Graduation is over, the car is packed, the gas tank is full and you are officially ready to enter the world of gainful full-time professional employment! Next stop… mom’s house, or maybe you have something else more glamorous in mind right?
When I graduated college I thought for sure that I’d be moving to Boston. Somewhere along the line I took a left turn and ended up back in my childhood bedroom in Rochester, NY. Two years later I did finally pack my bags for Maryland. Over a decade, a marriage and a kid later I still haven’t made it to Boston, outside of a few business trips.
A recent Forbes.com article, Best Cities for New College Graduates in 2015 reveals that Washington, DC is the number one destination for recent college graduates. I worked in DC for a few years and there is a unique energy that comes with working downtown in the District. With 29% of the population between the ages of 20-34, low unemployment, above average salaries and a decent nightlife recent graduates have been coming in droves for the last few years.
Noticeably absent from the 2015 list were New York and Los Angeles. What I discovered instead was a geographically diverse list of old and new places that are growing or reemerging in popularity. Minneapolis, Denver, San Francisco and Boston round out the top five.
Be it small town, big town or out of the country, no matter where you are thinking about moving, I’ve compiled a quick list of five things to think about while you ponder your next great experience.
1. Do an internship in your city of choice first As Senior Manager of a national internship program I placed students at summer internships in NY, LA, Atlanta, Nashville, Philadelphia and many others cities. A fair share of the interns I placed were graduating seniors and graduate students so even if you are graduating in five weeks there is still a chance. The opportunities do exist if you look hard and it is a perfect scenario to work, live and play for 8-12 weeks before making the commitment to a new home.
2. Research where the jobs are in your industry Want to be the next Ava DuVernay or Steven Spielberg then you are probably moving to NY or LA. Dreams of being on Wall Street will take you to NY, launching the next great start up will land you in Silicon Valley and if you are feeling the pull to public service in the federal government then Washington, DC will probably be your destination. You may still choose to move to a location where there aren’t a lot of jobs in your field, but at least you will know that going in rather than finding out after months of searching, potential disappointment and possible unemployment.
3. Pick a graduate school based on location first and program second If you’ve had your heart set on a certain school or program since you were 14 then this is probably not going to work for you. For me, I picked a location first and then found the schools with degree programs of interest to me. My thought was that if for some reason I had to stop school, I wanted to be in a city that I liked with great job prospects. Be it big city or small college town, this strategy lets you spend 2-3 years getting to know the lay of the land to see if it will be home for years to come or just a pit stop.
4. Save money and understand how much you’ll need to move When I was on my mission to get to Boston I remember getting a call for a job interview with a public relations agency. I also remember the sinking feeling when they asked me when I could fly out for an interview. Um… let me call you back. My parents were not going to fund my adventure and I was broke. My part-time job as the front desk clerk at a gym wasn’t going to cover that little excursion. It was at that point I realized I needed a lot more money. So, I regrouped and started searching locally and landed my first professional position as an Admissions Counselor for Keuka College. Don’t assume that when you find that dream job that it will come with your dream salary and paid for relocation expenses. If you do, that is awesome! For most folks, especially on the entry-level, getting thousands of dollars to pay for your move is rare. Many companies won’t fly you out for interviews either, that might be on your own dime and you may not get the job. Take a step back and save enough to cover your living expenses for a few months. Unless you plan to couch surf or have a roommate who is already there, you will need money for your security deposit, furniture, a moving van and other things to just make it to your to your new place.
5. Understand the cost of living changes from place to place What salary can you expect and how far will it go in your new city? A $45,000 salary will go further Rochester where you can purchase a 3-bedroom home in the city for $80,000 versus Washington, DC where rent for a 1-bedroom apartment will hit your pockets for about $2,000 per month. Use sites like glassdoor.com and salary.com to get an understanding of what your ideal position will pay in your city of choice. Resources like Zillow, Trulia and Craigslist can help you see what rent is going for. You may need to plan to have a roommate, give up your car and eliminate Starbucks from your daily routine. Like many of my peers my desire wasn’t to go back home, I wanted to break away free and start fresh in a new exciting place the day after I walked across the stage. It didn’t happen that way, but it did eventually happen. As my husband and I consider where life will take us next, know that your first move doesn’t necessarily have to be your final move.
If you are thinking about moving,consider my eCourse, Finding a New Job in a New City. Save yourself the headaches!
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