How to Find a Great Gig in a Small Town
My very first “real” job interview after graduating from journalism school was in the town of Three Rivers, Michigan. Go ahead, Google it. Nestled in the southwestern corner of my home state, this 7,000-something person town is most certainly quaint. I absolutely loved it. And the job, reporting for the town’s weekly newspaper, appeared to be well within reach.
But as the talks became more serious, I (admittedly) freaked.
“What the heck happens if I lose this job after I’m all settled into my new town? What then?”
At the time, I had no clue how to answer my own questions. And so I pulled out of the race and found something (less interesting) closer to my hometown of Detroit.
Flash forward to today. I’ve evolved from journalist to recruiter and career consultant. Today, I’d be perfectly comfortable coaching my 22-year-old self on how to find a job (or build a business) in a sleepy city like Three Rivers, Michigan.
Here’s the advice I would deliver.
1. Understand How Networking Works in Small Towns
While not every sleepy city operates like Mayberry (at all), many small communities just, well, don’t do things quite like large urban hubs. You may see this in pronounced ways by observing how decisions are made by the town’s leaders and small business owners.
When targeting small town opportunities, LinkedIn may not be the right way to approach the business influencers, especially if there are no larger corporations with plants or outposts in town. Members of small, interwoven communities tend to network and make decisions the good old-fashioned way, face to face. They ask around about one another. They talk shop at the post office, the corner bar, the monthly Rotary luncheon. They shake hands, rub elbows, chew the fat.
And so, you may be best served by building a strategy that involves inserting yourself at the types of events these business leaders attend, and introducing yourself in person. Volunteer at the farmer’s market, get to a Chamber of Commerce event, chat it up with the store owners in town. Be a woman (or man) about town.
2. Get in Cahoots With the Community’s Influencers
As you begin the process of getting to know (if you don’t already) the community, you’ll probably be able to start figuring out who wears the collective pants in that small town. Who do the town folk really admire? Who seems to know everyone? Who are the most successful business people?
These are the very people you will want to quickly endear yourself to if you want to accelerate your search. Even if they don’t work in your exact industry or career field, it’s typically these very people who will be the most willing and able to introduce you others and, importantly, to opportunities you may not have known about otherwise.
3. Go Right to the Top With Your Solutions and Ideas
Assuming the economic base of your community is small, independent businesses, realize that not all of these companies are regularly posting open positions on the major job boards. Likewise, they may have true hiring needs but are too stinking busy to muster up an official job description and start interviewing.
Try using this to your advantage. Study companies in your town that seem interesting and aligned with your expertise. What seem to be their key challenges and needs? Could you bring solutions into the business? Might you help them grow revenue, expand operations, address customer issues? If so, approach in a genuine, curious, and thoughtful way. Build some rapport with the owner or key managers, and then present some of these ideas directly.
4. Seek Out Companies Specifically Looking for Virtual Employees
Here’s one of the easier ideas if you work in a role like regional sales or consulting. Many jobs not only allow, but encourage, employees to work remotely in the regions they will be representing. You may also find all kinds of remote opportunities within web-based businesses. These companies tend to be among the most embracing about virtual teams.
5. Consider Starting Your Own Thing
If you truly want to create a career that’s location independent (meaning, you could live and work wherever the heck you feel like), building an online microbusiness may be a relevant option. As an online career consultant and blogger, I literally could unplug my office, move and plug it back in anywhere, including a tiny town like Three Rivers, Michigan. I enjoy this aspect of my job very much.
Many of the so-called job search rules are going to be consistent, no matter the size of the community you live in. But small towns have different opportunities, different paces, and different ways of doing business.
Study them, and strategize accordingly.
Photo of small town courtesy of Shutterstock.
Jenny Foss is a career strategist, recruiter, and the voice of the popular career blog JobJenny.com. Based in Portland, OR, Jenny is the author of the Ridiculously Awesome Resume Kit and the Ridiculously Awesome Career Pivot Kit. Also check out the recently-launched Weekend Resume Makeover Course, find Jenny on Twitter @JobJenny, and book one-on-one coaching sessions with her on The Muse's Coach Connect.More from this Author