Sunday, March 22, 2009

An Expat moves back

A friend posted on Facebook (FB) an article in the Argentine Post about Americans fleeing the economic crisis and moving to Argentina. It seems Argentina continues to be a destination of choice for many who are seeking greener pastures. For my part, I have met, through our monthly Start-Ups Buenos Aires After Office, more Americans coming down on short-term visits and scouting missions from the US to check out the possibility of setting themselves up longer-term in Buenos Aires. Whether they decide to stay or not, only time will tell.

We, however, are getting ready to move to the US in the next couple months. San Diego, California to be exact. The timing is obviously dubious, but that's life. My girl friend got accepted to Scripps to do a Phd in Oceanography. Scripps is one of the best in this field, so it's an opportunity not to be missed.

Because I have never lived in San Diego and have no contacts there, I'm treating our move like a move to a new country.

What this means:

1. Pre-search online
I'm conducting google searches to figure out what life is like. What neighborhoods will be on our short-list to live in. What is the cost of living so I can build a realistic budget. What to expect in terms of transportation and social life. For this information, there is a helpful relocation forum called I found there are a lot of East Coasters who ask many of these same questions to local San Diegans.

2. Reaching out selectively to my network
One advantage I have over expats looking to move abroad is that at least I have a network already in place in-country. My network may be mostly in Boston and Buenos Aires, (see my "touch graph" map on FB above), but reaching out to some close friends and family is starting to bear some fruit. An ex-coworker and good friend from Japan put me in touch with a an ex-coworker of his that works in San Diego. We've already spoken via Skype. It was an excellent opportunity to confirm a lot of my pre-search notions, get additional insights from a person on the ground and have a contact for my future scouting visit. My mom also reminded me of a former high school classmate who lived in San Diego for a few years. This classmate and I have a coffee meeting setup for when I'm back home this summer and has already graciously put me in touch with her brother via FB who still lives in San Diego.

3. Casting a wider net via Social Media
I'm making a concerted effort to connect with people in San Diego via Twitter and scouting local blogs. Another advantage to moving to the US is the world of bloggers and twitter is much larger than Buenos Aires giving me more opportunities to create connections and initiate interactions. For example, per Twellow here are over 7K people on Twitter in San Diego vs less than 2K in Buenos Aires. Of course the majority of tweets in San Diego are in English which makes it all the more easy. In fact, I've already contacted a person who plays in a roller hockey league there!

4. Preparing to reach out to my entire network, ie Facebook
Interestingly, I haven't until very recently posted anything about our move on FB and that's only because FB now publishes Wall comments on the News Feed (which I allow). Facebook is my most powerful social networking tool, filled with a plethora of close friends and distant acquaintances. One would think facebook would be the first place to post. Normally I'd agree. But I'm holding out a bit longer to better prepare to catch those important fleeting glances.

Before announcing on Facebook, I've taken steps to integrate FB with my online job search which mainly resides on LinkedIn. That's right. The line between professional contacts and friend contacts has been officially blurred in my case. Why? Facebook has a much wider reach because I have been accepting friend requests from casual and professional acquaintances as well as some online only personalities. All of which I manage distinctly through FB privacy settings. For a tutorial on FB privacy settings read this article. In contrast, LinkedIn is populated with only people I have actually worked with, so in my case, it is a smaller universe of potential contacts.

a. LinkedIn
Even though it is more limited in reach, LinkedIn is more career focused and has become almost as addictive as facebook. Before letting all my FB friends know about our move, I've revamped my LinkedIn profile, including the sending of a request to ex-coworkers, ex-bosses and ex-clients to write a recommendation. I've also posted my intentions to move to San Diego on my status. I've had a few of my contacts even send me email asking what's up and offering help.

As a second phase of LinkedIn I've joined groups. I've selected groups that are relevant to me either professionally or geographically. The idea is to interact in these groups and build a professional brand through the demonstration of one's knowledge. To be honest, I haven't found too many of the conversations very engaging, and many somewhat gimmicky. (Swampland in Florida anyone?) but it's early.

Now that my LinkedIn profile is ready, I've moved on to integrating it with my Facebook profile. I've added a small blurb about the move and ask for referrals in the "about me". I've also put a LinkedIn badge and a Professional Tab for those looking for a more complete work history. For other useful business tools for Facebook, I suggest you read this Mashable article.

b. Blog and twitter integration
You'll notice, I had taken some additional steps already for this blog by adding a LinkedIn badge, a gadget that links to my facebook and twitter profiles (also revamped to announce my employment search) as well as a gadget to read past tweets. All of this is to create a web of links and content where I can catch the attention of my busy friends, new contacts as well as make life a little easier for those who will research my profile when they consider me for a position.

5. Traditional Job Search
Is the traditional job search dead? No way. The key difference between my social media actions and traditional job search is the measure of control I feel I have and the inevitable overlap that occurs between the two.

For traditional job search I'm using:

a. Job Boards
I've created a list of every job board I can find. Here in no particular order:

Idealist (non-profit)
realmatch tech jobs - paid
Ladders- paid

What I've found out quite quickly is that large job boards are a waste of time right now in the fields where I'm looking. After a couple of weeks, you see many of the same low quality jobs where they need a tsunami of resumes to fill them. Am I giving up on job boards, not entirely. For the time being, I keep tabs on them with key word email alerts. I find SimplyHired the best for this. But in general, job boards are a lower priority on my to do list until the economy starts to rebound.

b. Recruiters, professional organizations and job fairs
I'm digging down another level and looking for San Diego based recruiters, recruiters in my profession, local professional organizations, networking events and job fairs. I'll do some pre-contact and also keep them on my radar for when I do my own scouting in San Diego this summer

c. Targeting specific companies
Most companies with jobs, are not posting them on mass job boards now. They are either posting them internally or on their own career websites. So I'm targeting them and my network for inside connections while checking their websites regularly. In fact, as I write this, a contact at a former company I worked at just sent me their internal announcement of job openings. How about that!

d. Alumni organizations
I'm updating my profile on my alumni websites for my past schools, perusing the directories for alumni living in SD and checking out the career centers

6. Keeping in touch with my inner expat and inner entrepreneur
Are there jobs to be found? If you read the newspaper, it's armageddon. California in particular is in dire straits. So what are you to do? Over the years as an Expat, I've had to take initiative, be creative and be persistent when macroeconomic conditions are not going my way. So moving back to the States where I have a wider network, more support and a common culture, will be a piece of cake in comparison.

Being an entrepreneur means more than starting your own business. It means you need to be resilient and an eternal optimist. A job would be great, but according to many reports, the average time to find a job is 5 months. The NYtimes also points out that because of the lack of jobs, many are getting in touch with their inner entrepreneur. So like a blood hound on the hunt, I'll keep my nose to ground while keeping my eyes, ears and mind open so no opportunity slips by.

Have a resource or a connection you'd like to share? Throw a dog a bone!


Gina said...

This is a great opportunity for the both of you, but a real loss for the entrepreneurial scene of BA. Sincerely - best of luck in San Diego!! And please keep writing! Although I don't comment that often, I do read - and it's been a pleasure reading what you have to say.

Jonathan said...

Thank you Gina. I really appreciate your comment.

Mike said...

I know it's an old post, but I'm just getting to it now in 2011. Hope I will find how things turned out somewhere else when I search. If not update please. I'm down in Argentina now just because I wanted to get away, but I find my self taking on an entrepreneurial spirit. It is a lot of perseverance and many days don't go so well. Keep pushing though.