During the summer I left my life in Dublin behind and took the opportunity to move to the US like so many before me. That decision started a process that unapologetically pushed me out of my comfort zone and into a new country, to make a new start, in New York.
‘A new start’ isn’t an exaggeration – I spent my first weeks in the city finding accommodation, searching for the next role in my career, learning to navigate the subways and buses, building a new social circle and so on. Thankfully, I am now on the far side of this process that can be both exciting and stressful in equal measure.
If you are planning on making the same move, or just thinking about it, here are my top tips for moving to New York.
1. Set Definitive Objectives, But Keep an Open Mind
This sounds like a contradiction, and it is, but bear with me. When you first get out here you may have formulated your ideal scenario of a neighborhood to live in and an industry, role or even a specific company to work for. And that is a great start – in a city the size of New York you need to be somewhat particular or you won’t get anywhere.
Where this gets tricky is that you will need to keep an open mind to spot the opportunities that may not be exactly what you’re looking for yet tick most of the boxes. For example, when looking for accommodation, have a shortlist of neighborhoods you want to live in, but if an apartment comes along that is near-perfect – except in the wrong neighborhood – don’t let it pass you by.
In short; having clear goals will help you to get started – but be able to pivot as necessary.
2. Plan, Optimize and Persevere
New York offers endless opportunities to develop your career in almost any direction you wish. But, like the first point, if you don’t know what you want then how will you know if you find it? That’s why it is essential to plan far in advance of your moving date for what you hope to achieve from your time abroad. Taking this time to plot how your work and travel fit into your overall career trajectory will pay huge dividends down the line.
Before I left Ireland I set up a professional website to act as an online, interactive resume and portfolio and to establish my personal brand. A number of potential employers commented positively on the site as it brought my resume to life and helped me stand out from other candidates. Business cards are essential for networking and I have branded my own to reflect the same style as the site.
Of course, all strategies need review, and it is unlikely you will stumble across the perfect formula first time round. I lost count of how often I edited my resume to squeeze every inch of value out of that A4 sheet. Constantly evaluate how you’re doing and what needs improvement – resume, cover letter, interview performance, appearance, candidate/job fit etc. Each of these is an opportunity to prove why you are the best fit for the role.
Finally, as you optimize your strategy with ever finer precision, persevere until things start to move. Timing is a key element of success – and it can be difficult to know when the right employer has the right job opening – stick at it and you will find it.
3. Balance is Everything
Or what a Buddhist philosopher might call ‘the middle way’. In other words, too much of a good thing isn’t necessarily a good thing. In a city the size of New York you could work 7 days a week (and your employer would happily let you). Conversely, you could get distracted by non-stop socializing and forget about your professional goals.
The key takeaway is this; don’t focus completely on your professional goals while missing out on everything else this city has to offer. But equally, you could spend every night of the week living it up – neither way will last very long.
4. Control Your Costs
New York is well-known for being expensive. However for anyone who has lived in Dublin, the cost of living in New York won’t shock you. Sure it is a step up – but it is manageable.
The most important step is to set up a budget – if you don’t know how much is coming in and going out, then you could quickly run into problems. Once you know what your cashflow looks like, there are many little hacks that will help you get the most out of your hard-earned dollar. Here are some of the tips that I’ve come across during my time in New York.
- First off, there is a website/mailing list called The Skint which gives you the low-down on all that is ‘free and cheap’ in New York on any given day. It covers a wide selection of events and offers so it’s well worth signing up.
- For a bit of culture, the Museum of Modern Art PS1 in Queens is free for all New York residents. Also MoMA in Manhattan has free admission on Friday evenings after 4pm.
- Broadway is notoriously expensive, and some of the most sought-after shows (ahem, Hamilton) are out of reach for most casual theatre-goers. However, there is hope. Lucky Seat holds regular lotteries for Broadway shows that offers cut-price tickets – if you’re lucky.
- Drinking in bars and restaurants is another notoriously expensive pursuit in New York. But again, there are solutions. Great happy hour deals can be found everywhere – and is a great excuse to check out different bars. There are also plenty of great restaurants with a BYOB policy – making a night on the town a lot more wallet-friendly.
- Finally, there are plenty of other random ways to enjoy yourself on a low-cost basis – you just need to keep your eyes peeled. For example, the Global Citizen festival is a full day concert that attracts A-list performers such as Stevie Wonder, Green Day and The Killers. The best bit? It’s free (though you do need to get involved in the cause).
This is just a taster of how you can save while still enjoying and exploring the city. If you have any cost-cutting hacks – share them in the comments!
5. Do Something New
Whether it’s professionally or personally, there is no end of possibilities in this city. Chances are it is one of the biggest reasons you have decided to move to New York. Make the most of the opportunities and try that hobby you always wanted to, or meet people with a completely different background than you. Always worked in a corporate environment, why not see if start-up life is for you?
In essence, the opportunities are out there – you just have to be willing to leave your comfort zone.
6. Embrace The Culture
Whether that’s writing and speaking in US English or even as basic as American sports and food, the more you embrace the American way of life, the more you’ll enjoy your time over here. So remember; that’s ‘organize’ not ‘organise’, ‘vacation’ not ‘holiday’ and ‘pizza slice’ not ‘spice-bag’. You don’t need to start speaking with a New York accent but understanding and leveraging the differences in communication and culture will make the transition much easier.
About the author:
Ronan is a New York based B2B Digital Marketing Strategist specializing in SaaS and ICT. Having lived in Sheffield and Chicago, as well as New York, Ronan has extensive experience working (and networking) abroad. Connect with him on LinkedIn.