About a year after graduation, I moved to Seattle. By the time I left three years later, volunteering, two internships, three jobs, and intermittent contract work–plus mountaineering, discovering Northwest food and wine, and meeting new friends–comprised my experience in the city.
Through my twists and turns of employment and recreation in the Northwest, I’ve picked up a few tips on surviving the transition from graduation to life in a new city. If relocation is part of an evolving path for you, as it was for me, read on to find out what worked for me, including a few ways to research your relocation city during spring break.
Grads flock to popular enclaves in and near the big cities. A U.S. Census Bureau News release in 2003 points to that year’s report on the trend of the young, single and college educated moving to city centers despite the flight of other denizens. So, there you’ll find people your age and a host of precisely targeted amenities; you’ll also find expensive living and increased job competition.
Avoid the trend by researching smaller cities or towns that might offer you more for your desired quality of life–kinder commutes, recreation opportunities, a chance to build experience and confidence without your hair turning white at 25.
My chance in Seattle led from professional certification at University of Washington Extension to an unpaid editorial internship at a local design magazine. Sixty-plus hour weeks interning and delivering pizza at night paid off months later with regular freelance work for the magazine and occasional corporate and public relations freelance work. Now I’m confident I can excel in my field–maybe in any city.
To prosper in your relocation city, consider professional certification and internships in your field. This spring break, research university extension or educational outreach programs in your new city. You might dread more tuition bills, but the investment places you with mid-career professionals and graduates your age all aimed at increasing hiring potential. Also, if you haven’t interned in your field, focus on getting a summer internship in your new city. Even an unpaid internship gives you exposure, experience, and confidence that could lead directly to a job. Temporary work can alleviate monetary pressure–hey, I delivered pizza.
So, how much money will you need to commit to your move? Turn to the Web to research your city’s typical living expenses. How much is rent? How much is annual car insurance and registration? How much is public transit? How much is the average utility cost? Is there state income tax or state or local sales tax? What are the state’s health insurance laws? What other bills will you have to pay? Find some answers on the city or state’s official Web pages. Once the costs are tallied, you might prefer Salt Lake City to New York City.
After you’ve researched the cost of city living from official sources, check out wikipedia.org, craigslist.org, or other user-based Web pages. From the user-content pages, you can read reports about neighborhood characteristics, rents, and businesses. Though no substitution for personal experience, these local perspectives help you appear aware at interviews with the landlord or employer. Imagine moving to Massachusetts ignorant of the Red Sox–with a little local knowledge, you’ll earn your neighbors’ confidence.
Approach other locals such as friends, family, or alumni this spring break. Nancy Hoff, Career Adviser and Assistant Director at the University Advising and Career Center at the University of New Hampshire, my alma mater, suggests working with your school’s alumni association to meet alumni in your relocation city willing to pass on local information. Whether in person or by phone, follow up on your Web research with friends, family, or alumni this spring break. With their help you’ll get a feel for where you fit in the city.
Looking for that fit-ness, I re-relocated in 2008 to the East Coast–Somerville, near Boston. I moved across the country, again, to transplant my Seattle-cultivated professional roots in a larger market and to be closer to family and old friends (plane tickets get expensive). If you’re like me, it will take time to trust the curves in your evolving path and discover meaningful work and recreation along the way. Patience in a new city recoups the investment costs of moving around a bit. In the meantime, got any local recommendations for a new Somervillian?