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How to Move to New York City (Without a Job)

This post first appeared on the UVA Global Network.

The true New Yorker secretly believes that people living anywhere else have to be, in some sense, kidding. — John Updike

New York is romance; it engenders unmatched love in its residents. We’ve seen the movies and read the books. I decided it was time to get adventurous and make something happen. Vision and opportunity I had, but how do you get to New York with little money and no job? Get creative, and follow these three simple steps.

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Everything I knew about New York City derived from Seinfeld episodes.

Step One: Find a patron.

This is the most necessary step. As you may have heard, New York is expensive. Average rent in Manhattan was over $3,000 in 2012. The good news is that warmhearted patrons are everywhere waiting to part with their hard-earned largesse. As the enterprising youngster in search of material for the finest bildungsroman this side of “Bright Lights, Big City,” all you have to do is ask.

I couldn’t find a patron so I found a friend, which I don’t recommend. Friends make unhappy patrons. Mixing friendship and money is like having beer before liquor (never sicker).

Parents are unhappy already because you don’t have a job so they make better choices as patrons. Unfortunately, your parents don’t live in the city so you still have to find a place to sleep at night.

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A friend and I at Rudy’s Bar in Hell’s Kitchen. Does my process work?

Step Two: Find a couch.

Friends are a bad idea as your major funders, but they often have serviceable couches.

My friend lived in Brooklyn. Brooklyn is cool. Knowing cool places is a crucial skill on par with knowing the subway (HopStop saves lives). For the best couch-surfing experience, find a friend in one of the cool neighborhoods. If you’re unsure, look for vegan cafes, bars with long lists of IPAs, and record stores that sell vinyl.

I’ll assume you’d like to keep your friends so the next step is to find gainful employment.

Step Three: Find a job.

I was sleeping on an IKEA futon in Brooklyn, jobless, the night before my 30th birthday. Never do this. It leads to long nights.

Be ready to network. Unlike catered networking events in college, this hustle will make you feel dirty. Asking about jobs was my opener at parties. Luckily the hustle is just as much a part of New York culture as a bagel and lox. Fresh faces are looking for a way in and longtime residents are looking for a way up.

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Everything is better on a boat, including the view of Manhattan’s West Side.

Two months after I arrived, networking got me a job with a windowed office overlooking 8th Avenue. I moved to Manhattan. Days of tailoring cover letters were finally over. Veni, vidi, vici, New York.

Moving is hard. New York is harder. But you’re young and resilient; you’ll come out strong and prosperous. I eventually left the city, but I still walk fast, drink hoppy IPAs and enjoy the Brooklyn-like restaurant scene in Charlottesville.

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