How to move across the country with no job lined up?
August 31, 2011 5:22 PM   Subscribe

Will a few thousand dollars be enough for me to move out of the Midwest (where I am currently) and make it in Oregon without a job lined up?

Is $15,000 enough for me to move out of the Midwest (where I am currently) and make it in Oregon without a job lined up? I’d ultimately like to end up in Portland, but if that area is too expensive, I am also thinking about Salem, Eugene, or any other smaller area that could be nice.

Background: I recently got my BA in Sociology from a state university in December of 2010, but I am 30 years old. I am worried about getting a decent job, but I would expect that out of necessity it’s likely I’ll have to take a minimum wage until I can find something that is salaried/livable wage as well as live with a roommate or two. I am really hoping I can do this move because I’ve never lived out of my state and am totally itching to move…I used to live in another city in my state but last year I moved back to my hometown to live with my parents (and save money) following my divorce, so I am definitely ready to get.the.hell.out.

Currently, I am a piano teacher at a music store, and I have been a self-employed piano teacher for the past ten years where I used to live before I moved to my hometown. Basically, it takes a long time to build up a full studio through word of mouth and advertisements, and I am ready to find a job that has nothing to do with what I am doing now. I will have about $15,000 to move, but I am not wanting to spend much more than a few thousand for the move itself and other incidentals; in other words, I don’t want to show up in Oregon and have no job for months and run my savings down. Also, I will need the extra money for furniture, car repairs (my car sucks), and many other things. Also, I just want to have money saved.

The economy is not great, the cost of living will be higher in Oregon than where I am, my degree is very basic and unimpressive, and I have little work history other than being a self-employed piano teacher (my current job will not be a good reference because I just started working there a little over a month ago and they probably would not be so happy to see me jump ship so soon), so I am wondering just how likely it would be that I would end up halfway across the country where I know nobody and just lose all my savings due to not being able to get any sort of decent work—or any work. If it matters, my only debt is a $12,000 student loan that I am paying $150/month.

I’m not sure what answers I’m looking for. Maybe some assurances that you or someone you know has done this successfully and not ended up homeless or that I need a better plan. Or maybe the other option is I should stay in my hometown at my parents’ house and save up even more money (however, this is incredibly unappealing to me, depressing even). I make less than one thousand dollars a month because I don’t have enough students. I have nothing tying me to my hometown—no significant other, no great job, no close friends, a location I really don’t like. This would be a huge step for me, something I have always wanted to do but have never done. Any helpful input would be appreciated. Thanks.

P.S. For what it’s worth, I have steadily been applying online to jobs in Oregon, but to no avail. I figure I would be a more attractive candidate if I were living there rather than halfway across the country, though I know the economy is not great and my degree and background are not exactly in demand.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (14 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
You may end up with a crappy job at first, and you may need roommates, but $15,000 is more than enough cushion to get you from the Midwest to Oregon. Many people have made successful moves with much less.

Also, consider: your worst-case scenario is that Oregon falls through and you have to move back in with your parents.

If you want to discuss this further (I'm a native Oregonian who's moved a lot), memail me.
posted by hungrytiger at 5:35 PM on August 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

The help wanted for Eugene.

There will be many many applicants for each job. It's brutal, moreso because it is considered a desirable place to live, even with the horrible weather 6 months out of the year and the inimpressive crime rate and seriously declining schools.

But people DO get hired.
posted by Danf at 5:35 PM on August 31, 2011

On the one hand, that's plenty to move on. It depends on where you want to move *in* Oregon, but that'll be enough.

Portland is a really desirable spot to live, but really terrible for finding jobs currently.
Eugene is like Portland, except less-so in both aspects. ((I live here myself and love it, but polls and ratings seem to say what I described))
From there, I'm not *as* familiar with the job market in Salem, Bend, or Corvallis; but I do know that it's in the same general direction.
I'd say to stay away from the coast, as though it is gorgeous and you would likely absolutely love to live there, cost of living would be even higher proportionally and jobs would be even scarcer.
As far as any of the more rural places not mentioned, again the idea of 'nice to live, but rough to find jobs in' holds.

The emphasis in all of this is that jobs are tough to find. Really tough. Personally I'm rather attached to Eugene; if you're headed this way MeMail me and I can help out and give area suggestions (or even work towards a 'welcome here' meetup).

So... I'd say do it overall, since you sound like you really want/need to get out and this is a great place to live. And really, jobs are tough everywhere. Here just moreso than many other spots.
posted by CrystalDave at 5:56 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

There are a lot of reasons not to do this, but I still think you should. The older and more established and more attached you become, the fewer opportunities you'll have to take such big, bold plunges.

The unemployment rate is high and the job market is shitty, so it could take a number of months to find a job, and then you'll probably have to work an entry-level gig for a while and volunteer/freelance/whatever until you work your way up to something better. But we do have call centers, restaurants, retail outlets, etc., and they do hire people who can present themselves well, pass drug tests and background tests, show up on time, and do what they're told. I know several non-college grads who've consistently been able to find work in Portland despite relatively spotty career histories. It's a great place to live and full of great people, but times are tight.

