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Posted: August 05, 2009

When in Denver…

8 tips for non-locals to land a job in Colorado

John Heckers

There is an old saying: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”  With the economy the way it is, we are getting an influx of people from both coasts but especially the hard-hit East Coast.  Unfortunately, many of the people who are relocating to Denver will have a very hard time finding a job here because of certain destructive attitudes and behaviors.

Many folks from Los Angeles, the Bay Area, the East Coast, D.C., Texas, and the like come here and expect Coloradans to conform to their expectations of how business should be done. Many of them bring an arrogant attitude and a hard-hitting culture that just plain does not work in Denver and the Front Range.

As a nearly native Denverite (I moved here when I was 3 years old and brought my parents with me), I have a few tips for those of you from other cities if you ever hope to be employed in the Denver area.

1. You must adapt to Denver culture, not the other way around. 
Our culture works for us and has for decades, and we take a very dim view of people who try to bully us into behaving the way that people behave in various other, less wonderful places. You are going to need to change your culture, not try to cram it down our throats.

2. We are nice people. 
Denverites really, really dislike pushy and obnoxious people. Many people from either coast are highly demanding, pushy, impatient and “get it done now” types. This is not Denver culture and you’re not making friends. And, boys and girls, the only way to get a decent job here is to make friends…lots of them.  Over 90 percent of executive jobs are never advertised, never given to headhunters and never posted. They are obtained through networking.

3. Denverites won’t usually tell you that they won’t help you. 
Denverites tend not to like to say “no;” instead they just won’t give you good networking references. They’ll just ignore you, not return calls, or connect you with people who aren’t very helpful. You might, for example, find yourself networking with a bunch of other transplants who don’t know lots of Denverites, either. If you’re finding that you’re getting referrals in networking, but none of them are terribly helpful…it is probably your way of relating to other people. You could use some help.

4. Things are not going to get done on your time schedule. 
And if, like many transplants, you get pushy and demanding, you’ll be helped even less. Your job search is not the priority of CEOs, for example, in Denver. Their jobs are. Being demanding and “holding people accountable” just makes those people angry and unhelpful.

5. We’re nice to everyone. 
We don’t appreciate people who are pushy and rude with our receptionists or admin staff. In fact, I have refused clients who have been rude to my wonderful receptionist, Keisha. I figure that, if you’re rude to a receptionist, you’re going to blow interviews, anyway. Besides, everyone deserves respect regardless of title or position. And this is also a Denver value.

6. Don’t push or demand. 
Pushing on a true Coloradan is like pushing on a string. You won’t get anywhere. We don’t like bullies here. Keep in mind that this is a very small town in many ways and the grapevine is unbelievable. If you are pushy and demanding it will get around within days. Most of us who have been here for a while know one another…and we talk.

7. Slow down your speech patterns. 
And reduce by at least 50 percent the number of words coming out of your mouth. Coloradans speak more slowly and deliberately. And stop interrupting; it’s a very rude habit that simply turns people off. Hear what others are saying fully and don’t bully your way into a conversation.

8. Quit yer bitchin’! 
Coloradans don’t like negative people, so stop complaining. Let positive words come out of your mouth. And never, never, never criticize or badmouth a Colorado business, sports team, institution or, especially, a well-networked individual. It will completely kill any chance you have of getting employed and staying employed here.

For free executive networking join John Monday, August 10th.  More information at

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John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC was an Executive, Relationships, Life and Spiritual Coach in Denver with 30 years of experience  helping people with their lives, relationships and careers.

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Readers Respond

I have lived on the East Coast and traveled numerous times to the West Coast. I grew up in a small Midwest state. I have found that no matter where you are, if you are nice to people, they are nice too -- no worse or nor any better than Colorado. Perhaps before you become so pompous, you may want to ask companies like First Data Corp why they are leaving Colorado -- did they all come from the East or West coast and could not stand the Colorado gentile environment. I find your remarks to be stupid and very biased. Have you ever been to diversity training? If not, that may be in order. By Kaye Lehmann on 2009 09 02
I came from the NY metro area 3 years ago. Quite frankly I haven't met up with any people in town who are aggressively rude and pushy. Maybe just a few drivers, but it's minimal. Since likely 50 percent of Denver area residents are not natives, I'm guessing that the kinds of people John refers to are not moving here in droves -- the transplants seem to be those that find outdoor recreation/big nature, politeness, friendliness (as in making eye contact with people on the street) and a relaxed pace more attractive than what they had. I still have NY friends that ask me why I moved to Denver. They don't get it, probably never will, so you won't find them here. By Stephen Koenigsberg on 2009 08 06
Having grown up on the East Coast, lived and worked on the West Coast and settled in Colorado, I believe we embrace the best of all cultures here. I like to tell people that my adopted state has the perfect combination of East Coast energy, California innovation and Midwest "nice." By Lisa Greim on 2009 08 06
Very insightful. I can't imagine anyone reading your tips without shaking their head and saying to themselves, "Yes. I ran across a person like that just the other day." Many thanks for this reminder to "Do unto others..." regardless of what the culture is where you came from. Don Grede By Don Grede on 2009 08 05
Right ON! Say it like it is John, I appreciate this! The outsiders think they can come in and just take over. Not so! Thanks for your upfront and honest article. By Holly Taylor on 2009 08 05

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