This past summer, I did one of the scariest, riskiest things yet in my 22 years here on earth. I didn’t go skydiving (been there) or swimming with sharks (done that), but, instead, moved across the country with no job or apartment lined up – just a freshly pressed college diploma and two suitcases in hand and a healthy dose of youthful optimism in my heart.
Undoubtedly one of the most thrilling and challenging cities in the world – for any professional, let alone a recent college graduate entering the workforce for the first time – the incontestable pull I felt drawing me to New York City could only be described as magnetic. I couldn’t fight it, so off I went. Shiny as a new penny, I arrived in Manhattan in mid-June, and, through trial and tribulation (and some aggressive emailing), managed to find an apartment, a job, and a roommate, all by September 1st. Which begs the question: how did I do it?
While such an unstructured move is certainly not for the faint of heart, nor a one-size-fits-all scenario, here are my tips for making a game plan that will help you prepare to make the bold career move you’ve been longing to make – and, above all else, how to truly make it your own.
1. Just do it.
As the age-old (OK, really 35-years old) Nike-born adage says, sometimes you’ve just got to do it. What’s stopping you? As a Southern California-native armed with a liberal arts education focused on digital media and feminist theory, and no direct connections to the industry, I was not exactly the ideal candidate to pack up my life and move to New York City to work in fashion, of all fields, but here I am. If you’re waiting for the right time to make that move towards doing something you’re truly passionate about, stop waiting. There will never be a ‘right time,’ so make that ‘right time’ be right now.
2. Have a budget.
This does not necessarily nor exclusively mean a monetary budget; having a time budget is also of the utmost importance. If you’re anything like me, having a looming deadline hang over your head (and over any potential fun plans that might come your way) is a surefire way to kick your butt into high gear. I moved to Manhattan with a time and money budget of three months; if I didn’t secure a job and sign a lease on an apartment by the end of the summer, my suitcases and I would be headed back to Mom and Dad’s house in California and starting from square one. Having these limits in place, even before I boarded my plan to JFK in June, helped me grasp something fleeting and intangible – time – in a way I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.
3. Become a slave to your iCal.
The first thing I did when I woke up in New York City for the first time this past summer was make a to-do list. Every single day, I made a new goal list for the day, and structured my time according to those goals. Every list had actionable items that could be accomplished that day (like emailing my old boss to catch up over a coffee), or were designed to serve a larger purpose of helping me prepare to tackle a larger item on the list at a later time (like researching crime rates in neighborhoods I’d potentially be looking at apartments in in a few months’ time). Once all actionable items were checked-off, I made sure to pencil in time for fun activities (checking out that new exhibit at The Met, or taking a power walk around a part of the city I’d never been to before) that still helped to educate and acclimate myself to my new chosen home – and could end up serving as excellent fodder when the inevitable “So tell me what you’ve been doing since graduation…” would come up in future job interviews. Trust me: you’ll want to have a good answer to this one, and sitting around on your behind is not the kind of compelling response hiring managers are looking for.
4. See everything as a networking opportunity.
Fun fact: Two of the job interviews I had this summer were arranged through people I met and networked with while on vacation, earlier last spring, in Las Vegas. That’s right – instead of asking for tequila shots or phone numbers, I asked for business cards. You never know whom you’re going to meet, so being on your game (and your best behavior!) at all times is essential when you’re on the job hunt. Be completely shameless, and share your elevator pitch and career aspirations with everyone who has ears – trust me, it’ll pay off, on way or another. Pro tip: Make networking cards! Like business cards for college students (or recent grads), having a little stack of these bad boys at the ready, in your wallet or purse, will make asking that newfound connection to a lot easier, because you’ll feel so much more prepared and professional. I got mine here.
5. Go with the flow.
In every aspect of life, things are bound to sometimes—okay, most of the time—not go exactly as planned. So you have to roll with the punches. I moved out to New York City to work in fashion, thinking I’d eventually land myself a job in Public Relations or Editorial, where most of my past work and internship experience lay. Now I’m the studio manager for a fashion photographer I’ve greatly admired for years. Maybe I’m not getting to flex my writing muscles as much as I crave (hence looking to Looksharp for that opportunity – thanks guys!!), but I’m learning the ins-and-outs of the industry from a perspective I never knew I’d get the chance to experience. And, let me tell you: it has been completely invaluable. This, my friends, is a whole different kind of education than what you’ve learned in the past four years.
All in all, if you’re longing to make that move towards something you’re truly passionate about, I fully believe that taking such a big risk makes the reward even sweeter in the end. It certainly won’t be easy, but don’t let the daily grind dull your new penny shine – keep buffing up on your networking skills and organization, and, keeping patience and persistence in mind, you’ll be seeing a positive change in no time.