The Long Distance Job Hunt

Job hunting from afar can be a tricky proposition. Since most hiring occurs through relationships, you are at a distinct disadvantage as an out-of-towner. You have to create a strong network -- often from scratch-without regular face-time. You may also be viewed as more of an employment risk than someone who already lives in the area. But don't despair. These tips will improve your chances of finding success.

MOVE FOR THE RIGHT REASONS. Don't choose another geographic area just because you think the opportunities for law school graduates will be better there. They won't be. Legal jobs are hard to come by everywhere, even in so-called "hot" markets. Move only because you're strongly attracted to the area for other reasons -- your family or friends are there; you fell in love with it on vacation five years ago; your spouse is being transferred there; or your significant other already lives there.

BECOME AS KNOWLEDGEABLE AS A NATIVE. Learn everything you can about regional economic trends, political issues, major employers and lifestyle considerations. Subscribe to the newspaper with the largest circulation, one good business journal, and every relevant bar association publication. Your knowledge of local issues, neighborhoods and lingo will make you seem less of a transplant.

DON'T RELY ON CLASSIFIED ADS OR HEADHUNTERS. Only those with outstanding credentials and a specialty in high demand will find work that way. Everyone else will have to rely on the more time-intensive methods of finding employment. Meet and maintain contact with many residents. Get acquainted with graduates of your law school or undergraduate university who live there now. Contact lawyers you see mentioned in bar association publications. Then use email to stay in touch.

INVEST IN SEVERAL TRIPS TO THE AREA. There's nothing like action to impress skeptical employers, especially those in popular places like Boston, Denver, San Francisco, Raleigh-Durham or the Pacific Northwest. At a minimum, make several networking trips to the area, preferably only a month or two apart. Plan your visits so you can attend luncheons or seminars sponsored by relevant professional associations. If you're going to practice law, sit for the bar exam as soon as possible. But be aware that even these investments may not be enough. Some employers will only be convinced of your resolve when you're actually living there.

PREPARE FOR VIDEO INTERVIEWS. If a potential employer is willing to interview you by video chat it is helpful to have arranged your equipment and space to present a professional appearance. Familiarize yourself with common video chat programs such as Skype and learn how to operate your computer's camera and audio functions. Test your ability to make and receive calls with friends or family so that you can eliminate problems with sound or lighting before you have to interview.

TAKE ONE STEP AT A TIME. Don't combine a geographic move with a major job or career change. You'll undermine your credibility, and multiply your stress exponentially. Apart from all the other negative consequences of stress it prevents you from projecting the confidence and ability that employers seek.