While many of us have, in the past, relocated for internships, study abroad programs, and more, things are quite different when your post-grad job means you have to move to a different city. But things are going to be especially different if, instead of the big city landscape you’re so used to, you find yourself seriously considering a job offer in a non-major city.
How do you decide to give up the big city lifestyle for a career move in a smaller setting? What should you expect? And if you do decide to move, what can you do to make your new life easier? Relocating to a whole new place can be daunting, but with the right amount of preparation, you can be enjoying your new city in no time!
So you’ve got the job offer… but should you stay or should you go?
You have completed the job search, submitted the application, interviewed, and got the job. But as thrilled as you are, you’re not completely sure whether or not you should accept the offer and go because of the location. Before you reply with a yes or no, how should you decide if you should, or shouldn’t, move away?
Consider who you would work for
Most companies are based in big cities like New York, but there are also employers who choose to set up their company or local branches in smaller towns and cities. Target, for instance, is based in Minneapolis while DirectTV’s headquarters are in El Segundo, California, proving that big opportunities can be found in smaller places. Even if the idea of relocating away from a major city didn’t appeal to you before, the chance to take a great leap forward on your career path could make the move worthwhile.
This potential to get a huge career head start drove Chika Okafor to relocate to Bristol, Connecticut. After graduating from the University of Chicago, Chika packed his bags and settled down in the suburban city to work for his dream employer: ESPN.
“Since my childhood, my true long-term goal was to work in the sports journalism industry, so I had always planned to accept almost any full-time sports journalism job that was offered to me regardless of the location,” explains Chika. “That mindset coupled with the fact that ESPN, a company that is widely considered to be the most prominent sports media company, offered me the job made the decision to move to Bristol a very easy decision.”
So before you either accept the offer or write it off, make sure you’re aware of all the potential career opportunities that could come with each employer. If working for a certain company can open many, many doors for you down the road, then the small-city landscape could be for you!
Think about the costs
The cost of living in big cities is usually very expensive, and while you may make enough to get by, you make not make enough to live comfortably. This is where accepting that job offer in a smaller city would come in handy, as the cost of living tends to be lower than it is for a big city. This means that you wouldn’t only be able to just get by, you would also be more able to lead a comfortable, affordable lifestyle that doesn’t leave you too strapped for cash.
Of course, you’ll still need some financial support as you try to settle in, which is why you’ll most likely need to include your parents in your decision as well.
“Having your parents’ buy-in is going to be a crucial part of your relocation,” explains Lesley Mitler, founder of career counseling service Priority Candidates. “You may not need their help once you start getting paid, but you may need them to pitch in for your first month’s rent, bills, and anything else you might need to get set up.”
Parental support has helped many a college grad a long way, so it’s always a great idea to talk to your parents about any offers that may need you to relocate. There’s more than enough logistics to worry about when you first move, even if it is to a small city or town, and striking a deal with your parents will help alleviate the stress.
“The only concern that I had was the amount of money needed to relocate and for that, my parents were a great source of help,” says Chika. “They completely financed the move. They provided the money for the rent deposit, for gas money, and allowed me to take one of their cars with me. I always thought that as long as the financial part of the move was taken care of that I would be able to handle the move and that thought has proven to be accurate.”
Reflect on the kind of lifestyle you would be leading
It’s always a great idea to have spent time in a city you could be potentially moving to, but realize that you’ll not only be leading a work lifestyle, you’ll also be trying to live in a city that could be very different from your own. You’re bound to face some lifestyle changes that differ significantly from your past experiences, especially if you’re someone moving from a big city to a smaller one. There’s a good chance that you’ll have fewer activities, nightlife, and more at your disposal, and the limited options may make you hesitant before accepting the job offer.
But if you don’t mind a quieter lifestyle, then go for it! While some college grads find it daunting, many others are actually thrilled by the idea of living somewhere so different from their usual surroundings.
If moving far away is something that you may not personally be ready for, you always have the option of relocating somewhere close to home. That way, you can still get a taste of living in a different city, but without the added pressure of being somewhere completely unfamiliar to you.
“I was living at home with my parents in Baltimore, Maryland, but the position was an hour away in Rockville. My salary would be enough for me to have a place of my own, but I decided to move in with my single aunt in Germantown, Maryland,” remembers Sathiyya Parks-Barrett, a Bowie State University grad. “Once I became comfortable with the area, I decided to get my own apartment in a nearby town. The move was good for me because it allows me to have my own space and become my own person.”
How far away do you want to be from family and friends?
Despite all positive experiences that come with relocating for a job, most college graduates who do move away share one ongoing concern: being far away from family and friends. This distance is especially worrisome for grads that relocate to a smaller city or one that’s farther away from their college, as most of their friends tend to stay in the nearby area or move to a major city.
To bridge the distance, most college grads keep in touch via email, Skype, and any sort of program and technology they can get their hands on. If you live close enough, you may also be able to visit old friends and family every once in a while!
