My decision to move was made in July 2008. I spent a great deal of time creating a plan and strategizing my upcoming job search. In this economy, how was I going to make myself stand out as a candidate? How was I going to convince an employer to hire a girl from Florida? Here's the plan I created out, and that I continue to follow:
- Be proactive and make regular trips to Chicago. The only way to get employers to take me seriously is to make regular trips (on my own dime) to meet them in person and make face-to-face connections. In the last five months, I've been to Chicago three times and even had a few interviews. Though they didn't work out, I am grateful for the interview experience. I'm also grateful to my friends and family that let me stay with them during these trips. I'm continuing my trips with one in mid-April and a week-long trip in July (before I make my move).
- Accept the reality of the economy. What employer is going to pay moving expenses for someone who is 6 years out of college and has no management experience? Instantly, I realized that I would have to pay my own relocation costs and let companies know that I'm willing to self-relocate. This also meant that I had to make a financial plan to cover these costs.
- Explore online networking. Through LinkedIn.com, as well as my university's alumni web site, I was able to make connections with other professionals in the city. I've met some of these contacts during my trips to Chicago, and each person has been kind enough to critique my resume and share their network of contacts. I can tell that these are people I will stay in touch with and continue to network with long into my career in Chicago.
- Join online discussion groups. Thanks to a professional that I met through online networking, I was turned on to some yahoo groups about various business topics in Chicago. After joining these groups, I feel like I'm more "in the loop" (pun intended) regarding Chicago's business community.
- Network with organization chapters in Chicago. There are a few membership organizations that I belong to with chapters around the country. What better way to make connections than to take advantage of these groups and attend their events? I've gone to a few gatherings of my university alumni chapter, as well as my sorority alumna chapter. At each one, I continue to make connections, and the best part is that we already share a mutual interest through the organization.
- Utilize key contacts in my hometown. I'm fortunate to have an extensive professional network here, however, I didn't want too many people knowing about my decision in case word got back to my company. I sought out the people in my network that have Chicago offices or may know potential employers there. I've received a few job leads and had some productive networking meetings thanks to the connections made through this group.
Isn't it ironic that conducting this job search has been almost like having a second job itself? It takes time, energy and dedication. A friend once told me a great piece of advice, and even though he was giving me running tips, I've found that it pertains to other areas of life (as do so many aspects of being a runner). He said "If you want it badly enough, you will get there." I want this BADLY, so all of the time, energy and dedication to get there is completely worth it.