A reader writes:
I live in a smallish community (80,000 people) in a small state. While there are phenomenal nonprofit opportunities in our state capital, which is 2 hours away, the prospects in my city are slim. They are mainly local organizations with local boards and very tiny budgets. Don’t get me wrong, they do great things, but administrative opportunities don’t come along very often and when they do, it’s often who you know that gets you the job.
I know many national organizations have staff that telecommute within their region on a day-to-day basis with quite frequent travel. I’ve done this before and it worked quite well. A position that interests me was posted the other day for an organization that has an office in our state capital (the division headquarters is in the next state). Resumes are to be sent directly to the division CEO. Is it worthwhile to email my resume and cover letter with a note that says I understand the position is based in X city, but am curious if telecommuting is a possibility? I also wonder if I should/could ask her to keep me in mind for other opportunities that might arise.
You could, but be prepared for a lot of rejection.
In general, most organizations are loathe to hire telecommuters who they don’t already know and trust. Often people start telecommuting after working for an employer for a while, after they’ve learned their culture and expectations and after they’ve built trust around their competence and work ethic. At that point, it’s easier to convert into a telecommuting position; it’s much harder to do it right off the bat when they don’t know you and you haven’t proven yourself in their particular context and culture.
(One exception to this is when a position is designed to be done by a telecommuter, such as a position that must by its nature be based in X even though everyone else is based in Y.)
That said, your chances may increase if (a) you can find connections in your network who are also connected to senior-level managers at the organizations you’re targeting and can have them vouch for you, and/or (b) you have a very in-demand skill set and a fantastic reputation. But if you’re in a crowded field and without strong connections or something else to boost you up in the applicant pool, it’s going to be tricky — after all, if they have great local candidates who wouldn’t need to telecommute, there’s not a ton of incentive for them to take on the potential risk and inconvenience, especially if their organization doesn’t already have some experience with telecommuters.
However, there’s no harm in trying, as long as you’re up-front about it. (Just don’t go through their whole hiring process and then spring it on them at the end that you don’t want to move.) Good luck!