How to Move to NYC Without a Job: 5 Steps to Prepare

You want to move to New York, but you don’t have a ready-to-go job. You’re scared, nervous, and filled with an overwhelming amount of self-doubt. Good. Grab onto that fear and doubt and hold on tight because you’re going to want to have it nearby when you tell it to go shove it.

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I’ve had a couple of people ask me how I made the move… so here it is. Before I dig in, please understand that my experience is not everyone’s experience. My background may not match your background, but many of the things I deem necessary [I think] will come in handy for anyone in preparation for moving here. I’ll do another post (maybe) on what to do when you actually get here.

This is what I did in preparation for moving to NYC without a job.

DSC_4669Going on my first job interview in NYC in July 2014

Step 1. Save money. 

New York City is expensive. Rent is wildly out of control (you can easily spend over $1000.00 a month to live in someone’s closet in Manhattan). Food is more, shampoo is more, everything is more. Seeing as how you won’t be making any money for an unknown amount of time, you’ll want to save about $5,000. I decided I wanted to give myself the best chance possible so I saved just under $10,000. I worked non-stop for months on end before moving. I found a bunch of odd end jobs on Craigslist on top of my two other jobs I was working already. Every penny I could save, I did (literally).

You never really know how much you’ll end up spending on rent those first couple of weeks/months so being prepared is key.

Step 2. Learn how to use money.

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Make a budget. Stick to it. (mint.com is a great online tool for this)

Know how much you’re spending on everything (on food, clothes, toiletries, alcohol, going out, etc.) right now. Don’t wait to move to NYC to get serious about spending.

This may sound odd and you may be saying “Of course I know how to use money“. But chances are, you don’t. Sorry. It’s been my experience that our generation has little clue where their money is going and how to use it. Knowing how to use your money wisely will give you a HUGE upper hand in making it here with little income.

I’ve come down with mixed conclusions on whether or not this city is actually that expensive. I thought for sure you had to make a gajillion dollars to survive -let alone live nicely- in New York City. I was wrong, but I’m also very money savy. You can definitely live on a small income [and do it quite nicely].

Step 3. Loose (or sell) the excess. 

Decide what you actually need and get rid of the rest. I moved to NYC with a big (but movable) suitcase, a light backpack with my essentials (passport and other important docs etc.), and my camera bag. That’s it. I highly suggest you do the same.

You’ll be moving around a bit when you first get here and having a bunch of stuff weighing you down sucks. Moving in (note: not to) NYC is literally the most stressful thing I’ve ever done and I can’t imagine trying to do it with more junk. If you don’t need it. Don’t bring it. I sold all of my things which made for a great addition to my savings (including about 80% of my closet).

Step 4. Reach out to people.

I tried doing a bunch of research before moving – which neighborhood is which, how to get around, other important information. It was all worthless. I didn’t actually learn much until I moved here so I’m going to go ahead and say don’t waste your time. Daydreaming is fun, but I’d spend far more time reaching out to people you know are already here. That’s the real research.

Reach out to friends, to friends of friends, to that person you may have met that one time; everyone. There’s a blogger that was gaining traction that was an alum from my University that I reached out to (there’s no limit here, use your imagination).

Let them know you’ll be coming up and ask for any advice they may have. Don’t burden folks you don’t know with a giant story of your life, they don’t care. When you actually move up, reach out again and propose a coffee date (be sure to brush up on professional coffee date etiquette if you’re meeting with someone who fits the bill).

You’re going to need all the help you can get from locals, don’t be shy (or annoying).

Step 5. Know Where You’ll Stay 

As I mentioned before, doing a bunch of research prior is a waste of time. You’re not going to know which neighborhood you actually want to live in until you move here so signing a lease before you move (if you’re able to get one without a job) is insane and will bite you in the ass.

It’s scary, I know. The whole thing is terrifying so just learn to hold onto that fear and use it as a motivator not as a tool to make terrible decisions.

If you know someone in the city willing to give you a place to crash for a week do it. Maybe you have 2 friends (one week each) – do it. If no such thing is available, consider couch surfing (this is where having little possession is going to come in handy – you can’t do this with a bunch of shit holding you down). If all else fails, look for very short term sublets on craigslist (2-4 weeks max). There are a lot of crazies (I mean A LOT) here, you don’t want to commit to a place without seeing it in person and meeting the people.

When you get here, you’ll use that first 2 weeks to find another sublet – just something a tad longer (2-3 months). Finding a good home here is imperative. Honestly, it SUCKS to live in a neighborhood you don’t like or don’t feel comfortable in. And you just can’t do this without living here. Sorry, not sorry.

Step 6. Prepare yourself for a job interview

giphy (3) I don’t think spending your time applying to jobs before you move is wise. I think it’s a waste of time you could use doing something useful, like preparing your resume and cover letter (and all of the aforementioned steps). The chances of you getting an interview without any NYC experience are slim (unless you’re a big shot of some kind, in which case why are you even reading this?). If you manage to get an interview, you’re not going to be able to be there in person, which is another strike against you. So my advice, spend your time doing something else. [I have met 2 people who have gotten jobs prior to moving her. I suppose it can be done. However, if you’re waiting to get a job before you move here than your chances have just shrunk by like a million.] Instead use your time to:

  • Polish your resume. Make a million drafts. Revise it a million times. Ask people to edit it for you. People with professional backgrounds. Your professors, your boss, what-have-you. Same goes for your cover letter.
  • Have your pitch ready to go.
  • Know how to answer the typical interview questions (really-really well).
  • Have an idea of where you’ll be applying – what industries, companies, etc.?
  • Reach out to people you may know in your field (this is worth a second mention)

Before moving, you should have several various resumes ready to go (don’t include an address) for different industries, print a few out in case you need them immediately and put them into that important doc folder. If someone gave you an interview the day after you arrive you should be ready to go 100%. If all this seems alien to you, please do yourself a favor and do a ton of research on this topic.

Do these steps in the months leading up to your moving date and you’ll be a whole lot less stressed out and worried about how to move to NYC without a job. My first month in the city was more like a giant long-over-do vacation all because I was uber prepared.

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