far in advance. International students who want to stay in the United States after graduation are presented an entirely new set of issues. Obtaining permanent authorization to work in the United States can be complex because the government has caps on work permits that are often reached by the vast number of international students who want to stay in the United States. In addition, certain visas allow for one year of work in the United States (H1B), and extensions can come with those visas. Students should speak to the person in charge of international students or to career services for advice on these issues. You might also consult an employment lawyer who is well versed in visa requirements. A good job search strategy would include researching and then targeting companies that will hire international students who are not authorized to work in the United States on a full-time basis.

Searching Long-Distance Requires Extra Time, Expense, and Activities

You still need to execute the six steps of the job search process, but with these additions:

Plan time and budget to visit your target geography several times over the course of your search. If you are a student, consider using your academic breaks in your target geography. If you are employed, set aside vacation time to make these trips. Budget for these additional travel expenses as you plan your job search.

Set specific dates for when you will be in the target geography. It is helpful if prospective employers know when you will be in the area. You might convince employers or at least networking targets to meet with you because you are rarely in the area.

Make sure you are clear about time zones. You want to correspond during normal business hours for your target. If you are in the United States and targeting Asia, this means you have late-evening search activities. When you are scheduling within a different time zone, be vigilant about expressing what time zone you are referring to when you propose or confirm times.

Research visa, work authorization, and other legal issues as soon as your target geography is identified. Paper work often takes longer to process than you expect, and you do not want to find out you have expended effort for an inaccessible location. Remember to consult with international student affairs, career services, or an employment lawyer well before you start your search.

Research cultural nuances and exactly how the job search is conducted in the geography you are targeting. This might be obvious for international searches, but there might also be nuances in different regions of the same country.

Account for extra time to be deliberate in your search. When you are in a different geography, you will not have the luxury to drop in at a networking event you heard about at the last minute. Conferences and career fairs have deadlines for registration. The immediate people around you will likely not be connected to your target geography. You will need to be proactive and find resources relating to your long-distance search.

Consider Moving before You Get a Long-Distance Job

Employers do not want to waste their time on candidates who then decide not to move. If you have a specific date for when your move will happen, this helps convince prospective employers how serious you are about moving. If you offer to pay for your interview travel, this also signals to employers that you are serious about their geography. (Employers don’t always pay for interview travel, anyway.)

Some job seekers might make their move contingent on getting a job in the area, and financially, this may make sense, but it presents the chicken-and-egg problem: employers want to know you will definitely move before they consider hiring you, but you want to know they will give you a job before you consider moving. People do get jobs before they have physically moved. However, if your job search has stalled, you might want to consider moving to your target geography because it is easier to look for a job in the same place you live.

Getting an address or phone number that reflects your future geography can signal to employers that you are already there. This helps you with employers who won’t consider out-of-area candidates. However, this may hurt your chances for relocation reimbursement if you need to move for the job and would otherwise have qualified had you not suggested you were already there.

Even hypothetically planning the move will help you personally, as it confirms whether you can indeed move. If you own a home, can you sell it in a timely way? Have you run the numbers on relocation costs and your new cost of living in the target geography? Are you emotionally prepared to uproot? It’s one thing to imagine that you would be open to relocating, but once you are in the thick of your job search, you want to be sure that you are spending time on geographies that are feasible options for you.

Key Takeaways

  • A long-distance job search adds complexity to your time and budget for your job search.
  • Plans for travel or even an advance move to your target geography are things you must consider.
  • For international job searches, be careful of different time zones as you plan, and be prepared to accommodate for different employment laws and cultural norms.
  • With proper planning and the willingness to accommodate the additional work of visiting and researching your target geography, a long-distance job search can be successful.


  1. Make a list of the geographies you are considering for your search. How serious are you about moving there? For the strong contenders, run the numbers on travel to and from the area. Plan a trip so you know where you would stay and how you would get there. Look at a local paper for the geography (or online at Craigslist if it’s available for the area) and check prices for housing, food, and so forth.
  2. Find networking and support resources in your target geography. Bookmark the Chamber of Commerce sites or find local chapters of national industry or functional associations. Join a local chapter of a professional association so you can start building a network in that geography.
  3. Research the visa and work authorization issues if you are considering international relocation. Make a list of resources you can consult for the legal information you need.