Trying to find a job in D.C. (or another city) when you live elsewhere

February 9, 2010 at 2:05 am 2 comments

An email correspondent recently asked a good question without a clear, easy answer: How do you land a job in the D.C. area if you don’t already live here? Is it better to move to the area — without a job — or conduct a search while you keep the job you have several states or even several time zones away and hope that your persistent efforts will pay off?

Though some of you who live in the area may be feeling a bit smug right now given this inquiry (and also because D.C. consistently ranks at the top of lists of the best areas for job seekers; see Dec. 7 post, “Why D.C. is a relatively good market for job hunters”), let’s be charitable. Most of us didn’t always live in this area and had to figure out how to land here. And the advice on finding a job in D.C. for out-of-towners also can apply to other markets where you — or a friend — may want to find work someday.

The most important fact to keep in mind when trying to find a job in another city is that in this competitive job market, very, very few organizations (especially newsrooms) are picking up relocation costs. Often, they aren’t even springing for a plane ticket or a hotel room for applicants coming in to interview. So if you want to find work in another city, you’re going to have to make it easy for the organization and pick up the tab to come to them. Here are some tips from job experts on how to improve your chances of finding work in another city, especially D.C.:

*Find reasons to meet with hiring managers at organizations you want to work for in that city. Look for a convention to attend or an assignment to cover in your targeted city (lots of opportunities for both in this area!) and add several days to your stay so you could meet with hiring managers at organizations that interest you. They are more apt to find time to meet with you if they think you’re in town for an interesting reason, and won’t feel pressured that you’re coming “just to see them.” Though informational interviews are just that — and you should keep your expectations low about such a session leading to a job any time soon — the informality of them sometimes leads to relationships that lead to future hiring. As always, use contacts you have at organizations to get your resume and request for some time in the hands of a recruiter or hiring manager. And never, for an informational interview, ask for any reimbursement of your travel expenses — that would be an immediate turnoff to the recruiter.

*Attend subject-oriented journalism conventions — one of my favorite groups, the Society of American Business Editors and Writers, is holding its annual convention in March, for instance — or job fairs organized by journalism schools (Columbia University’s J-School Job Fair is also in March) or minority journalism organizations. Though fewer recruiters are attending these events than in the past, some are still there, as are journalists speaking on panels and giving workshops, who often socialize at events connected with the conference. Bring plenty of resumes and business cards and network like crazy at these events — looking specifically, of course, for those who work for companies in the city you’re targeting. You may be able to parlay a connection made here (in an informal setting) to an informational interview in that city in the future. And your new contact may be a useful source of information about openings down the road.

*Target your cover letter and clips to showcase your ability to cover topics like a local — in the case of D.C., you’ll need to prove your political and legislative coverage credentials. If you’ve covered a statehouse or even a large city or county government, put together clips that show you could translate that experience into covering a federal agency or a topic on the Hill. Be specific. (If you covered a state agency or a state budget, for instance, provide clips on specific topics that may be hot on the federal or congressional agenda right now — especially if you have sources or angles that could serve you well here.) With so much local talent on the market, you’ll need to show you won’t have much of a learning curve in D.C., and also, that you bring something extra to the table that would make it worth their while to look outside this market.

*Make it clear that you could move quickly — literally. Once hiring managers are given the okay to fill a position these days, they tend to move fast (“use-it-or-lose-it” fear runs rampant in journalism, with good reason given the hiring picture over the past few years) and that can make it tough for out-of-town applicants. Yet if you were in touch with a recruiter already, are able to come to town quickly for an interview (again, offering to do so on your own dime — sometimes they may respond by splitting the cost with you) and let them know that two weeks notice is all you’d need to give before you could get to town (just like a locally employed applicant would), you may have alleviated some of their concerns about hiring from afar. Again, make it as easy as possible for them. The more trouble you are, the less likely they are to seriously consider you for a position.

*Coming around again to the opening question — Are you better off moving to the area without a job or keeping the job you have and searching from afar? — there’s still no clear answer. It obviously depends a great deal on one’s circumstances: If you can afford to quit your job, if you have friends or family you could stay with for a while in the new city, or if you have part-time or free-lance work you can do to pay the bills once you land here, it’s certainly easier to get a job when you are able to come in for interviews on a day’s notice and when you can network locally. Still, some hiring managers may be suspicious of someone who would leave a good job, especially in a tight job market, to take a chance on an organization that may or may not hire them. It’s something you’ll need to weigh carefully — perhaps after you’ve tried some of the tips above in trying to land a job in another city.

*In perusing one of my favorite job-advice sites (as it has real information collected from actual companies and recruiters!),, I came upon this blog by recruiter Rusty Rueff, the site’s career and workplace expert. It’s true and funny, and a little heart-breaking — we’ve all been there, knowing the interviewer is a million miles away, even as we make our best pitch for a job. Enjoy:

Tell-Tale Signs You Are Losing The Attention Of A Job Interviewer by Rusty Rueff February 2nd, 2010

*And as always, some job leads to check out:

*The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission in D.C. has an opening for an analyst with expertise in economics and trade:

Are you a current or former journalist or researcher interested in public policy? Do you understand international economics and finance? Know how Congress works? Interested in U.S. competitiveness? Do you have some working knowledge of China and would you like to learn more? The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission has an opening for an analyst in the fields of economics and trade. The Commission, now in its ninth year, is an independent agency established by Congress to advise it on policy toward China. The bi-partisan Commission holds hearings, conducts research, briefs members of Congress and their staffs and produces a 300-page annual report with policy recommendations. (Details at  The job is intellectually demanding and requires individual initiative and an ability to monitor and report on current events. Communications skills are absolutely essential.  The Commission has a broad mandate in economics and trade that includes capital markets, technology transfers, export controls and employment effects of the bilateral relationship. Check the USCC website for more details and the application procedure.

