How to relocate with less-than-sexy skills?
November 21, 2014 1:32 PM   Subscribe

I want to move from the South to the Bay Area, but I'm an administrative assistant. Is anyone going to hire someone like me who has to relocate?

I have a bachelor's degree, a solid work history, and an ability to sell myself pretty well at an interview, which in theory should be enough to get me a different job like the one I have now. I live across the country from the jobs where I want to live, though. Will any recruiters seriously consider someone who has to move for pink-collar labor? It seems like with a relatively common, low-prestige skillset, they'll just hire someone local, even if they don't interview as well.

I have a good support network there and know what sort of money I need to make, so please don't worry for me about whether it's wise -- if I can't get a suitable job, I just won't move.

Have any of you made this kind of move? How did you do it? Do you think it's impossible? How can I spin this positively? Will being a Skype interviewee make me look bad against the in-person interviewees, even if I get there?

Bonus: will being from the South hurt me?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You seem to already know the answer to your question.

It's highly unlikely that someone in the Bay Area will hire an admin assistant that requires relocation while there are dozens, if not hundreds, of qualified applicants already living close by.

Save your money, move, then look for work.
posted by gnutron at 2:01 PM on November 21, 2014 [9 favorites]

agree with gnutron. these jobs are not remotely obtainable.
posted by rr at 2:03 PM on November 21, 2014

Do you know somebody who you can crash with while you look for work? Can you take off a week or two and job hunt before attempting a move?
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 2:04 PM on November 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

I would look into temping as a transitional move.
posted by jaguar at 2:15 PM on November 21, 2014 [6 favorites]

The best way in to clerical work is to move to a city and start temping. Then while you are there you apply for and transition to a permanent job. You can do it. Take a leave of absence from your job if you don't want to outright quit.

To answer your specific question, no one is going to hire you via Skype. To answer your other question, once you are there no one will care that you are from the south.

Since you want certainty, I can guarantee you that if you do this you will have a job within a short period of time. You will also have a bit of debt from a few round trip airfares, apartment deposits, and moving expenses, but it will ALL BE OK because you will have made the change you want for yourself.
posted by charlielxxv at 2:16 PM on November 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

I know an admin assistant from the South who moved to the Bay Area not long ago. She relocated due to her spouse getting a job there, so the distance-interview was not involved. But being from the South hasn't hurt her; she works in a traditional, conservative industry that appreciates the extent to which she fits the stereotype (skirts, heels, makeup, deference).
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 2:17 PM on November 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm sorry to post again, but I did exactly what you're talking about, except I moved from the South to the northeast.
My roadmap was
1) crash with friends
2) interview with temp agencies. Start earning money.
3) move into apartment where new roommate needed. Already furnished.
4) keep earning money
5) flew back to southern city to pack up apartment and have things shipped to northern city.

I was fortunate in that I was able to crash with friends for about a month, but with a little more presence of mind and willingness to spend some money I could have just moved into a craigslist sublet earlier.
posted by charlielxxv at 2:32 PM on November 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

You probably cannot get hired from across the country. But please do not underestimate your skill set. Maybe everyone knows how to, say, pick up a phone and say "hi" but that does not mean your "low prestige skills" are really all that common. When I worked at BigCo, admins for big names seemed to have serious job security, seemed to stay in their position forever and I suspect made good money (their salaries were secret but they drove nice cars and dressed well). So if you are actually any good and you screw up your courage and find some way to go there first (via, for example, saving up and crashing with friends when you first get there) and then job hunt, once you have your foot in the door, you should be fine.

I had an entry level job at BigCo. They had trouble filling it because you had to be comfortable with a computer, with math and with writing. I mean, these should be basic skills, or so I thought. Their interest in me had nothing to do with my completely unrelated education, including an AA in Humanities, Certificate in GIS and unfinished bachelor's degree. This was not a job requiring college (the education they did require, they provided once you were hired -- I got a technical certificate out of it). They just needed people to have certain basic skills and they had trouble finding that.

When I went for initial testing (to prove I could write and do math and such), I was there longer than anyone else that day. It made me nervous. I thought it meant I was SLOW and stupid and everyone was better than me. After the fact, I was told, no, I was being given more tests, in part because I was qualified for two positions, not one, and in part because if you fail a test, you leave right then. Staying longer was good news. I was kind of shocked. I had been a homemaker for nearly two decades and I don't think I am anything special at all. (At the end, I still qualified for both jobs and got to pick which one I wanted.)

In my initial training class, there were somewhere between 14 and 20 people. Most of them were internal promotions from an even lower level entry level job. One was a rehire who had worked for the company before, left for a time with her military spouse, and was back in town. Five of us were actual brand spanking New Hires. One of us new hires washed out of the training. So only 4 new hires made it through training to end up with an actual job.

So I have come to think if you are actually any good at even the most unsexy job, good applicants are really not easy to find and a reliable employee can make their niche, even if it will never involve a spiffy title and all that.
posted by Michele in California at 3:34 PM on November 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

The economy is great here and I don't think you will have too much trouble finding a job. BUT you will need to be here to do it. I would save up enough to stay here for 5-6 weeks before finding one (staying with a friend if possible).
posted by amaire at 3:38 PM on November 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

The typical route for this is move there and start by temping. Thousands of people have done it. I did. Temp agencies act as employment agencies with a fee charged if you are hired before working for the temp agency for a specific amount of time, typically a year.

Heh, in my case I was given a month assignment and at the end of the month I - went in as usual. Nobody noticed till almost a year and a half later - when I was promptly hired.

"Bonus: will being from the South hurt me?"

I lived in San Francisco for twelve years and I've lived in New Orleans for six years now. Being from the South won't hurt you, people from the Bay Area are from all over the world. I would advise being a bit more stoic than you might be used to though.

You won't have a problem. Good help is hard to find.
posted by vapidave at 6:04 PM on November 21, 2014

There are always admin asst jobs available in the Bay Area. Being from the south will not be a hinderance. But as others have said, you won't get a gig remotely. Crash with friends or whatever works, and once you're local, you shouldn't have a long job search at all. Good luck!
posted by colin_l at 6:40 PM on November 21, 2014

Is there a big national company that you can work for locally and then transfer to the SF office?
posted by radioamy at 8:11 PM on November 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would *never ever ever* recommend temping to anyone who doesn't have money saved up. Temp jobs often get cut short. Common examples:

The person you're replacing decides to come back to work sooner than they originally planned.

The temp agency and the company miscommunicated to you, or to each other, about your skills, the nature of the job, etc.

The reason the place needs a temp is because no one can stand to work there.

And for each new temp job, you have to be perfect on the first day or else you're out the door like trash.
posted by serena15221 at 12:14 PM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I guess my question is, what companies are you specifically looking to get an admin gig for, and what city are you specifically looking in? If you're looking for the big guys (Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) or the hot new start-ups in San Francisco, that's going to be much more difficult to get than a small insurance company in San Mateo or Concord (for example).

And to be totally honest, people in the tech scene here do tend to look down their nose at the pink-collars and the non-sexy jobs, especially if you're not based in San Francisco.

If you have support in the Bay Area, are they already looking out for your role at their jobs/friends' jobs? I definitely tell my friends first when I know of something opening up, and many companies offer referral bonuses.
posted by littlemisslaika at 12:19 PM on November 22, 2014

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