Friday, June 28, 2013

Looking for a job in the big city: what you should know.

      Ok. So you decided you want to live in the big city and even saved up enough to make your move.

     Now what?

     Well, your next move should be on where you will be working. Whether you are a student or a young professional wanting a change of scenery, you will need to keep up with your expenses and standard of living.

      Before I moved for graduate school, I had to think of where I'll be working during my studies. I had multiple jobs that I worked in before I landed my career job after I graduated. In a big city, you have the advantage of having a variety of jobs you can choose from.

     Hostessing and waiting tables in a major restaurant and/or bar is a great way to make cash with flexible hours. These are minimum wage jobs but the tips people leave is where you can reach true money making potential. This is probably the largest sector of jobs in a big city like Chicago which is known for its world class dining and entertainment.

     Find out which local papers are well known in your desired big city and check the job ads there. In my case I used The Chicago Reader and the Chicago's section of Craig's List. I have also been known to walk up and down through various neighborhoods and asked owners of the establishment of any job openings-you would be surprised that a lot of positions won't be posted or advertised anywhere.

     Now the tricky part-convincing your prospective employer that you are willing to relocate and stay for awhile in your new big city. For me, I had a friend that was willing to let me stay at her place for long stretches of time and was able to use her address. If you can be in a similar situation where you have a friend or a relative that lives in the desired city of your choice, use this to your advantage! I was told by someone who worked in Human Resources that your chances of snagging a job is greater when using a local address.

     However, I know not everyone will have this option. When seeking for a position, whether applying in person or sending a resume on-line, absolutely make sure that you mention somewhere that you are more than willing to relocate and move.

     For you young(or older) professionals-you may find it easier than students to find a well paying position in your field. However, in a big city it can get competitive because many career minded individuals like yourself are also pursuing for the same high profile position. Nothing wrong working in  the restaurant or bar industry in the meantime until you do land your dream job, so take these positions in stride if you really want to move to the big city!

For more tips on finding a job in a big city, email me with any questions, I can help!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Apartment hunting in the city-advice on finding that perfect apartment within budget.

My first apartment in the city was in an up and coming neighborhood called the South Loop here in Chicago. It was fabulous-a two bedroom loft with a great rooftop overlooking the downtown skyline and walking distance to Soldier Field. It was about $1250 a month which I was splitting with a roommate. I was about to start graduate school and it was up my alley because all I had to do was hop on the #3 bus and I was there in no time. 

What I didn't know that even though I was splitting the rent with a roommate, the numbers added up quickly when you threw in utilities such as heat, air, gas, electricity and so forth. Also, I had a car and paid about $100/month for parking which is normal where I come from.

Let's just say I burned through my savings really fast. Sure, it was conveniently located downtown, and super close to my school, and in a great great neighborhood, very close to Michigan Ave. and all its perks. I suppose it was ok for those couple years of graduate school but before you know it I was moving back home with my parents for two years. When I got a job after grad school and moved out to the city again, I was able to not make that same mistake again. Here is some advice that you should follow when finding that perfect apartment in the city...

First of all, get a job. You are probably thinking wait a minute, I thought this was about apartment hunting! I am mentioning the job part because the job you are going to hold while living in the city will set the bar for how much you can and should spend on an apartment. Once you land that job take a look at your monthly budget and see how much you can incorporate your rent without going broke at the end or even worse, owing more than you can afford. I did have a Hosting gig downtown that paid decent but I was BARELY making ends meet, even at times here and there had some financial help from family. Ouch. 

When I moved back to the city I played it smart this time. Since I was jobless for 10 months, I only had a couple thousand in my name when I did land that new job. I opted for a small studio in a not so glamorous neighborhood but still close to public transportation should I want to go downtown or any other parts of the city where all the action was. I had free street parking, and my utilities were included in the rent which is a HUGE plus and can save you a ton of money if you can find a place that includes heat, air, gas and electricity. 

Everybody's situation is different. If you have been saving a good deal of money prior to your move to the city-great! You may be able to go a little bigger than a studio. But you should still have a stable job lined up because I am telling you right now, you will burn through your savings fast living in a big city. The savings should be there as an emergency fund should you for whatever reason lose your job or something unexpected comes up. 

Don't listen to your friends or peers or even that roommate you have lined up that they want to go "big" in an apartment in a ritzy part of town. That is what I did and I regretted it. Their financial situation could be different than yours and maybe they can afford that pricey apartment in that high rise downtown. Don't do it.  If they are your true friends, they would understand. When I first moved, I had also heard that there were many people from my high school that also moved to the city. Before you know it, they were back in my hometown because they all decided to live in a trendy part of town known for it's pricey real estate and shopping and most likely, burned through their money pretty quickly. Let's just say they don't live in these parts no more.

