Small cities and towns can be great places to live if you’ve got the right temperament. There may not be quite as much going on as there is in big metropolises, but there’s often plenty to do if you know where to look. Smaller cities usually offer lower costs of living, easier commutes, and more close-knit communities. Finding a job in towns and small cities, however, can be a trickier proposition. If you approach the search a little differently than you would in a major urban center, however, you can still do just fine.
Make your job hunt multi-media. We’re all so used to accessing everything online that many of us forget to look at the papers. Often, we can get away with this—most everything that’s printed in a hardcopy format is published online as well. The crucial word there, is most: particularly in small towns, there will still be jobs that only end up in the local trade papers and dailies. So keep your favorite job sites bookmarked and keep checking the local job listings online, but make a trip down to the local convenience store at least once a week and pick up the local publications—keep all your bases covered.
Be flexible. Depending on just how small the city is in which you’re looking for work, there may not be a wide range of specialty positions available—and certain jobs may not even exist in the area. If you’ve been working in a very niche industry, you might have a hard time moving into an identical job in a smaller city. This doesn’t mean you need to switch careers entirely, but start thinking about ways your current skills can be applicable in industries related to your previous jobs, or in positions that are slightly outside what you’ve been doing. The more you’re willing to adapt, the more successful you’ll be in your job hunt.
Keep it personal. In any job market, networking is key. The old cliché, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” holds true everywhere—but it’s especially apt in smaller cities. And while social networking and email can get you far, the best way to build up a personal network is usually the old-fashioned method of meeting people face-to-face. Go to any networking or career events in the area. If your industry has a professional association in your area, join it and go to every meeting you can make. And don’t limit yourself to professional organizations: join local community groups in which you’re interested: anything that’ll help you build your network. You’ll probably end up making a few good friends out of it too!
And as ever, don’t hesitate to reach out to your existing contacts and seek their help in expanding your network. An introduction and a little bit of conversation over a cup of coffee or a bottle of beer can go a lot further toward landing a job than a social network link request.
Remember that all the strategies you’ll use in a big city will work in smaller ones, but just as the smaller city will have a more personal feel to it, try treat your job search the same way. Networking is as important as ever—if not more so—and just as it is anywhere else in an unpredictable economy, you’ve got to adapt to survive.