*The following is a good opportunity in the non-profit sector. The National Community Reinvestment Coalition in D.C. is looking for a chief of staff:

Chief of Staff
National Community Reinvestment Coalition – Washington, DC
Minimum 5 years experience in media and communications * At least 10-15 years senior management… Strong media and communications experience also a…

*The Pew Environment Group in D.C., part of the Pew Charitable Trusts, has an opening for a manager of budget and program support:

Manager, Budget and Program Support, Pew Environment Group
The Pew Charitable Trusts – Washington, DC
and process. Strong written and oral communications skills. Ability to engage in clear and ongoing communications with staff and key stakeholders, translate…
From The Pew Charitable Trusts

*With a hat tip to (for the next few listings), the Baltimore Business Journal is looking for a Web editor:

Company: Baltimore Business Journal
Seeking Web Editor
Baltimore, Maryland
Job Status: Full-time
Salary: Negotiable
Ad Expires:
March 12, 2010
Job ID: 1147743

The Baltimore Business Journal, an award-winning online and print publication, is in search of an experienced journalist to lead the paper’s daily online edition and overall Web strategy in an extremely competitive market. The ideal candidate must be a strong editor and reporter who knows how to break news and beat the competition on a minute-by- minute basis. He or she must be a team player willing to work collaboratively with reporters and editors. Our new Web Editor will launch the BBJ’s blogs and take our social media, podcasting and other multimedia efforts to the next level. Please send Editor Joanna Sullivan a resume, clips and cover letter explaining why you want to work for the BBJ to or 1 E. Pratt St., Suite 205, Balt. MD 21202.

* in D.C. is seeking a photographer/videographer to manage the site’s multimedia content:

Looking for Multimedia ‘Czar’
DC Metro Area, District of Columbia
Job Status: Full-time
Salary: Negotiable
Ad Expires:
March 15, 2010
Job ID: 1148130

Leading online news and information company serving the military audience is looking for an experienced photographer/videographer with deep knowledge of the Web to manage our multimedia content and expand its reach.

The Associate Editor for Multimedia must be able to shoot, edit, produce and post multimedia news and feature packages, including photo slideshows, videos, podcasts and other multimedia content and develop best practices for delivering that content to our readers and members. As a member of the news team, the Associate Editor for Multimedia will focus on leveraging existing multimedia content and original products within our news stories and features across our network of sites.

The Associate Editor for Multimedia must have at least five years of experience shooting and editing video and photos for news organizations and have demonstrated expertise in delivering that content on the Web. The position requires an independent-minded self-starter who can simultaneously work on tight deadlines and balance long-term development projects.

We need someone with a thirst for leadership, a tech savvy that goes beyond simply browsing the Web and a creative mind wired to tell stories with more than words and deliver them in an environment where anything is possible.

The candidate must be located in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area. Some travel is required.

If interested, please send a resume and hyperlinks of online work samples to:

*And today’s final lead is an opening at The Washington Post in D.C. for an editor to lead its “search and traffic” efforts in the newsroom:

Company: The Washington Post
Seeking an Editor to head up Search &
Traffic efforts in the newsroom
Washington, District of Columbia
Job Status: Full-time
Salary: Not Specified
Ad Expires:
March 14, 2010
Job ID: 1148011

Editor, Search & Traffic

The Washington Post is looking for an Editor to head up Search & Traffic efforts in the newsroom through smart use of online content optimization. This is a challenging job that aims to combine strong journalistic chops with smart analytics and some technical knowledge, all aimed at improving how Washington Post content is seen throughout the Internet.

We are looking for an innovative editor who can grasp the architecture behind search engines and social networks and ideally has some previous experience in web traffic analysis. Working closely with the Executive Producer and as part of the Post’s newly created Universal News Desk, this editor will not only help plan web strategy for content prior to its publication but update stories to improve audience numbers throughout the news cycle. When stories are breaking, the Search Editor will be a key guide in the newsroom for headline writing and adding the appropriate terms to content. The Search Editor will also be responsible for executing editorial packages, such as Topics Pages, aimed at improving audience numbers and user experience. The position’s hours are from 2pm until 10pm.

Happy hunting!



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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Marlene Kennedy  |  February 9, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    Great advice as always, Jodi. As a laid-off journalist, I’ve been trying to break into the D.C. market and have found it difficult, despite the networking and “on my own dime” interviews. But rather than despair, I’ll resolve anew to keep plugging away. BTW, Joe Grimm (Ask the Recruiter) alerted people in a Poynter chat to a grafix from Indeed ( that puts D.C.’s attractiveness to job-hunters into focus. As you say here, it’s huge.

  • 2. Gayle  |  February 9, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    I remember that relief on the other end of the line when I was trying to get an interview at CQ and I said the magic words, “Oh, I’ll be in town anyway.” I was coming to DC from Atlanta for a weekend dance event and was only going to stretch it into a long weekend at a friend’s house *if* I got an actual interview. But that locked it down.
    Had I not gotten that job, I might have eventually moved without having a job, but I always thought of that as being really risky and needing some serious multiple-months-out planning. But it’s probably more doable in DC than most other cities, given our unique group house living options, extensive short term rentals and internships that often turn into jobs.


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