The comforts of home are lost the second you walk out that door.
June 29, 2010 5:17 AM   Subscribe

Moving from a city of ~ 35,000 to a city of ~ 400,000; tips and tricks for making things go as smooth as possible, as this is my first foray away from a very comfortable place for me.

So, my girlfriend got into Pharmacy School at Dalhousie University in Halifax. Yay! I, the live-in partner, am going to go with her. I've graduated with a degree in Economics from a small, local university (known there, although it is a university city, so no shortage of new grads) and will want to go back to school eventually, but for now I will do my best to provide a stable financial backing.

We live in a small city of about 35,000 people, which has made knowing people and getting ahead a fairly easy game. I snagged a sought-after job through connections in January (an internship with the local provincial government) and have great references coming from that. It was my first office job (I was a bartender for a few years beforehand, and did customer service) and I'd like to stay in this world if possible.

We're moving in September; that gives us two months to get ready. What strategies should we use for finding a place to live (having been to the city but not knowing it really well), for me to get a job with my background in a city where no-one knows my name. I'll be able to visit sporatically (it's 3 1/2 hours away), although my job prevents me from being able to do a lot of in-person hunting.

General tips for making this transition are welcomed, especially relating to:

1) What can I expect for interviewing for jobs? Is it reasonable to be able to expect to interview over the phone first, rather than going over for every interview? Travelling 7 hours return for an interview is going to be tough. How do people do this?

2) How can I separate the good from the bad apartment-wise? We'll use Kijiji, local papers and Craigslist, but coming from a place where you likely know your landlord, the city is a little overwhelming. We don't want to get screwed, naturally, and I think we're of the opinion that we're a little naive to some things, given our current home.

3) Tips and tricks for living in Halifax specifically. Anyone who's done it, how did you manage the city and avoid the painful lessons of moving to a bigger location and getting spit out?

Thanks everyone for any advice you have. The most basic city things are welcome, as I do feel like my current city has NOT prepared me for a lot of realities of the world.
posted by Hiker to Travel & Transportation (4 answers total)
The alternative to going in person to apply for a job is not to be interviewed by telephone, it is to email your resume. If the employer likes your resume you will then be invited to come in for an interview. No one is hired over the phone. But feel free to email resumes to as many people as you like.

As far as apartment hunting goes, there is no guarantee that you will be happy with your apartment, but you can examine it before you rent it and make your best guess. There is a certain leap of faith involved. If you cannot take a chance, you will never be able to rent anything. However, if you subsequently find that you are not happy with the apartment that you have rented, you are always free to move to a different one. It's not like taking a vow of "till death do us part". I advise against renting basements. They are often cheaper, but basements are very vulnerable to flooding. It's not worth the risk.
posted by grizzled at 8:10 AM on June 29, 2010

In addition to emailing resumes, network as far and wide as possible. If your school has an alumni group there, contact them. See if there are groups there that reflect your professional or personal interests. Once you get settled, talk to your neighbors. Try job hunting groups as well. The goal is set up some kind of personal contact so that you can rise above everyone else simply sending in resumes.

As for apartment hunting, it's always useful to check it out in the evening to see what the parking is like. I imagine you'll want something close to the pharmacy school.
posted by ZeusHumms at 9:22 AM on June 29, 2010

Halifax seems like a good place to make a soft landing into urban life. But hey, I'm biased because I love it there.

Unless you're talking about some seriously high-powered jobs, phone interviews tend to be a dodgy business. People do not like to give them to you. People like you even less when they perceive that you're going to expect them to pay for relocation. (In the US, at least. Does this advice apply in Canada?) It is probably 5x easier to find a job when you've already arrived. One strategy is to present yourself as being present and stay in a hotel for a week to get face-to-face time.

One option is to start at a temp agency job to keep you covered while you apply -- in my experience, you can get temp work in about a week. Then there's no hard feelings when you leave, and you're not freaking out going broke while you job-hunt.

Your gut is great for landlords. You can filter out 90% of bad apartments by deciding if the Craigslist ad sketches you out, in my experience. Just remember to not get attached if you find a decent one and flaws start turning up -- there will always be another apartment.
posted by zvs at 11:06 AM on June 29, 2010

Halifax is such a great starter city! Good choice. What I found from living there for 2 years was that it had all the amenities I look for in a city, great food and pubs, fun local music scene and all the cool student stuff, but it's small enough that you always see the same faces on the bus. Big city amenities, small town feel.

I second the temp agency suggestion. I recommend Spherion, the ladies working there are super friendly. They work with all the biggest employers in town, the hospitals and Hydro and government agencies, and they hooked me up with some great short and long-term assignments.

Craigslist works for apartments, but I found mine when I was out walking around and calling all the places with signs in the window. You can find some stunning apartments at student prices around the Dal campus, but they often don't bother advertising online.

If your in-person apartment-hunting time is really limited, though, you might want to contact some rental management companies online. They usually handle more than one property, so you can make arrangements ahead of time and have them show you a bunch of different apartments when you're in town.

Also, with rental management companies, you avoid a lot of the bad landlord issues. I find landlord problems like impromptu visits and hassles over repairs and personal conflicts tend to come up when the owner is directly hands-on involved in maintenance and management. Rental management companies are a professional facade between the owner and the tenant, and since they have an interest in keeping everyone happy there's less drama.
posted by Freyja at 9:29 PM on June 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

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