It might sound glamorous to move to the big city lights, or conversely romantic to exit urban trials for a small-town life, but there are challenges for PR pros whose networks are lifeblood. Moving means your local personal bucket of journalists, sponsors, donors, and colleagues once again must be filled. But sometimes, life in a new city comes after you – a new opportunity, spouse’s transfer, family responsibilities or a need for a fresh start – and you wind up in a new place, looking for a new job in PR.
For me, my husband’s promotion meant leaving sunny Phoenix for the upbeat Midwestern city of Columbus, Ohio (Following college in Nebraska, moving to Denver, then to Phoenix – all in the first five years of my career). After some months of serious searching, I happily settled into a new job and iteration of my PR career, translating my media skills into the digital world at Oxiem.
Here’s how I did it, and how you can, too.
- Get the lay of the land – Chamber packages, local Convention and Visitor’s Bureaus and American Business Journal newspapers’ Books of Lists can be fantastic resources to help you understand the local ecosystem. Who are the biggest employers? What are the leading industries? Finding out will help you ground yourself in the landscape and understand where you might fit.
- Lurk online first – One of the best parts about social networking is that you don’t have to be in the same physical location to interact with people. Lurking around the Twitterverse, scouring LinkedIn and friending forgotten college friends on Facebook can help you start virtually growing your networks. The first people I asked to meet up face to face when I moved were people I knew through Twitter.
- Start networking early, even before the move – Find out as much as you can as soon as you can, so that when you land in your new spot you can hit the ground running. This could be as early as an exploratory weekend trip or home-finding expedition. Squeeze in a few coffees and lunches with people you’ve interacted with online. They’ll be impressed at your early proactivity.
- Join groups and participate in associations and seminars – While most of us attend industry events as our work schedules allow, when you’re new, try to hit as many as humanly possible. Sitting at a table with a stranger automatically connects you, and eliminates the need to reach out online or through a contact. Costs can be prohibitive if you’re not currently working, but don’t be afraid to ask if there is a discounted rate for unemployed pros or if you can pay the student price. Today, it’s not uncommon.
- Be the most outgoing version of yourself – For a few months at least, be the most gregarious you possibly can be. You don’t have to be the life of the party, but you do have to be memorable. Play up whatever makes you most interesting – research background, foreign travel, hobbies or talents. People will be interested in you if you demonstrate passion and ability to connect with others.
My rule is that I can’t say no to any invitation, be it professional or social, for the first year in a new city. Even if you don’t connect personally with the person who invited you, they might have awesome friends or coworkers.
- Give back even before you have been given anything – When you’re new, you have to earn people’s trust and time drop by drop. They’ll be more interested in you if you can show you’ve already gotten involved in your new city and are trying to use your skills for the greater good. Volunteering, planning charity events, doing pro bono PR work, or joining a committee can help.
- Play the newbie card liberally – The great thing about being new is it’s a free pass to reach out to connections. You don’t need a reason other than trying to learn about local media, agencies or companies. I can’t tell you how many times I discussed what suburbs were best, local Columbus attractions, and the Ohio State Buckeyes vs. my alma mater’s team, the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Your fresh eyes and new perspective are always of interest to locals, so they’ll want to hear about your take on their town as well.
New professionals have an advantage in today’s economy because of our mobility. We can pick up and move for a job when others can’t, and most of us are excited to gain life and career experiences in a new place. All it takes is to make that first big, scary step off the ledge. When you land, follow this guide and you might find the fall wasn’t so far after all.
CRYSTAL OLIG is National PRSA New Pros Chair for Chapter Development, Sponsorship & Mentorship, a current Central Ohio PRSA University Liaison committee member, and the former Phoenix PRSA New Pros Committee Chai. She is an account manager with Oxiem Marketing Technology. She can be reached at colig[at]oxiem.com or through @sparklegem on Twitter, linkedin.com/in/crystalaolig, or through her whY genY blog.