How to Move to New York City: Fresh Out of College Edition

Someone once told me that I should write about what I know. I've received many questions about how I seemingly packed up and moved to New York right out of college, without a job, in the midst of winter. A lot of young people have this aspiration to leave the city they grew up in, or get out of the college town they've been in for the past 4+ years. I was no different. I spent half of my life in Bangkok, and the other half in Portland. I needed a change, and I wanted a big change. A very close friend from college had moved to New York a couple years prior, and suggested that maybe I give it a shot. 

Here are a few things I feel are most important to consider when contemplating a move:

  • finances
  • career
  • housing
  • adaptability


I was coming up on my final semester of school, and due to officially graduate in December of 2015. I had been working at the same company for five years, since I started college. I had some money saved up but I knew that if I were to move to a super expensive city without a job, and no place to live, I was going to need as much cash as possible. I had this idea of moving cross-country back in March 2015, so I picked up a second job as a server during the summer when school was off, and saved all of my tips. Seriously, save up as much as you possibly can. 

I was only planning to bring one suitcase with me on this move, so I had a lot of stuff to get rid of. I sold a lot of clothes, and shoes, and put that money into my moving fund. If you have a car, I suggest selling that too, since you won't be needing it (or even wanting it) in NYC - plus, it will provide you with a good chunk of change to add to your savings. 


"Why did you decide to move without a job lined up first? Are you insane?"

It was a seemingly insane decision, but in my mind the risk far outweighed the reward. Believe me, I did not make this decision over night. It took months of careful planning and running through "best case, worst case" scenarios. I made the assumption that no one in New York would hire me, given that I was in Portland still, and only had a few years of admin and marketing experience. As soon as I landed, I applied, applied, and applied to jobs like crazy. I would spend my days in Starbucks or the library, writing cover letter after cover letter. I got in touch with headhunting firms, and went on up to three job interviews a day. I didn't find anything that was a good fit for me or that met my salary requirements. I kept interviewing, and about 6 weeks in I started to panic - the sizable chunk of money I had moved with was quickly dwindling despite my frugal habits - and so I took a temp job as a receptionist to generate some income. I was still applying and interviewing, but I felt like I could breathe a little bit since I wasn't solely living off my savings anymore. 

Eventually, I found another job with a large salary increase. I worked there for about 6 months, and realized it wasn't for me. The thing is, sometimes you think you know what you want to do, and then you try it, and find out that maybe it isn't for you after all. 

I am now on my third job, which is much more in line with my career goals than the previous positions I held, and I have been with the company for almost two years now. Finding the right career path is like trying on outfits - you have to try different things to see what fits you best, and even if something looks good on the hanger, it doesn't always mean it will be a good fit for you


Downsize. Assume that you'll be living out of a small to medium size bedroom when you first move to the city. Let me tell you, there's nothing like trying to pack your life up into one suitcase to give you a true reality check of how much stuff you've accumulated over the years. I had friends come over and rifle through bins of clothing, and told them to take what they wanted. Anything else left over was donated. I still have a few things left in storage at my parents' house, but I managed to get rid of most of it. Purging felt really good.

My number one piece of advice about moving, as well as traveling, is this: bring extra money, more than you think you might need, because you never know what emergencies may arise, and bring half the amount of stuff you originally planned to bring. 

My friend was generous enough to let me stay with her for a month while I sorted out a job and an apartment. At the end of that month, I still hadn't gotten a job, but I certainly needed to get out of her hair and find a place to live. So, what are you supposed do when you still don't have a job, but need an apartment? Sublet. I made the decision to sublet a cheap room for $800 per month in Brooklyn. I found it on Craigslist, and moved in with three girls I had never met before. I didn't know where I'd be working, and therefore couldn't commit to anything more expensive without knowing what kind of salary I'd be receiving. The sublet was for four months - in which time I'd either have a job and a salary, or I'd be completely broke and flying myself home to my parents'. The great thing about subletting is that you're free from long term commitments. I knew that if I hated the location, or the apartment, or the house mates, I'd only have to be there for a few months. I didn't hate the apartment or the house mates, but the location was far from the new job that I finally landed. Eventually, I found a suitable home closer to work within affordable means of my new salary. I've been in the same apartment for over two years now.


Lastly, I want to address some differences in day to day life I didn't think about until I arrived. Depending on where you are from, these changes may be more or less drastic. I have always considered myself a city gal, growing up in Bangkok (8.2 million in 2016), and I am no stranger to crowded public transportation, constant noise, and pollution.

Big cities are not for everyone. Fast paced lifestyles are not for everyone. I've had friends stay with me for a weekend and say, "This city is so great to visit, but I can't see myself living here, it's just too crazy for me".

Here are some other questions you might consider asking yourself:

  • How do you feel about being in big cities; do they give you anxiety or do you thrive on the energy?
  • How important is convenience and ease of life? Car-less, I quickly learned that I could only buy things that I could schlep back to my apartment on foot or by subway.
  • Does public transportation gross you out? Are you claustrophobic? Maybe this isn't the city for you.
  • Are community washing machines a deal breaker? Unless you are ballin' out, most people go to a laundry-mat to wash clothes, or drop off to have it done for them. 

I will say this - money doesn't buy happiness, but it does buy convenience. You can get just about anything delivered to your door - groceries, booze, your clean and folded laundry, et cetera. In my two and a half years of living here, I've only had my groceries delivered to me once (thanks Amazon x Whole Foods) and I felt incredibly bougie doing so. 

I hope that this post has been helpful to anyone aspiring to make it in the Big Apple - questions are always welcome below in the comments section.