Ever since I joined my high school paper (go Falcons!), I've always known I wanted to become a writer. As I was maneuvering through the fallen bits and pieces of the journalism industry post-college (thank you, recession) hopping from a street-reporter gig for a local newspaper to a relatively cushy job as a digital beauty editor, there was a gnawing voice in the back of my head that whispered that my time was coming; my time to go to New York and find out if I was good enough to make it in the toughest city in the world. All great writers, from Joan Didion to Kerouac, have cut their teeth in the city that never sleeps, and I knew that if I really wanted to commit to this writer thing, my path would inevitably force me to face the test and find out if I'm really up to snuff.
As a born-and-raised Californian, I'm risk-averse, conditioned to be complacent, and I desire the most comfortable route (air-conditioned cars and sunshine 24/7, 365 days a year will do that to you). Why I then decided to subject myself to negative-20-degree weather, commuting in blizzards, and trading in my car for the urine-drenched subway shows just how committed I was to making it in New York. I knew that establishing my career in the city was the only thing that would satisfy me, and I would die regretful if I never tried. So this is my story of how I got the job of my dreams and moved 4000 miles over a weekend for that New Yorker life. Whether you want to move to New York yourself or you're looking to move to any new city for a job, here are the hustler tips that'll get you there.
First things first: Start thinking of yourself as a product you want to sell. With any product, you would analyze its strengths, its competition in the marketplace, and assess its differentiating trait that sets it apart. So ask yourself: What’s your defining trait? What sets you apart from the mass? As a young writer, I wanted to differentiate myself from others in my league, and identified the skills that were additive, such as copyediting or on-camera experience.
Then, just like any successful product, you need great branding. Ask a budding graphic designer friend to help concept a logo for your name that you can use on your résumé, website, and even business cards you can print out with services like Moo.com. Concepting a visually appealing font and color for your name can help differentiate your résumé from the thousands of other applicants. I asked a best friend to design my résumé, and I still use the same font and color schemata to this day.
And finally, it’s a given that you would update your LinkedIn, but what else can you do to make your online profile more robust? Add a video reel if that’s applicable to your skill-set or a portfolio. What’s the service you can provide in a sentence? That’s your tagline. Now get it out there.
If you want a job in a new city, it behooves you to physically be there. The tip that I hold onto steadfastly is spending the money to book a trip to your desired city so that you have a deadline to work toward. Plus, you’ve just invested your money toward the cause, so you’ll make damn sure that that trip is productive. I bought a round-trip flight to NYC and gave myself two weeks there to find a job. Ambitious, I know. That gave me one month to fill up every hour of my stay.
So, remember that jazzy resume? If the competition is fierce, you need to make sure you don’t give the employer a reason to pass on you. While I would never condone lying about skills that you don’t have (don’t say you know how to use Photoshop if the closest you got was using InDesign five years ago), but one area that you should absolutely fib on is your address.
If the job application requests an address, borrow a friend’s in the desired city. While this may sound like an outdated practice, if you’re hungry enough, I think it’s worth it. Making sure your location doesn’t get in the way of your employer’s decision-making is just one of the many minor details that can put your résumé at the bottom of the pile. You don’t want the employer to pass you over because they don’t want to pay for moving costs or have to wait for you to make the move. In this case, a little white lie never hurt anyone. I borrowed my good friend’s address not just for my résumé but as a place to crash during my two weeks in New York.
Every job I’ve ever had started with a connection. I graduated during the great housing bubble burst of ’08 where recruiters didn’t bat an eye at a fancy college degree. In the midst of downsizing, your résumé didn’t just need a jazzy font to stand out, it needed to be placed on top of the pile. That’s when your connections come into play. Once I set my mind to moving to New York, I spent every day for a month waking up to a 9-to-5 of applying to jobs, emailing everyone I knew, and browsing through LinkedIn.
It was a three-pronged approach: 1.) I applied to every applicable job and nailed down a few interviews to make sure that the trip was worth it. 2.) I emailed all my editor/writer friends and had them e-introduce me to their editor/writer friends in New York. I set up a coffee meet-and-greet with an editor at every publication in town. 3.) Finally, I filled in the gaps with industry events and meetings with connections I knew in PR companies. People in PR (or the good ones that is) are plugged into every publication and know the movements of their industry. They can find out that someone has left a post before it even goes up on a job board. Your goal is to fill out every hour of your stay in the city. Something is bound to pan out, and it did for me.
Of all the interviews and coffee meet-cutes and PR lunches, none of them actually turned into a J.O.B. But it was at an industry event (a beauty brand’s new foundation launch party, if you must know) where I was introduced to an editor working at the company of my dreams. I hadn’t applied to that company because they didn’t have any openings, but sure enough, once I returned to L.A., a position opened up. I emailed my new acquaintance immediately, and she forwarded my jazzy résumé on. Five days after I landed in L.A., I was booking a one-way flight back out to New York for the interview.
Once landing at JFK, I hopped into a cab and made my way back to my friend’s couch. It was February, and the streets and trees were covered in snow. When I pulled down the window and breathed in the cold, cold air, it felt good to be back—even after just five days. It felt like coming home.
The next day, after the interview, I walked across the street and ordered a tomato soup in a near-empty diner. In complete faith, I started looking for apartment listings. While in Brooklyn, checking out a newly renovated basement (wasn’t great), I got a call from the interviewer.
I got the job.
The next few days in New York went from Operation Find a Job to Operation Find an Apartment. My dream company wanted me to start in a week, which meant I had four business days and one weekend to find my new home. I was all over StreetEasy, Craigslist, Trulia, and Facebook. I looked at a windowless basement room in the West Village, and I fell in love with a spacious two-bedroom apartment in Park Slope with beautiful moldings on the walls, only to be passed over for someone else, but it wasn’t until I heard about a hidden listing on a local community website that I found the apartment that would become my home for the next four years.
Dig up the community boards that will have listings you wouldn’t find on more nationally known sites. That’s where you may stumble upon a gem.
Once I secured my apartment, I flew back to L.A. and began to pack my bags. I separated my belongings into three categories: "need now," "need later," and "need never, but #memories." For my "need now" items, I packed three very large suitcases I would take with me back to New York. They consisted of seasonally appropriate clothes, bags, makeup, and accessories. Then I separated the rest into boxes that my mom would ship out to me on a later date: summer clothes, books, and all my shoes. Finally, all the memorabilia and furniture and textbooks I weren’t willing to let go of but had no place in NY were placed into storage.
It wasn't until a few months at my new job that I felt comfortable enough to admit to my new bosses that I had lied about my address. The thing is they were just impressed by the hustle and the fact that my 4000-mile transplant didn't deter me from my daily responsibilities. I was the first one in and the last one out, and I fed off the buzz from that New York working life. Years later, now I'm the hiring manager, and the one thing that I always look for in an interviewee is grit. Do they have the hustle? The stamina? The passion?
In the aughts, all the media outlets would talk about "those millennials" as lazy, entitled, and not knowing the sweat of hard work. I couldn't disagree more.
Have you ever relocated for a dream job? Would you consider it? Make your case in the comments.