Having trouble finding a dream job in your zip code? Why limit your job search to just one town? If you're a recent grad, chances are you're still young, with nothing much to tie you down. You have the flexibility to pick up and go, which isn't so easy when you get older and start to settle down.
Plus, "if you're willing to relocate, you cast a wider net and have more jobs to choose from," says Philadelphia career coach Mindy Thomas.
Granted, this won't be a cakewalk. Many employers are hesitant to hire out-of-town job seekers, since there are a number of expenses involved—and some simply don't have enough money in their recruiting budget to pay to fly candidates in for interviews, let alone subsidize relocation costs (a rare offer for entry-level hires).
But if you show prospective employers you're worth a second look (and are willing to forfeit relocation expenses), you could find yourself at a new gig in a city you'd never even considered. Take these steps to focus your search, outshine local talent and nab a great first job.
Narrow your list of cities
Instead of taking your job search nationwide—and spreading yourself too thin—whittle it down to two to four cities, says Karen Litzinger, a career coach and business etiquette trainer in Pittsburgh. Finding a city with a strong job market is a must, but you also need focus on places that fit your lifestyle; if you're an outdoors enthusiast, for example, New York City probably isn't the best choice.
When choosing prospective cities, think about the cost of living and housing affordability. A good rule of thumb: your rent should be no more than 35% of your income.
Make a great impression remotely
Many companies start the hiring process with a phone interview, but it's tough to establish a connection on the phone. You're better off asking the hiring manager or recruiter to do a Skype interview so that you can meet face to face (even if it's behind a computer screen). To ace a video interview, you'll need to dress professionally, maintain eye contact and use inflection, since you don't really have the ability to use hand gestures or body language to convey that you're passionate about the job.
Distinguish yourself from local job candidates
Since employers prefer to hire locally, you need to do your homework on the company. Show that you've taken steps to research the market. "You need to know what the company does, who their target customer or client is and who their competitors are," says Cincinnati career coach Dana Glasgo. Go the extra mile by joining local professional associations and industry Meetup.com groups, Thomas recommends.
Tap your network
Working your connections is beneficial no matter what, but it's crucial when you're applying to jobs in other cities. "Networking is your best way to get hired," says Litzinger. Connect with your college's alumni chapter in your prospective city and reach out to people who work at the companies you're researching.
But tread carefully: "If you don't know the person, you need to ask for their job search advice first," says Litzinger. When contacting someone for the first time via email, make sure to include your school year and major, how you got the person's contact information and why you want to connect. (Keep it simple: "I'd love just 20 minutes of your time to learn more about what you do.")
In addition, touch base with family, friends and college professors; they might have connections that can help you get a foot in the door for job interviews. Let them know what jobs you're applying for, what companies you're interested in and that you're willing to relocate for work.
Address the relocation issue head-on...
Don't lie—or try to mislead hiring managers—by putting a friend or relative's address on your job application. "It's dishonest, and if the employer finds out, you're not going to get the job," says Kay. Instead, include in the first paragraph of your cover letter why you're willing to move—and tie your reasoning to the particular company or job (e.g., "I'm open to relocating because this is an amazing job opportunity and I believe in your organization's values.")
If you're serious about the job, it could be worth the financial investment to pay your own travel expenses for an in-person interview. A tactful approach: write in the cover letter, "I'm in town frequently and can make myself available to meet in person."
...but don't dwell on it
You can't change the fact that you don't live in the area, so don't focus on it. So unless the hiring manager brings it up during the interview stage, don't broach the topic. "If you have the skills and talent to stand out from the other job candidates, you're going to get hired," says Thomas.
Originally published on Monster.