I'm a single young adult with a college degree and student loan debt. I live in a sterile small city with limited job prospects. I want to move out and get an entry-level or temporary job in a coastal U.S. city (NYC, LA, SF, Seattle). Please walk me through the logistics and help me devise a plan, as well as offer any advice you have on making it on your own in a new city (essentially, how to be an independent, self-sufficient adult).
The Long: ("Special snowflake" details below)
I'm 24 years old. I graduated from a prestigious university in California (USC) two years ago with a B.S. in Business Administration and a minor in Musical Studies (Piano Performance). I've had a string of temporary jobs in NYC since I finished school. I'm a few months unemployed (not collecting benefits; STILL required to pay a minimum of $400/month in private student loans). Due to financial duress, I moved in with my parents in a sterile planned suburb in Nevada where they just moved a year ago (a move that fortunately worked out for them and is the principal reason I'm not struggling to stay afloat).
However, job opportunities are exceptionally scarce here. The best way to visualize where I live now is to imagine a neighborhood in The Sims, a planned residential community where anything you could possibly need is within a few minutes' reach (big box stores, shopping malls, supermarkets, and outlets are all only a few miles away). It's incredibly peaceful here, but stultifying and devoid of culture. The few friends who have visited me here agree that this is not at all a place conducive to my personal or professional growth. I want to move on with my life, and I hate to sound defeatist, but being here longer than I have to be only makes me feel more and more stuck.
Registering with temp agencies here, going in person to apply for minimum wage positions at the local rec centers, libraries, supermarkets, going to malls and filling out paper applications for retail positions, applying online to positions at Costco, filling out questionnaires in job kiosks at Target and JC Penney, replying to posts and advertising my services on craigslist have all yielded jack squat. And the city government jobs that I have applied for are all hiring for the summer.
*Before anyone asks, I should add that I've gone to alumni networking events in my area, and investigated online income streams like TextBroker (I'm a level 4 writer) and Mechanical Turk, but as someone trying to develop a grounded career, I don't regard these as primary options for making a living.
I don't intend on staying here for another 6 months. At all. Hell, if I could move TOMORROW, I'd do it in a heartbeat. Seeing as how imprudent and impractical that is, I'm convinced that the best thing to do for my career and overall well-being is to apply for work in other cities (which I am still in the process of doing) where I have connections.
The four cities I'm targeting, in order of preference:
1. NYC -- most of my professional network is here. I have friends and family here. I grew up and lived here for most of my life and last had a temporary teaching gig this past summer. It was not too difficult for me to get acclimated again to the atmosphere. I was not able to afford an apartment of my own, and had a very complicated, stressful living situation (please do not inquire for further details). I admit if I had been more proactive while in the city, I might have secured a job that would have allowed me to stay. Soon after my teaching gig ended, I decided to move in with my parents in NV to save what little $ I had left, and to see if I could get some temporary work in my neighborhood while I pondered my next move. This has been going on for almost 3 months now. I've expended my savings on my monthly student loan payments (which I CANNOT defer because I have private student loans, gah).
2. Seattle -- one of my closest friends lives here and loves it. Some other old college friends live here. Pretty much everyone I know who has lived in or visited Seattle has positive things to say about it. My only concerns are the "Seattle Freeze" and the persistently drizzly, gloomy weather for 3/4 of the year. I would love to work in Seattle and give living there a shot.
3. San Francisco -- I have family here, and I made a handful of connections with people when I visited this past year. I loved the city when I visited; it reminded me of a smaller, more relaxed, less crowded version of New York City... only just as expensive.
4. Los Angeles -- most of my close friends live here (we frequently stay in touch), my alma mater is in the heart of LA, and I had many of the best moments of my life while living in Los Angeles. I've explored most of the city and had the privilege of doing some pretty awesome things that I know I'd only ever be able to experience in LA. I have memories and friendships that will last me a lifetime. I love the diversity of culture and activity in LA, and I wouldn't mind living there, but over the past couple of years, I've grown to appreciate being in a city where I can get around without depending so much on a car (I got around much of DTLA, Culver City, Venice Beach, Silver Lake, and even South Pasadena by bike when I was living in LA a year ago, but I also learned how difficult it is to get around without a car). I've taken public transportation in LA -- the buses, the Red Line, the Gold Line -- a number of times, and as a New Yorker, I was actually impressed by the speed (and enamored with the price) of the service, but I sense it'll still be some time before public transit in LA will be a reasonable way for me to commute to work. Since I don't own a car and can't afford one, moving to Los Angeles is at the bottom of my list, though it is the closest city to where I live (I can get there by Megabus, which was recently resurrected).
I have connections and friends in all four cities (obviously, I live closer to the last 3). I've informed the people I know in those cities that I'm looking for work and that I'm VERY WILLING to relocate. Relocating is just as big a priority for me as is locating a job. At this point, it doesn't matter what job I get, as long as it pays enough to allow me to live in the city and then expand my network, hence the reason some friends think I'm "lowballing" when I tell them I'm applying for administrative positions (which I think will at least help me get my foot in the door, and work my way up) and not analyst/managerial positions that I'm not sure I'm qualified for. I'm willing to temp for an indefinite length of time and hopefully transition into a more permanent job in a growth industry from there. And I'm serious about not minding the kind of work I do. I was a middle school/high school math/reading/writing instructor this past summer in NYC, which was a stressful but enjoyable experience, and the kind of experience I'd like to have more of in my 20s. I'm healthy, I'm ambitious, I work hard, I learn fast, I love to work with people, I've got credentials, I'm willing to work whatever hours are required of me... I just want an opportunity to prove myself and get a job!
