How LinkedIn Changed My Life
Spoiler alert! LinkedIn.com didn’t actually change my life. I changed my life, using LinkedIn. This is the story of how I moved 2,200 miles across the country without missing a beat.
As I mentioned in this post back in January, my wife and I decided to move from Nashville, TN to Portland, OR to be closer to family by this Summer. That’s all well and good, but the practical realities of moving across the country are daunting, to say the least. It takes a lot of patience and tenacity just to deal with housing choices, let alone transportation and the logistics of getting from Point A to Point B. But as many people can attest, those are merely details to work through as long as you know that you’ll be gainfully employed once you get there. And THAT is where most people stumble. Without a guaranteed source of income on the other side, most people can’t afford to move in the first place. And landing a job in a city 2,000 miles away can seem like an impossible task. Thanks to LinkedIn, that was actually the easiest part of the entire process for me, and I’m going to tell you how.
Know Your Industry
It may go without saying, but unless you know what you’re looking for, it can be awfully difficult to find it. In my case, I went in search of small-to-mid-sized businesses with an entrepreneurial flare, programming, creative and marketing services to compliment my skillset, and the courage to hire a Southern transplant with a stupid name like “Pinky Gonzales” to top it all off. Portland is full of web design shops, major ad agencies and boasts one of the highest percentages of entrepreneurs per capita in the Nation. But those are just stats. Connecting with real people in those places is the name of the game. So where did I find them?
Anyone worth their salt in my space is an avid reader of blogs. TechCrunch is one of the more popular destinations, and most importantly, includes a comprehensive database of all of the companies they have ever mentioned, available online at CrunchBase.com. This was square-one in my search. Their “advanced search” feature allowed me sort and display only companies in the Portland area, which returned an initial list of about 90 companies. I widdled this list down to about 20 that fit my criteria, and then began researching each one in-depth.
It’s easy to get a sense of the size and vibe of a company by viewing founder and employee profiles on the site. Is there a long list of “former” employees? Too many “new hires?” Are the founders well-connected and actively updating their profiles? It doesn’t take long before the have’s and the have-not’s sort themselves out, and in the end I was left with about 10 that I felt were worth reaching out-to.
‘Add To Your Network’
Many people fail to use LinkedIn to its fullest potential because they think you need to be a “premium subscriber” to send messages to people you don’t know. While it’s true that paid members can do so, the real trick is to introduce yourself in a meaningful way while asking strangers to join your network. This is an example of the messages I sent to people that I was interested in meeting:
My name is Pinky Gonzales and I found you in a round-about way through CrunchBase.com. I too am a brand marketing guy, and my wife and I will be relocating to Portland this Summer, so thought I would reach out and introduce myself. Hope you’re off to a great week!”
The thing about using this method is that your messages have to be brief – just 300 characters total. This forces you to get to the point while still being pleasant and inviting. If they accept your invite, you are then free to write them a long-form message, which I did. When the time was right, I would mention that I was looking for a great professional fit as I made plans to start this new life. Because I did not limit my search to “help wanted” ads, I had no idea if they were even hiring! But I figured that if they liked me enough, they could potentially open something just for me, or at least refer me to others that may be on the hunt.
And that’s exactly what happened. Of the 90 companies I started with, 20 looked pretty good, 10 looked great, and one of them was a direct hit. I will be making a formal announcement about my new position on July 1st, but it’s a good one, with a great group, and I couldn’t be more excited. What’s important to know is that they had no intention of hiring someone like me. It simply made sense once we all got together.
I did end up flying out to meet with them once during this process, which also gave me a chance to do some house-hunting and trip planning, but I hadn’t even purchased a plane ticket before there was a strong line of communication going and everyone felt that it would be a good use of the time and money.
I’ve got a few more LinkedIn tricks up my sleeve, but at 1,000 words, this post is already a lot to take in. The takeaways for today are these…
When moving to a new city:
- Search for companies that fit your needs first. You may find blogs, databases, “Best Places to Work in…” sites – you name it. Make a list.
- Find employees of those companies on LinkedIn and take note of the apparent culture. Big? Small? Fun? Corporate? The way an employee describes their position says a lot about the company itself.
- Reach out using the “Add To Your Network” button. Make your introduction friendly but brief, giving context to the invite itself.
- Once you’re connected, provide more detail about who you are and why you’re connecting. It’s ok to mention that you are seeking opportunities in the area, but approach it from a position of, “I would love your advice about local companies that may be interested in someone with my skillset,” rather than simply, “I want a job… Are you hiring… etc.”
And finally, stay at it until you land your dream job. Or at least your next job. It’s often said that job hunting IS a job, and I completely agree. I don’t know how many hours I spent on this endeavor, but it gave me a chance to learn about my new home town, and now I’m connected to a few dozen people that I have every intention of taking out for a beer, without any need or expectation for a job. We all share common interests and live in the same small city, so my professional network had already begun to expand before I even made the move.