You’re young. Nothing is tying you down. Why not get out and experience the world?
Friends have looked to me for relocation tips just as often as they have teased me for moving so frequently. “How did you find a job so quickly?” “How do you pull it off each time?” My answer is clear: focus and keep it simple. I would spend hours on Craigslist and CareerBuilder, listened when people offered opportunities for me to talk to someone about a job, packed light, and planned ahead. Sure, I’m a bit impulsive, but I did whatever it took to make it work. It’s not scary when you go into a new situation with an open mind and without too many expectations.
My obsession with impulsively moving from city to city began a year after I finished college and moved to San Francisco. I visited the city by the bay one weekend in March and fell in love. I returned home only to pack, end a serious relationship, and put in my two weeks at work. By April I was on a plane with a one-way ticket and stars in my eyes.
I pulled it off without a hitch. At the time, my resume was crisp with my first post-college position as a technical recruiter for the automotive industry, my credit was good, and I was extremely naive. Nevertheless, with a lot of luck I was able to set myself up with a great apartment, cool roommates, and a week full of job interviews. Mind you, I didn’t move with a bank full of cash. I had enough money for a month of rent and some food, a shiny credit card with a limit inappropriate for someone with my spending habits, and optimism that I’d start working before shit hit the fan. The stock market had yet to fall, and at the time I thought I would forever make a solid salary plus commission. I did- for a while.
In my new beloved city I navigated the bus system, filled my room with brand new furniture and decor, and went out several nights a week. Imagine my surprise when I was laid off and started all over again- I spent my days sorting through spam on Craigslist for legit positions, racking up the credit card with things I couldn’t afford, and playing Wii bowling.
I found a new 9-to-5 job within the month, and things were breezy once again. In fact, I’ll fast-forward to the following spring. My life was stable, I was comfortable, I needed another challenge. Disclaimer- if you ever have it “easy” in the city like I thought I did- I am telling you- DO NOT move. You’re one of the fortunate few. I still kick myself for this next move.
I moved once again- this time, to Austin. Yes, Texas. I had a place lined up (I may tell that disaster of a tale one day), absolutely no job prospects, and the check engine light flashing on my Volkswagen Jetta. I had heard good things about Austin, but had never actually been there. The closest I had ever been to Texas was a layover in the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. The morning I moved I packed everything I owned into my little car, ignored the check engine light, and mapped the route on my phone. I left behind that great apartment and job, but was bright eyed and again, naive.
Without going into further detail I stayed in Austin for just six months and have lived in three other cities since then (one of which was my original destination, San Francisco). Today I am paying off the mistakes I made for these impulsive life choices, such as charging my $1,000 smog check which lead to a catalytic convertor replacement and a $2,000 hospital bill I obtained because I didn’t have health insurance.
Nevertheless, the experiences were priceless. I highly recommend stepping out of your comfort zone and moving in with strangers, working odd jobs to get by, making new friends and learning about new cities. I know who I am much better today than I did when I was just 4 hours from home, commuting in Metro Detroit traffic to my job as a recruiter. It’s important though to have a loose plan, since nothing works out as you think it will… but these little tricks worked for me every time.
Finding a place to live
I was extremely lucky when I first moved to San Francisco. I had a realistic rent budget and perused Craigslist for a couple of weeks before I found a rent-controlled apartment in one of the safest neighborhoods in the city, Laurel Heights. Yeah, it was fitting for a girl from Northern Michigan. Don’t shock yourself too badly right out of the gates. I had to ease in.
Get to know your roommates
I received a reply to my e-mail with full descriptions of the two roommates, links to their social profiles, and did my fair share of Google searches. Get to know the people beforehand. Sure, you never know what someone will turn out like, but do the work, talk to them on the phone, and if all possible, become friends before you even meet. I also don’t recommend moving with friends. If you move somewhere with someone you already know, you won’t get the full experience AND you may put yourself in a bad situation down the road where you lose that friend.
Job hunt before you’re there
In the “objective” line of my resume I was sure to add that I would be relocating and looking for a position in the city. I made it clear when I applied to jobs that I would be in the area and ready to interview- voila, it worked. My planner was full of appointments that first week, including a meeting with a recruiter. Find a staffing agency and meet with them. Even if it’s a month-long job, you’ll get to work and obtain an income while you look for a gig that better suits you.
Look for gigs and projects
I have been in-between jobs and freelancing projects quite regularly for the past few years. It seems there is always an event going on where they could use an extra hand- whether it’s serving a private party or setting up for a trade show. I’ve done everything from setting up a Shecky’s event to hosting an Ivy League holiday party to pretending to faint on a photo shoot for an ad agency. These gigs typically pay well- a high hourly rate for little work- so keep your eye out at all times if you have spare time and are looking to make some cash.
It’s all about who you know
Talk to people on the bus. Let people know what you’re looking to do. You may be working a part-time job at a restaurant or chatting with someone at Trader Joe’s when the stars align for a new opportunity. You could find that next apartment, job, or friend by being open to meeting new people and making connections.
Don’t over complicate your life
I don’t tie myself down with a lot of possessions (aside from clothes and shoes), I never had the money to pay for movers or even a moving truck, but I did have boxes shipped and a car packed to the hilt. Don’t over complicate your life.
So, give it a go- you’ll be happy you did. Just do your homework, and make Craig and his list your friend.
Photo Credit: danoah.com