For what it's worth, I got here back in 2001, when rents were a lot lower, with $2,000, and it's worked out quite well for me so far.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 5:58 PM on August 31, 2011

You will kick yourself if you don't do this.
posted by LarryC at 6:22 PM on August 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

I moved to Los Angeles with no job and no experience and $2000. You will be absolutely fine.
posted by something something at 6:49 PM on August 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

Find a job, any job and move. As long as you stay with that job for the next 13 out of 15 months, you can write it off on taxes. Won't help you now, but it will come april of next year.
posted by TheBones at 6:49 PM on August 31, 2011

$15k is more than enough, but try to act as if you only have $5k
posted by thelonius at 7:40 PM on August 31, 2011

I took a one-way flight to New York City with $4000, two suitcases, and no work experience. Yes, I ate up my savings, yes I lived on ramen and hot dogs for several months, and yes I was frequently lonely, scared, broke, isolated and freezing cold from the times my boiler randomly cut out in the winter in my first, terrible apartment. (And don't even get me started on the eight people who were living in a two-bedroom apartment by the time I moved out.)

I have never, ever, ever for a single moment regretted this move.

Check out Craigslist and see if a cheap, furnished sublet would be an option. You could move your stuff and rent a permanent apartment once you have a job, and this would significantly cut your upfront expenses.
posted by psycheslamp at 8:41 PM on August 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

Moving? No problem.

Finding a job, any job?

Dude, Portland sucks donkey balls for finding decent work.
posted by bardic at 9:10 PM on August 31, 2011

... though I know the economy is not great and my degree and background are not exactly in demand.

This is pretty much your problem and moving here is not necessarily the key to getting a job. Unless you have tech skills, you'll probably spend MONTHS looking for work and only then score something minimum wage. Adding to your difficulty is the fact that with the large number of unemployed we already have, no-one is going to hire a low-skilled employee from another state. And make no doubt, being from another state is not in your favor. Eugene in particular has a rabid provincialism, suspicious of strangers and confused by accents. The job market is very much driven by who you know and what you can do, not "We need a person" which is how many people get a break. Portland is better, but the real market is technical jobs.

Really, really, the market here is as bad as anywhere else. The only people I know getting regular work are technical types or nurses.

I guess I could say something about following your dreams and all that but Oregon is not what people seem to think it is. It's not "Portlandia". It's like Appalachia brutally mashed together with Vermont. Adding to the provincialism, Oregon is sort of scarily non-racially diverse. Unless you're white or Hispanic, you can find that many people's reactions are a little... 1960s. Even coming from the Midwest, you might find it a little confusing.

I moved to Los Angeles with no job and no experience and $2000. You will be absolutely fine.

Yeah, Oregon has a about the same population as Los Angeles and roughly 200 times the area, so this is not an equal comparison.
posted by fiercekitten at 10:41 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Eugene in particular has a rabid provincialism, suspicious of strangers and confused by accents.

Uh. Springfield (it's where I'm from), perhaps, but not Eugene, which is home to the University of Oregon and brings in over a thousand international students every year, as well as having immersion schools (I know of French and Japanese ones, pretty sure there are others). My personal experience in Eugene (I attended the UO, lived and worked in the city) showed me that the "suspicious" and "confused" reactions were generally in response to a few of the people who come from big cities (not all, but some) and who then sneer down their noses at the "provincials" and our "simple" state. We Oregonians have our ways of blithely directing such types to logging roads and the flattest, driest sights.

As for non-racial diversity, wow. I grew up with Mexican, Native American (the Kalapuya tribe is in the Willamette Valley), African American and Japanese friends in the middle of nowhere outside Springfield. (20 miles outside of it, there was only one elementary school that's since been closed.) Closed-minded attitudes are generally the purvey of conservative Eastern Oregon places, but even that's changing a little.

Anyway. Moving back closer to topic. Salem and Eugene can be pretty nice, yes; I think Eugene, as a larger city, will have better employment opportunities. However, it's a double-edged sword due to the UO's presence – you'll be competing with university students for low-wage jobs. That said, as a one-time university student there myself, it wasn't too hard to find cheap housing, and I always managed to find jobs, back in the early 90s when that was none too easy. What worked best was getting a feel for places, then asking in person if they were looking to hire.

And btw, you can attend cheap-to-free concerts at the UO's School of Music. Culture in Eugene is great all-around, better than Salem in general. We also have a very good theater and music scene outside the university.
posted by fraula at 1:31 AM on September 1, 2011

I moved my SO and myself to Portland with <3K. Had to wrap burritos for a while, but so it goes.

The job market is bad - but not impossible. You'll be fine. Do it.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:32 PM on September 1, 2011

I think you'll be fine, especially if you have $15K saved up. However, if you are worried, you should figure out what your expectations are before you move... and maybe make a budget based on those expectations.

* How much would it cost to move? Do you have a piano you have to move? I moved the opposite direction (Portland to the Midwest) and the move cost $2,000 - with a piano.

* Do you want to live on your own, or do you mind living with others? If you are okay living with others, then your rent will be a lot less, and Portland has exceptionally many opportunities to live with others cheaply - from $350 to $500 per month.

* How are you going to get around? Cars are going to be expensive everywhere you go. In PDX they have a good transportation system, and they have a huge bike scene - but consider buying a bike before you move to Portland, since they can be expensive once you get there... also, hills, which some places in the Midwest don't have.

* Food - do you know how to cook? If not, invest a little time in learning how to cook and shop, and some money in getting the tools for cooking. This will save you money in the long run.

Etc. Etc. Make a plan, but don't make it too specific... just get an idea of how much you might cost to move, how much you might end up spending a month, and that should give you a rough estimate of how long you'll be able to survive without a job wherever you decide to move.

Honestly, I'm a little envious. You have a big cushion to use to explore a new city. Have fun!
posted by baniak at 2:42 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

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