My view from apartment #3 before I bought my condo-not shabby and within my budget.

So if you can find an apartment within your budget, that includes heat, air, gas, electricity and free parking, you are off to a great start. Also, keep in mind that you will most likely need to put down a security deposit plus one month's rent in some cases. If you can try to find an apartment where you won't need to do this, great, but the odds can be pretty slim that you can find a landlord that doesn't require this. I heard every state can have different tenant laws too so check with your location on what those tenant laws are, there may not be such a requirement. 

So here are some tips to think about in summary:

1. Get a job lined up.

2. Take a look at how much you bring in a month and base your rent off of that, leaving room for expenses such as groceries, insurance, student loans, car payments etc.

3. To get more bang for your buck, find an apartment that includes heat/air, gas, electricity and possibly free parking if you must bring your car. If public transportation is available and you work in the city I highly suggest you drop the car which can really save you a ton of money on gas, insurance, and parking.

4. Consider living in a not so popular part of town. Usually the touristy parts are more expensive.

5. See if you can find a roommate that can split the costs even further, but if they don't match your values on finding an apartment within budget, then I would stay clear of them and go solo if you have to.

You want to have money left over so you can enjoy your new city! If your entire paycheck goes to your apartment, enjoying the city will then have its limitations, and that is no fun, you moved here to experience the city, not to be confined in it!

If you have a particular place in mind and not sure if you can afford it, email me or write in the comments below-I can help! I will give you that no nonsense answer that you need, not what you want to hear. Tough love here :-)

Sunday, June 9, 2013

So you're moving to the big city: how to break the news and being prepared.

That's it. You've decided you're moving to the big city. You visited (or read up on) the city and like what you see, and you think it will be a good decision and a great experience. Living in the city has many opportunities and can be pretty exciting.

What will your family and friends say? Well one thing I can tell you is that you will be drilled on how you will do this, after all, it is a BIG move we are talking about here. Just "visiting" a city and actually living in one is a HUGE difference, believe me, I know. Here are some questions to think about that you should be prepared to answer yourself and that overly concerned parent, sibling, friend, etc:

Where will you work? This question will for sure come up because let's face it, living in the city isn't cheap, and you will need a job to pay for expenses. It's a good idea to start job searching at this point if you haven't already. Sometimes it's a good idea to get that job first and then make that announcement, whatever you are more comfortable with. Kind of a no brainer if you ask me, but when you get excited about something, we usually don't think about these things right away. It's easy to fantasize wanting to live somewhere without really stopping to think about how we are going to fund this new lifestyle of ours.

In the mean time save, save, save so you can at least have 6 months worth of savings for expenses. You will need this money especially for that security deposit and one month's rent that apartments require. You may get some backlash from others that living in the city means bills, bills, bills (duh!) but be prepared to have an action plan on how you are going to budget so you will be financially secure in this department. You don't have to spell it out at this point but just mentioning that you will be working on a budget plan so you can afford to live out there within your means may put that worried parent or friend at ease.

Chicago in the summertime.

Where will you live? Check your local paper and local apartment searching sites when looking for an apartment. In my case here in Chicago, I've used Chicago Reader and Chicago Craig's List. Also Domu is another excellent resource out here for apartment searching that I have used. Ideally, you want something close to your job. However, you may want to move to a neighborhood that has good public transportation if possible where the rent may be cheaper. Consider having a room mate which can help cut the expenses down. Also, apartments that include gas, heat, and water in the rent are your best bet and can cut down on expenses too. Even better, visit your desired city and check out the different neighborhoods and jot down which apartments appeal to you and give the landlord a call for prices.

Why? Why not? Try to stay positive and focused and don't let others try to change your mind. I had coworkers and relatives before I made my move who were such naysayers. These are the type of people you want to just shut out and not listen to. Many people are very comfortable living in their small towns and when they hear someone wanting to move to a large urban setting, it can make them feel uncomfortable and insecure for whatever reason. It IS different, and you will be dealing with a diverse population compare to where you are living now. But this is why you are moving out there right? You want to experience a new environment, and you prefer the fast pace lifestyle that gives you variety. Bigger cities offer many things to do, restaurants, great shopping, challenges and more.

So this post was just in a nutshell how to be prepared to make that announcement and how to answer those hard pressed questions when making a move to the city. Look out for future posts as I get into more detail on job searching, apartment searching, and much much more. Good luck!