“I’m 9 hours from home and almost all of my friend group from college moved to [Charlotte] and didn’t branch out,” says Sierra Piland, a recent University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill grad. “So it’s tough for me to do anything with them or family last minute, but I’ve made a couple trips home already which is really plenty.”
You’ve decided to take the offer… how should you prepare?
Research, here, is key. While you may have already looked up some of the financial and social aspects of your new home, there’s still a little more work to be done in understanding what you need to help you get settled in.
Become a state resident
“In some cases, companies will want you to apply for an ID in the state you’ll be working in,” says Mitler. “You may need to become a resident of the state, which means that you may need to apply for a driver’s license or fulfill another requirement that will make you a resident. So before you go, browse the Internet and look at all the criteria for becoming a resident of your new state.”
Even if your employer doesn’t ask you to get a state ID, you may still want to think about getting one, especially if you intend on living in the new state for an extended period of time. It’s never a bad idea to identify yourself as a state resident, as you’ll have a more direct access to work, health, and other services within the state, all of which can make settling down a lot easier.
Visit the city
Remember those high school years when you visited colleges to see what they were like? You may want to repeat the same process here!
“I had interned in Nashville the summer after my sophomore year at Viacom’s Country Music Television as a photography assistant to the photo manager. That gave me time to see what Nashville was like,” explains Sierra. “I moved here in May, just a week after graduation. Living here before definitely sealed the deal for me. Nashville still has a lot of culture and a happening scene but is very affordable.”
If you haven’t yet seen the city, definitely think about paying a visit before you accept your job offer. Any previous experience in your new city will help a lot in determining how long you want to remain there. While a past internship usually helps college grads decide if they want to formally settle down in a city, there’s a very good chance that most of your internships were located in major cities and not the one you’re thinking of settling down in.
“I would recommend that [college grads] travel and spend about two or three days in the city to see what it’s like to live there,” advises Mitler. “Don’t be impulsive and decide right away. You want a good balance between your professional and personal life, and you want to make sure that it all makes sense to you. That’s why you should visit, because you don’t want to be stuck somewhere that may satisfy you career-wise, but leave you lacking otherwise.”
The effort you make to visit also matters to your employer. When they hire you, companies expect you to stay on with them for a fairly extended period of time, so you want to make sure that you don’t become the employee who quits after a few months. All the training and opportunities they give you won’t add to your personal career development if you leave shortly after starting work, which is why you need to make sure that you’ll not only love your job, but that you’ll love your new surroundings as well.
Adjusting to a new place can be hard, so how can you make it easy?
Find activities that you love
When you move somewhere, you’ll constantly be looking for a sense of familiarity. One good way to make sure that you have something familiar to fall back on is to find activities and hobbies you love! You may need to put more effort into joining clubs and organizations, but realize that you’ll ultimately feel more at ease by putting yourself out there.
“Just be yourself and go for it!” encourages Sierra. “Put yourself out there. Talk to random people. Join clubs and alumni groups. I’m normally an introvert, but I’m here in this new city where no one knows me, and I’m just going to go with it. And from when I’ve visited North Carolina, I’m enjoying my life here so much more than if I had stuck with the status quo or didn’t leave my friends.”
Aside from making friends, seeking out activity groups will also help you meet other people your age, which can be a challenge in the working world.
“A lot of grads will find that most people they normally interact with at work are older than they are, and it can be hard to meet and bond with people of their age group,” says Mitler. “It depends on where you live, but actively participating in sports and other hobbies will give you friends that fit what you need as a young professional.”
Talk to someone who knows the city
Perhaps you have friends from the city you’re relocating to, and perhaps you don’t. But at the end of the day, there’s no better way to get the local perspective you want about a city than from locals themselves! Having a friend who’s lived in the area will make you more comfortable, and you’ll realize that with their guidance, you’ll be completely at ease in no time. This means that you definitely want to get in touch with some locals before you leave and make an effort to meet some once you’re there, especially if you’re moving somewhere far from all your other friends.
“I found a temporary sublet by having a younger girl from my hometown send an email out to her sorority’s listserv. A girl my age responded [who was] established in this area, which helped with making friends,” explains Sierra. “After the summer ended, we signed a lease with a third roommate [from the University of South Carolina]. We are all somewhat transplants here and branching out, which really helps rather than just doing it all on your own or being isolated with people you work with.”
For many, moving away ends up being a great experience
Despite the challenges of relocating, most college grads find the move more than rewarding. While the thrill of living in a whole new environment is enticing, moving away also introduces you to adulthood, establishing you for the rest of your post-college life. This is true even when you decide to move away from major cities and to smaller localities, which offer their own ways of helping you develop professionally and personally.
So as daunting as it may seem, relocating to a small city can definitely be an experience to treasure. With the right amount of research, preparation, and consideration, you could soon be calling your new city home without any hesitation.