How do I get a job in another state?

Aaron McManus

How do I get a job in another state, you ask? 

I got the same question today via email, and I decided to share my response (since I wrote a pretty long reply)


Hi Aaron,


Thanks again for offering you views on my situation; I am curious in your opinion what is the best route to take to land a job in a state I want?




Hi Christopher,


I'll give you a few suggestions that have worked for me, and what I'd do now if I moved again.

I've lived/worked in quite a few places between Chicago, California, Oregon, and Alaska over the past 10 years.

A few times I've moved to take a job, more often I have landed cold and needed to find work.

First, it depends on the industry. I'll give a couple of examples in industries I've worked in to show a few ways companies do hiring, and then how to use this in your situation.

In the restaurant industry no one will hire you from far away - it just doesn't work that way. There's enough turnover that you can just walk into bars/restaurants, hand off your resume, and if you hit enough places with a decent resume, and you interview well, you can find a job in a couple of days. Restaurants can be a great way to get a quick job if you have restaurant experience or are really good at pretending you have restaurant experience -- they tend to rush thru hiring and say "yes" to almost anyone who doesn't seem immediately crazy… so if you're moving to a city and need to start working ASAP while you look for other work, start in restaurants, get a job doing something so you can afford some rent, and then you can focus on work that you want to do.

Because the insane trick to finding work is that when you are dead specific about the work *you* want to do… then you'll find it. But if you just rush around applying for everything, it comes across to employers and you won't get hired. Those are most of the resumes I reject every day… people who are just applying because they need a job, not because they know what they bring, they know what skills they have to offer, and they know how the value will translate to the employer.

When someone who is matched well to the job applies, they have written their cover letter *for* the eyes of the specific employer to whom they're applying. They understand the requirements of the position and they have taken the time to compose a thoughtful letter that speaks directly to the position and its relevance to the overall business. It's obvious that they've read thru the website, and often they'll make industry-specific references to specific phrases and terms that are used by industry insiders. It used to be really hard to fake this kind of insider knowledge; now a fast reader can prepare himself in a few weeks by reading the right blogs.

But the keys to getting the job you want are insight, planning and preparation.

First you have to dig deep to figure out what you want to do, and this is tough. You may not have clarity on the type of job you want, so you have to take the time to figure that out. It takes time. Spend the time walking, writing, making art, talking to mentors, etc. But take that time to figure it out. The good news is that you don't have to figure it out for the rest of your life; you just have to figure out what you want to do next. Let's assume that you want a marketing job.

Do you want to gain a specific skill set, like copywriting or analytics or design?

Find out who is best in the town where you want to be - linkedin groups are great for this - and figure out who is in charge of hiring at those companies/organizations. If you want to work for a specific agency, it's not hard to find lists of "top marketing agencies in ____" -- those companies pay a lot of money to make sure they're getting the right kind of press.

If you want to work directly for a company in a marketing department, it's easy to search on linkedin to find the people who work in that department.

Contact them directly. Don't ask them for a job. They don't know you. Ask them if they would be willing to take a few minutes to give you some career advice over the phone. Most people are willing. Come up with a good set of questions - this is where you have to do your homework, or you will sound like an idiot and won't get hired. You had better find out everything you can about a company *before* you get on the phone with anyone from that org. Some companies ask "what's our stock price today" in the interview, and if you don't know the right number, you don't get the job. And these aren't financial companies. It's expected by the people who work there that they're paying attention to the blogs, the social media, the PR announcements, etc - so if you want to work there, you'd better know about the company *before* you start talking to the executives.

Remember, this is a career game. If you have a well-planned career (I don't), you will move from company to company less than a dozen times. I've done a different route, more freelancing - I've worked for dozens of companies. Some executives from snooty companies look down upon that, but smart ones know that it gives me a whole lot of broad perspectives on the ways that humans relate to work and money. And I always, always know the company really freakin well before I talk to any of the execs or managers. Because it's essential to figure out the right questions to ask.

You have to know how the biggest challenges the company is facing, and how it relates to your role. Marketing is easy. Most companies are looking for growth. Marketing is about storytelling - and it's always a constant challenge to reach more people for less cost, and to get them more engaged with your brand, to make them buy more of the product, etc.

