Let me tell you a story about a scrappy, naive young thing named Ega Jones and her journey with unemployment and post-grad angst. It goes a little something like this: I graduated from college with a degree in Gender and Sexuality Studies. Is there another field that has less relevance to the corporate world? No, there isn’t. Sorry, English majors, I’ve got you beat.
I graduated with absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life and pretty close to zero marketable skills. I knew two things: that I liked helping people (I minored in Social Work, also super lucrative) and that I was broke. So, I moved from Brooklyn to Delaware, took a job with AmeriCorps, and shacked up with my parents and dog Truman.
Even though Delaware is the bomb, I knew my stint in suburbia was only temporary. I’ve always been a city person; it’s in my blood. I’m not so good with cars or strip malls or frat boys. I like my people weird and my public transit efficient. As my job’s end date neared, I began to frantically search for positions that would bring me back to New York.
It did not go so well. I got a zillion interviews with organizations throughout the five boroughs, and not one of them led to an offer. I made it through round after round of interviews, presentations, group interviews, and reference checks–and none of it amounted to anything. It was demoralizing. It made me a little bit crazy. I felt like a loser with no verifiable talents or worth. In a word, it blew.
Somewhere in between all of the rejection and crushed hopes, my relationship ended. It was around then that I started thinking that maybe I should do the completely impractical and improbable thing of moving to the city without a job or even the hint of one. I tossed the idea around to my trusted advisers, and within two months I was looking at a cheap, charming sublet in Brooklyn, writing a check, packing my mom’s mini-van with the essentials (mattress, no bed frame; clothes; books), and driving to my new home.
Obviously, I was terrified. But once I took the first step of moving– of jumping without having any idea what would catch me– everything worked out. It wasn’t easy, and sometimes I felt like a crazy person, but as soon as I took the first step, with the support of my friends and family and a hefty dose of faith in myself and my city, the universe backed me up 100%.
As a result, I kind of secretly believe that the universe really wants us to take huge leaps like that so it can show us the many ways in which we will be caught.
Here are my tried and true tips for moving to a new place without a job or any large sum of money.
-Make sure that you really need to move to get the change you’re craving/achieve the things you want to achieve. The most common piece of advice I received was to just stick it out in Delaware for another year and build my savings. It seems practical, but I knew it wasn’t an option for me. Do a little soul searching and make sure that moving is the right thing for you. Then you can be ridiculously, insanely confident in your choice and ignore any naysayers.
-Look deeply and honestly at your finances. I absolutely hate doing this. For awhile, I avoided thinking about money entirely and would mutter things like, “Oh… I’ll be fine….” when people asked me how I’d survive. That doesn’t fly, my friends. You need to figure out exactly how long you can live on the money you have saved (if you don’t have anything saved, you will need to be more creative. Luckily, if you’re really frugal, all you need is a few months to get some solid savings going– especially if you can live at home or crash on a friend’s couch.)
-Develop a budget. Write down all of your fixed expenses– stuff that is the same every month (rent, utilities, phone bill, student loans, Metrocard, etc). Then, set a monthly cap for other expenses– groceries, drinks, cleaning supplies, books, really expensive face brushes (oops), etc. Be honest here. It’s not going to be useful to you if you set an insanely low budget and can never manage to stay within it. The point is to help you see how much money you realistically need to survive. Add your fixed expenses and your monthly cap for other stuff together and BOOM– you have yourself a monthly budget! (Excel is a great place to organize all of this data.)
-Based on your budget, figure out how long your savings will last. Divide your total savings by your monthly budget. When I moved, I had 4 months worth of savings. That meant that I had 4 months to find a job before my money ran out and I became destitute. Terrifying, right? Through some extended calculations made by my friend F (no idea how to replicate them, but can figure it out if anyone has an interest), I realized that if I just got a part-time job paying $10/hr, my savings would then last for 2 additional months. Seeing the numbers is scary, but it also makes things seem more manageable.
-Find a cheap sublet apartment (or a couch to crash on, if that’s how you roll). Crashing doesn’t work well with my hermit tendencies, so I decided to find a cheap, temporary sublet and go from there. Craigslist is the way to go. I took the first and only place I looked at— it was charming and located in a safe neighborhood. I didn’t have much space and it wasn’t super close to the subway, but I sacrificed that stuff for the basics. Don’t try to find a perfect place. Find a temporary place that serves your immediate needs.
-Contact everyone you know that lives in your new place. Luckily, I had a strong circle of college friends to fall back on when I moved to Brooklyn. Not only did that ease my worries (couches to crash on if I became destitute, people to hang out with and tell me I wasn’t crazy), it also helped that they had contacts and job leads and helpful advice. Having a strong network of support is crucial when moving to a new place without many resources of your own. This isn’t to say that you can’t pick up and move to a place where you know absolutely no one– you totally can, and more power to you! Almost every famous person’s memoir I’ve read mentions a brief period of squatting on a new friend or lover’s couch while they were young and broke. It’s a rite of passage. It’s even a little glamorous if you think about it that way. Who wouldn’t want to be more like Coco Chanel?
-Temp. In my first week in the city, I registered with 5 temp agencies (all of which I found via google or a friend’s recommendation). Within two weeks, I had a temp job that eventually transformed into the awesome full-time, big kid job that I have now. My intention when I started was just to temp so that I had an income while I kept hunting for more permanent things– which turned out to be a pretty solid plan. The idea here is to stretch your savings as far as possible. Take whatever comes your way while you search for the ideal thing.
-Travel light. There will be time once you’re settled to move all of your favorite luxuries and knickknacks. For now, bring only the basics. That way, if you have to move around a bit before you get fully settled, it won’t be too hard. (Note: a nice duvet is not a luxury. Please don’t make the mistake I made and bring an uncomfortable, spartan quilt.)
-Hustle. Throw yourself wholeheartedly into the pursuit of your goals. This is a time to wake up early and go to bed late. Make it happen. Do whatever it takes. Let me tell you a secret: when something HAS to happen– when there’s truly no choice but for it to work out– it always does. Hold your own feet to the fire.
None of this is easy– but it’s possible. Making this move has showed me the importance of doing things before you’re really ready. If I had waited until I felt like I was totally prepared, emotionally and financially, to move to the city– I’d still be in Delaware. Take the leap, and let the universe do the rest. Get it, girl.