Ways to Land a Dream Job in Your Dream Town

Ways to Land a Dream Job in Your Dream Town
About the Author

Heidi Lynn Russell is a freelance writer based in Kentucky. 

On a scale of one to 10, Navy Lt. James Landreth ranks Charleston, S.C., as a “nine” for “dream community.”   

When he and his wife considered where they wanted to live, Charleston had it all. They were both from the Southeast, so their families were within driving distance. They already had purchased a home at nearby Daniel Island, just a few miles from the charming, historic downtown. Commute times were moderate compared to those in major cities such as Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., and they couldn't imagine a better place to raise their children.  

Several months after receiving his master's degree in nuclear engineering from the University of South Carolina, Landreth got a job in Charleston as a propulsion system life cycle manager for the Coast Guard's national security cutter fleet. But he didn't just focus on Charleston during his job search: In the year prior to his separation from the military, Landreth applied to 40 positions located across the country. “I researched maybe hundreds [of jobs],” he says, “and seriously considered less than 10.” In the end, the offer in Charleston was a no-brainer.

If you're determined to put down roots in a particular community after your military separation like Landreth was, follow these tips from veterans who built a life in their dream town.  

Step one: Prioritize your goals

According to Skip Freeman, coauthor of Headhunter Hiring Secrets 2.0: How to FIRE Up Your Career and Land Your Ideal Job! (CreateSpace, 2016), the top three driving forces for people seeking a new career are: 1) more challenges and/or advancement opportunities; 2) being closer to family; and 3) higher pay.

“Because [those motivators] don't always coincide, a person really has to get to know themselves and, if married, have honest and frank discussions with their spouse,” says Freeman, a 1976 U.S. Military Academy alumnus who attained the rank of major in the Army Reserve. 

Pick two of those driving forces as your priorities, says Scott Love, a top recruiter who advises veterans. Everything requires a trade-off, so if location and proximity to family are your top priorities, job opportunities in your field might not be as plentiful. However, you can get around that by thinking outside the box. For example, if your goal is to pursue a career in sales or marketing, but you have a degree in engineering, “Still go interview, because maybe there's a sales engineer position [available],” Love says. “Sometimes companies will create positions when they see their need and where your talents line up.”  

Look for job openings in your dream town posted by companies actively seeking to employ veterans, Freeman recommends. Two top areas for former officers are sales and supply chain/logistics. Officers tend to possess desirable characteristics like focus, work ethic, leadership, resiliency, persistency, willingness to take a risk, competitiveness, and confidence, Freeman says - all characteristics perfect for sales.   

“In sales, one can drive their own income and, once a person learns their niche, sales management/leadership opportunities open up,” he says.   

Regarding supply chain/logistics, companies such as UPS and FedEx are good options. “Also, many communities will have warehousing and distribution centers where they need a sharp person to oversee the operations there.”   

Step two: Networking  

Cast a wide net, to include business groups and folks who live in your community; approach people at activities such as PTA meetings, church events, golf outings, and Little League games. Ask them about their jobs or their companies. 

“That's the fastest way to do it. It's faster than doing research on your own, and frankly, a lot of jobs aren't … being publicized online, especially [those with] small- to medium-size firms,” says Scott Kiefer, a partner at Oliver Group, a management consulting firm in Louisville, Ky. He's also on the advisory board of “Where Opportunity Knox,” an organization that helps place transitioning veterans into local jobs.  

When Kiefer separated from the Army as a captain in 1999, he and his wife wanted to stay near Louisville. He was an ROTC instructor at his last duty station, at Western Kentucky University, while his wife lived and worked in Louisville. On weekends, he would visit her and work to make those quality connections.   

“If you play golf with just three new people each weekend, you could learn about hundreds of opportunities at companies. If you pay attention to the parents in your kids' classes, church members, your neighbors, those are easy introductions. If you're going to choose a city without connections, it's much harder than networking in the city you're in,” he says.  

Kiefer's role as an ROTC instructor opened the door to job interviews. He initially worked in manufacturing operations for six months, then became a supply chain leader at Exxon Mobil Corp. He left that job in 2004 to pursue his passion - leadership development.  

“I … ask myself, 'Where are the veterans? Where do they work, and who do they know to make the connection for me?' ” Kiefer says. “Have them make the introductions for you.”   

Landreth suggests transitioning servicemembers join groups like the chamber of commerce and other professional networking organizations.  

“Charleston has great civic organizations for networking. I was able to leverage several great organizations that I had affiliated with during graduate school, such as the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, to my benefit,” he says. 

When networking with local groups, follow simple etiquette to make meaningful connections, Love says. For example, at a breakfast, show interest in your tablemates. Good questions to ask include: “How long have you been coming to these events?” “How long have you lived here?” “How has being a member of this organization benefited you?”

“If they don't ask about you, they won't be someone who will help you. But find a way to weave in that you're a transitioning military officer,” Love says.

Handwritten notes are a way to move the relationship forward. “The old school, barely legible note actually carries more weight [than not writing one at all],” he says.

Step Three: Leverage Your Community  

Originally from South Shore, Mass., Navy Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Lozeau's last duty station as an ROTC instructor was in Austin, Texas, and the city grew on him.

“Austin is a great small city. There are a lot of outdoor activities to do around town as well as great food, music, and of course, [University of Texas] sports. I like the close-knit community in a city,” he says.

Not only is Lozeau living in Austin, but he also has his dream job there - as a senior project manager at Apple Inc. To achieve this, he made connections with acquaintances who could lead him to his first job. He was getting his Master of Business Administration (MBA) at the University of Texas at Austin and hit up fellow students for leads. “I spoke with numerous classmates who worked at Apple,” he says.   

“My fellow classmates were great, as our MBA program was a group of about 70 students who had been in class together for three years while also working full time,” Lozeau says. “There was a wealth of knowledge of not only the companies they worked for, but the companies they were researching. I also used a program called ACP [American Corporate Partners], which matches you up with a mentor in a field you are interested in.”   

By prioritizing your goals, casting a wide net for professional contacts, and leveraging the community you already have, you can make landing a dream job in your dream city your reality.  


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