So if the company's financials are good, they're probably going to make some hires in the marketing department. If the company has more demand for its services than it can fulfill… then they don't need more marketing, and they're struggling to add more capacity. An example: one of my old clients, a brewing company, didn't need to do much marketing - they'd never paid for ads and their beer was flying off the shelves. They did have a crew of really talented artists who made beautiful images that the company used on its labels. But it was a small crew, and you had to already be an amazing artist to get to work there - and there are a ton of amazing artists who would love to work there.

So it's like winning the lottery to try and get a job in a marketing department for a company that doesn't need to do marketing.

However, this brewer had a VP of Marketing who had nailed the strategy right out of the gate: the company gave beer for free to nonprofits and bands who could give away the beer in exchange for donations, then keep the money. That got their beer tasted by thousands of people, and gave them a wonderful reputation (they make delicious beer).

People tried their beer at events and shows, heard about the company's generous donations, then were happy to buy it in stores and bars when it was available… soon every bar in Oregon had their beer on tap, because people were requesting it by name. So the guy who came up with that strategy still has a job, probably for life… because he has added tremendous value for the company.

Now let's compare that to Coors, Miller, Bud… those guys spend a fortune on marketing because their product isn't that good, and they're losing position to the craft brewers like Ninkasi who make great beer. So if you want to get a job for a company who needs marketing, it's often because their product isn't that great… McDonalds, Coca-Cola, Pepsi… these are really marketing companies who don't do a very good job with innovation or product development, so they constantly need great marketing ideas to keep their machines churning.

That's where it becomes SUPER important to understand the company and how it is positioned in the market place, as well as how they do hiring, as well as their needs at the moment… that's how you 100% nail an interview, when you know the company as well as the people who work there… that's when you've done your homework well.

A couple other thoughts:

In nonprofits, jobs are often planned months in advance, due to grant/funding cycles - when you get a grant for a new position, sometimes you know when you'll get the money, but it doesn't start for weeks/months. This gives them the luxury of time, so they'll take months to hire. If they are replacing someone who already has a funded position, then that hire is more urgent, depending on when the person is leaving and how busy the other team members are. Even if you're not looking for a nonprofit job, they are a great source of information -- I'll explain more in a sec.

In a professional firm, such as marketing, engineering, law, etc - positions are far more often driven by the feelings of the senior execs, not by any type of planning. I would never tell them that in that way, because businesspeople like to think of themselves as very well planned. The truth is that nonprofits often plan much better than businesses, and it has more to do with the dynamics of the organization -- businesses have a lot more freedom than nonprofits in many ways, simply because they have a lot more extra money.

Personally, I like to work for businesses who care a lot for their communities - they tend to be nicer people who treat their employees better, so it's a bit self-serving, but also I find it a lot more inspiring to know that my work has some meaning attached (altho certainly at times I've worked for jerks because I needed to earn money, too).

I have found that businesses who are actively involved in their communities have executives who serve on nonprofit boards, and it's easy (time-consuming, but easy) to match up companies who sponsor great organizations with the executives. If you can uncover really cool and innovative ways to use their marketing to promote causes they care about, you can really get their attention.

In the past, when I've moved to new towns, I have done a ton of research to find out which companies and organizations are involved with what stuff, and then I've made a little powerpoint presentation with some of my findings. I also include a list of questions at the end of the powerpoint, along with my contact info… then I've sent short emails to the people who were involved with publishing the research, letting them know I'm new in town or moving to the area, and asked for a short phone call so I can ask them a few questions. I try really hard to keep the emails and calls short, cause people are busy.

I try to fill in the gaps and connect the dots, ask good questions, and let people know that I'm very interested in helping -- in fact, I am looking for a job, if you hear of anything, and do you know of anyone I could talk to who might be hiring?

I think of it as a cause-based approach to getting hired… and on more than one occasion, I've had companies create roles for me doing exactly what I proposed to help solve problems that impacted their companies. It's a lot of work, but it's very rewarding. The benefits of doing the type of work that you want to do far outweigh the time it takes to do the homework… and it puts you light years in front of the pack.

Hope that helps, let me know if you have any questions… happy to hop on the phone and learn more about your situation, I'm speaking in generalities here. :)


All the best,


Aaron McManus


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