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Making Out-of-State Experience Work For You

I was at an event recently where I helped people who stopped by my table with writing their resumes. Several of them had several years of work experience, but it was in another state. They felt that local employers were not as interested in them, as they would have been if they had lived here for a longer period of time.

Most of the time, the reason the person did not get hired was because of an inability to verify information, not because of competency or the ability to do the job.

What do you do when you have a lot of work experience, but it is in another state?

This will be a difficult thing, if you are applying for temporary employment. Temporary employment agencies likely will first try to fill their openings with people who have lived in Minnesota for at least six months. However, if you have a specialized skill or a license for a specific type of job, be sure to let them know about that.

For most employers who are offering permanent employment, the length of your residency in the state will not be an issue, if your work history is relevant to the job for which you are applying.

When you write your resume, emphasize your skills rather than the chronology of your employment. For example, "13 years of experience as a forklift operator" will be more likely to get the employer’s attention than will, "I worked at XYZ company in Louisiana for 13 years."

The biggest problem with this situation, though, is the verification of your employment and your references. Local employers are not going to make long distance calls to verify this information unless you are applying for a highly-paid, executive position. If they can’t verify your employment or your references, chances are good that you will not even be considered for the job.

What do you do about validating your employment?

If you left your last employer on good terms, ask them to write a letter of reference for you and keep it in a file. This will help you to prove that you actually did work at that business. When you write your cover letter, use the last paragraph to explain that you have a letter from this employer and would be happy to provide it upon request. Something to this effect will work:
"While I recognize that that a significant amount of my work history is from out of state, I have a letter from my last employer about my performance on the job. I can provide
this letter to you when we meet for an interview, and I can arrange to come for an interview at your convenience."

If you didn’t leave your last employer on good terms, but you still had more than one year of working for them, as them for a letter that validates the dates of your employment. The human resources department can provide this for you. It is not asking them to endorse or recommend
you. It is just stating that you worked for them, and for how long. In this case your cover letter can state this:

"While I recognize that that a significant amount of my work history is from out of state, I have a letter from my last employer verifying the length of my employment. I can provide this letter to you when we meet for an interview, and I can arrange to come for an interview at your convenience."

What do you do about local references?

Even with that documentation, employers are still going to want to see local references. This can be pretty much anybody who is not a relative or your best friend.

If you don’t have two or three people who are willing to be a reference for you, then find someone who would be. Join networking groups, volunteer some place, ask the leader at your place of worship. If you are working with a job counselor, as him or her. If you are going to school, find a teacher or a career counselor at the school. The point is to get yourself known and develop relationships with people who can be references for you, and make sure you have their approval before you give out their name and contact information.

Having local references when you are from out of state will tell an employer that you have initiative and are willing to do what it takes to get the job done.

Becky Cole is a consultant for non-profit organizations specializing in capacity building for both individuals and corporations throughout the Twin Cities.  She has an Education Specialist Degree from Indiana University. Becky Cole can be reached at: bcole@employmentnewsmn.com