When I was still soul-searching, I had a lot of different ideas for "dream jobs" (I still do, of course), but over time, I've realized that I needed to narrow down my career options so I can tell people at networking events or through email definitively what I'm looking to do. For what it's worth, I'd like to be a project manager or a business analyst in the tech industry (at least I think I do... seriously, how many people know exactly what the hell they want to do with their lives at my age?). I have a handful of project management and programming texts and eBooks, and I recently started reading Java and programming in Eclipse just to get a basic familiarity with the language. I chat pretty regularly with friends online who keep me in the loop on things I need to learn and what they do at work, etc. I've compiled a list of skills that I'll eventually need to learn to be competent in the field, filled up entire notebooks with thoughts, lists, and plans of extracurricular and community activities, hobbies (I'm fortunate and appreciative to have and carry out so many different interests), personal projects, etc. But these are all long-term plans... and while I'm sure they will all advance my career and life in immeasurable ways, they're still not as much a priority for me as actually GETTING a job. These are all things I feel I'll squeeze into my schedule when I have the backbone of a stable job to work around. Nonetheless, with all the time I have in the world now, I am devoting a good chunk of my day towards developing and honing those skills, which I hope will (but realize might not) help me down the line.
I get frustrated from time to time, but for the most part I stay optimistic and keep my head in a good place. I eat and sleep healthily, I exercise almost daily, and I try to keep my mind sharp. Escapism isn't for me. I keep track of my time pretty well, and I do the things I love (play piano, basketball, etc.) daily. I don't need meds, I don't get depressed, and I'm generally a pretty happy guy. I worry much less than I used to, and even when I get bored, I find ways to keep myself busy and use my time resourcefully. I deal with the occasional drama at home decently well. I have to say I'm very lucky, and very thankful. But I don't like to be complacent; it makes me restless, and it makes me feel like I'm wasting the energy building up inside of me. I'm excited and anxious every day about the prospects of moving, and I would be lying if I didn't say that was my main source of motivation. I just can't wait to get out. My only "network" here is the group of passing acquaintances I play basketball with each week, many of whom are still in school. My friends all live in the cities I listed above, and I keep in touch with them via phone, Skype, Facebook, GChat, AIM, etc. I feel like an extrovert under house arrest! I don't know how I've been able to keep my spirits up, but I sure as hell hope I can build on the emotional fortitude I've developed over the past few years, even when I get a job that takes a substantial chunk out of my day.
Anyway, while I'm sending out applications and emails and cover letters and resumes and reference requests, how do I put myself in the best position for getting a job in a different city? I'm talking entry-level jobs here, too, as someone who graduated from college two years ago and has a little work experience, with no real hard skills to put down, other than basic Microsoft Office skills and the ability to type at 120 WPM with 99% accuracy? What should I be looking for to start out? I'm happy to email my resume for review. My background was mostly in arts administration at nonprofits, where I did a lot of correspondence work, marketing, a fair amount of writing/editing, administrative tasks, etc. It's an industry I wouldn't mind working in again, but not the only industry I'm looking at.
Then... how do I find a place to stay when I get an offer, especially when I have to make a decision quickly? Besides asking a friend for a place to crash for a while, which seems to me the only real solution... do I have many other options? Subleasing, hostels, craigslist, Padmapper... I'm under the impression that I won't be able to sign a lease until I have proof of income or am able to put down a security deposit or rent for the first month; is that pretty standard?
Also, when I relocate, I will be flying with a couple of suitcases and a backpack with my computer, clothes, and other essentials... how exactly do I get settled in a new city? Borrow money to buy cheap furniture off craigslist while staying at a friend's or subleasing a furnished apartment? I don't have a whole lot of stuff, and I don't need much at all. I've lived out of suitcases several times, and in 50 sq foot windowless cellar rooms that were meant to be closets for months at a time. I'm pretty minimalist if I say so myself.
What documentation should I make sure to bring with me? General checklists of things to do before/after moving, and what to bring with me are most welcome.
What else do I need to account for? My budget indicates I can live reasonably comfortably making $15/hour at 40 hours a week. I could afford to live off of less. I live below my means. I'm prepared to and would prefer to live with roommates. I've lived on my own for long stretches of time every year for the past half decade. I don't have health insurance. I don't have dental insurance. I don't have ANY insurance. I haven't had a physical in 5 years. Bad, I know, and something I intend on rectifying immediately when I get my shit together.
Also, just throwing this out there--given my circumstances, should I direct my search more towards the West Coast, or try again in NYC?
Asking these questions feels silly to me, since these are things I've managed to deal with successfully living in off-campus housing for several years in Los Angeles (then again, my loans helped with the finances and my friends helped with the logistics), and I realize I'm likely overcomplicating things, but damn, someone knock some sense into me as I'm trying to wrap my head around things?
Assume I want to move by the beginning of March, at the latest. How can I make that happen? Please don't convince me to try and make things work where I live. I'm not against short-term, temporary work here (which I don't have luck getting right now), but I'm focused on GETTING OUT, ASAP, and I need advice on logistics. Anything you can advise me on as it pertains to my particular situation would be greatly appreciated. Assume I have enough money for a flight, food, miscellaneous expenses, basic stuff, etc.
Sorry this was so long! Thank you for your help!
TL; DR: I want to get a job and place in another city. Need advice doing this.