When I graduated from college, I had dreams of moving to New York and working in the publishing industry. When I asked my mother for help pulling together first and last months’ rent for my share of an apartment, I learned that she had dreams of me moving back into my childhood bedroom in my parents’ house in Missouri instead. Please note that, “That can be my Plan C — right behind prostitution,” even said in jest, is not a response that will go over well (believe me), but you also shouldn’t let lack of parental support destroy your newly minted grownup plans. It won’t be easy, but you can do this on your own if necessary.
The first few months after graduation are an ideal time to move to a new city and get a fresh start. Between May and September is prime hiring season for new grads. If you have the financial means to “take the summer off” to travel or party before you start job hunting, congratulations — this post isn’t for you. This post is for people who are desperate to move, start a career, and make enough rent money to keep them out of their parents’ basements. Here is what you need to do:
1) Reach out to anyone you know who lives in your city of choice or who might know someone in your city of choice. Having contacts makes apartment and job hunting significantly easier. When my husband’s cousin decided to relocate to Boston after her graduation, my husband sent out an email to all our friends in the area. One is a real estate agent and several are on the lookout for job openings at their companies.
2) Scrape together your savings for moving costs, first and last months’ rent, and a security deposit. If you’re looking at moving somewhere pricey like New York City, this can mean an initial startup cost of around $10,000. If you don’t have that much, you should find yourself a roommate or two to apartment hunt with, or plan on only renting out one room in a stranger’s apartment.
3) Manage your expectations. If you’re moving to a big, expensive city, you should only expect to get as nice an apartment as you absolutely require. This might mean a fifth floor walk-up in a dodgy part of town. You probably won’t be living there more than a year anyway before you get sick of the place and/or the roommates and have an opportunity to trade up. Particularly if you’re securing an apartment before you accept a job offer (which can be hard, but makes job hunting significantly easier since you’ll be in the right city for interviews), you should find the cheapest apartment you can to ensure that you will be able to make rent.
Many landlords require pay stubs or some other proof of income before they’ll give you a lease. Often you can circumvent this problem by showing a healthy balance on your checking account statement, as long as the apartment doesn’t have any other takers. When I ran into this problem, I tried to dress like one of the more affluent girls I’d gone to school with and threw around claims like, “Daddy is paying for everything for now,” but I’m pretty sure the slumlord I rented from was excited enough to have my money that I still would have gotten the lease if I’d dropped the act and carried a hobo bindle. This is yet another reason you might initially live in a slumlord’s serfdom, and yet another reason to manage your expectations. Your next apartment will be better, I promise.
4) Accept any job you can get. Seriously. You just need money at this point so you don’t fall behind on rent. If you followed tip #1 and found contacts in the area, follow up with them about job opportunities. My first job offer was at a temp agency, where I’d gone to find temp work in a desperate attempt to make rent that first month. The pay was barely enough to cover rent and it wasn’t in my field of choice, but it paid the bills and opened other doors. One of those doors was the ability to job hunt at a more leisurely pace with my first job already under my belt.
When you’re relocating or starting a new life for yourself after graduation, “satisficing” is an important goal. If you’ve never heard this word before, it’s a mishmash of “satisfying” and “sufficing,” and it means settling for the first acceptable option you get. Your goal isn’t to find an amazing apartment or your dream job. If you set your short-term goals that high, you will end up back in your parents’ basement before you can ever hope to meet them. Your first goal is to get started in whatever acceptable living and working situation you can in your city of choice. Manage your expectations. Satisfice. Then you can set your goals higher and work toward a life you really want.