Finding a Tech Job in a New City with No Contacts
March 21, 2011 6:48 AM   Subscribe

A continuation of part 1 of my "looking for a new place to live" saga, I'm now ready to start a serious hunt for a (preferably) software development job in a new city. Problem is, I don't have any contacts in the cities I'm interested in. What's the best way to land a job in one of these towns?

I'm a 23-year old male who recently worked as a developer for a large software company for about a year. In the middle of January, I left my job because I was unhappy about working in the same small town I grew up in and wanted to pursue something else. I made an attempt to go back to music school, and things didn't really work out. I've continued to maintain another job I've held since 2009 as a church organist to keep the cash flow coming in until I find a new opportunity.

I'd ideally like to find a job in software development, but I don't really have contacts in the software industry in any of the locations I'm interested in (Portland, Austin, Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego, LA, and possibly a few others). Most of my contacts are concentrated in the northeast.

So, my skill set: At my last job, I mainly developed JSPs and created custom Java classes to extend the API of a very large enterprise-level piece of software. I did some UI stuff with HTML/CSS/Javascript, and also did some database work with Oracle. I also have some experience writing PHP/MySQL apps and knowledge of C/C++. My degree is in Mathematics, and not CS, although I did take a few CS courses in college.

One area of concern is how I should explain a 2+ month gap in my software work history. Like I said, I left because I was unhappy working in the same small town where I grew up, and I wanted to try my hand at going back to music school. Should I even mention this in a cover letter, or save it until they ask?

What should I be doing now to help my cause? Should I try to make contacts in the cities I'm interested in before applying to places? If so, what's the best way to do that? Should I embark on a big software project on my own? If so, what? I'm basically looking for the next steps that will increase my chances of landing a job in one of these cool new places.
posted by mrbob14 to Work & Money (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
In this economy, I don't think anyone will notice, unless you cone off as a flake on the phone or in person.

I wouldn't explain unless asked and then I'd say "I was looking for the right opportunity" and leave it at that.
posted by Mad_Carew at 7:13 AM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Find a recruiter, they'll do the networking for you. If you have demonstrable programming chops, and better yet, heavy math chops, you'll do fine in all of those places, except for perhaps Portland, which has a very large pool of underemployed educated professionals. Don't even worry about the gap.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:23 AM on March 21, 2011

Twitter, no joke. I credit following on Twitter and communicating with a handful of active people living in my cities of interest with getting me my current job. Granted, it took a few months of quality time getting to know these people, but there's a great professional community on Twitter and they all know each other. "Coming to town on job exploration; anyone want to get drinks?" broadcast to a network of colleagues will get you far.
posted by theraflu at 7:31 AM on March 21, 2011

Don't even bother mentioning the gap. If asked, tell the truth but with an air of casual dismissal. If you dwell on it, so will they.

Just start applying to jobs you find interesting. What sort of work do you want to do? Do you want to do a startup or work for a large corporation? The Bay Area has tons of work for Java developers (Salesforce, for example). Tons of startups do Java work too... find one that interests you and send your resume. Check craigslist, etc. I would try to find a job first... if you're good it won't be that hard.
posted by jeffamaphone at 9:27 AM on March 21, 2011

Don't put it in the cover letter. Assume that the person on the other end is looking for a way to filter out candidates. If you spend time dwelling on something negative (anything other than your experience) you're more likely to be filtered. Like @jeffamaphone says, if it comes up address it, and just tell the truth - without being negative about the company. Saying "I really just wanted to move to a new place, and I needed to leave the position to make that happen," is enough.

Also, if you only have a year of experience, focus on the work/projects you've done in your letter. Don't talk about how long you've done it. They'll see your length of experience on your resume and can ask you about it in person if necessary.

There are lots and lots of software development jobs in San Francisco and the Silicon Valley, but be aware of the extremely high-cost of housing in the area.
posted by cnc at 11:53 AM on March 21, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone. I will take your advice and not mention the gap unless asked. Time to get some resumes out there!
posted by mrbob14 at 8:14 PM on March 21, 2011

I don't want to advertise any service in particular, but one of the most radical improvements in my ability to find work was building my LinkedIn network.

Once you pass about 3-400 contacts, recruiters will start to come to you.
posted by jkaczor at 5:51 PM on March 26, 2011

Next step - start looking for local "placement/recruitment" agencies and usergroups/tech communities - contact the organizers and ask them for more contacts.
posted by jkaczor at 5:53 PM on March 26, 2011

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