For graduating seniors, choosing a location to land after college is a big deal. This decision often comes with anxiety, uncertainty, and lots of questions. Should you head back home? Follow your friends to a big city? Explore options abroad? Stay in your college town?
When I graduated, I chose to stay in my college town (which happened to also be my hometown – Syracuse). This particular path suited me because I like the location and I work at a very good job. Will I stay in this town forever? No. I’ll explore other options as my professional and personal needs evolve. For getting a jumpstart on my career, though, working in Syracuse has been ideal.
My college friends went all over the place. Several went to New York City, some to Los Angeles, a few to Boston, one to Houston, and one even went across the pond to London. Most of them are very happy with their geographic choices. But a few of my friends, as well as some of the college grads I’ve advised over the last couple years, have been unhappy with where they ended up.
If you are in the process of deciding where to move after college, here are some things to consider:
Cost and quality of living
Investigate what it really costs to live and thrive in the locations which interest you. Talk to young people currently living there. New York City is a popular landing spot for many new grads, but some don’t fully consider the cost before moving. Ask friends who live there if they are enjoying the city, going out three nights per week to participate in arts and culture and dining and bars or if they are crammed into a one-bedroom apartment with two others, eating PB&J for dinner every night. Look into entry-level salaries and consider your student loans and other debts. Think about your lifestyle preferences – whether you need a daily Starbucks drink and expensive clothes to be happy, or if you can be content with more meager spending. Anticipate whether your family will be providing monetary support, as this will also impact your ability to afford certain cities.
Where are your friends going? What opportunities will there be to meet new friends in your desired location? If you enjoy an active social life in college, do you expect to continue this lifestyle into your young professional life? Do you want to be out-and-about every night of the week, mingling with other young professionals? In college, there are always people to meet and things to do. As you transition to a new environment, do you expect the same pace and level of activity? Some cities have a bustling social scene, while others are dead. Ask yourself what type of city fits with your social needs. Also, look into whether your desired locations have active young professional societies.
Give serious consideration to the weather. If you’re someone who thrives in warm weather, think twice before venturing to a frozen tundra to live. Seasonal depression is a very real thing. Alternatively, moving from a cold place to warmer climate can present its own surprises.
The obvious first step is to investigate whether your desired location has any job openings in your field. Next, though, you should examine the types of jobs and levels of responsibility. Don’t assume that bigger cities have better jobs. Sometimes a new grad may be able to secure a higher-level job in a smaller city, as opposed to a big city where competition is fierce. In my case, by staying in Syracuse I skipped the traditional entry-level assistant role and went directly into a job with more autonomy and responsibility.
If you’re thinking about moving to a new location, spend a few days there. Set-up informational interviews, scope out living situations and transportation systems, and talk to people. By actually spending time in your desired location, you can determine whether it’s a good fit for you.
Additionally, take a look at the top ten cities for new graduates, as decided by Gradspot.com.
Finally, reflect on what you really want out of your new location. Whether you stay in the same place geographically or move across the globe, you are shifting into a new phase of your life. Ask yourself what you want this phase to look like.
Dan Klamm is the Outreach & Marketing Coordinator for Syracuse University Career Services. In his position, he is responsible for student engagement with Career Services. This includes managing the marketing campaigns for events and programs, leading social media initiatives, and fostering relationships with people across campus to build awareness of the office. Connect with him on Twitter @DanKlamm and LinkedIn.