I can't go home again, but can you help me get to Portland?
February 22, 2012 3:19 PM   Subscribe

Please help me devise a feasible plan for relocating to Portland from Los Angeles. Level of difficulty: pretty desperate.

I've been living in the Los Angeles area with a friend since September, and for myriad reasons, will not be able to do so for much longer. I've had no luck with the job search at all, despite applying for 60+ positions.

I am college-educated, though I majored in a pretty niche social science field which hasn't proven very useful as far as employment is concerned. I have a little bit of work experience in a fairly diverse selection of fields (MeMail me for specifics), and I can write a decent cover letter spinning that experience into something relevant to a posting.

I am originally from the Midwest but no longer have family to return to there. As a matter of fact, I have no real support system at all, which is making this process fairly difficult (and really, really contributing to my stress level, which at this point is pretty unbearable - not eating or sleeping unbearable).

I've been emailing with various employment agencies in the PDX metro, and while it sounds like the market there is pretty bad, I think it's likely a bit better than here in Los Angeles.

Here is my tentative plan. Please feel free to critique or make suggestions:

I have a friend in PDX who will allow me to stay on his couch for a week or so while I do an in-person job hunt. At the moment, my plan is to go to every temp agency in town and see what is available. Hopefully, by the end of the week, I'll have something lined up, and I can return to Los Angeles for the weekend, pack up my stuff, and be back in Portland to start work the following Monday. I don't have a lease, and I don't own more than a single bag's worth of clothing, so the moving process itself won't be difficult.

I've also been applying to every Craigslist posting I'm qualified for, which amounts to about 30 applications this week. Nothing is below me at this point, so if you have any other suggestions as to where I should be looking for work, they'd be appreciated.

Finally, I've begun applying for jobs in Salem, as well, with the thought that the market there is probably much better, and I could live there for a few months while saving money for a move to Portland.

So, does this plan sound realistic, or am I letting a mentally draining situation get to me? Am I going to be able to find a job, any job, by spending a week visiting temp agencies? I don't want to do anything rash or unwise.

Also, if anyone would like to take a look at my resume or cover letter(s) to see if there's anything I might improve, let me know.

Thank you so much.
posted by easy, lucky, free to Work & Money (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If you really can fit everything into one bag, why not bring it with you? That way if everything works out you save yourself the trip back down to LA, and, well, sounds like at this point you should aim to save every single penny you can.

Good luck.
posted by mannequito at 3:39 PM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

If you're that desperate (and I've been that desperate) sell whatever you can and just move to Portland without worrying about having a job lined up. Take as much money as you can and whatever you can pack into your car with you and see what you can find when you get there. Hitting the temp agencies is a good plan. Offer your friend some rent if they'll let you stay on their couch for longer than a week.

I've moved at least four times this way (actually I've never had a job lined up any time I've moved and I've moved A LOT -- but I've usually had a place to stay) and it's usually worked out. The trick is to keep a posititive attitude. It's not if you'll find a job in Portland, it's when you find a job in Portland - and don't be picky. Work is work and what you're doing today isn't necessarily what you'll be doing tomorrow (meaning somthing better will come along if you don't find your dream job right away).
posted by patheral at 3:41 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've done this in both Oakland and Portland.

Temp agencies tend not to want to talk to you until you're actually based in town. And then, block out 3:30pm every weekday to contact them to ask about work tomorrow.
posted by Prince_of_Cups at 4:05 PM on February 22, 2012

If you must rent a truck or van to move the cheapest way is to drive to Portland and return it in Chico, CA. The cost difference was almost a thousand and we had a car anyway. Just left it at the Chico airport and drove it back. Hell, even flying from Chico to PDX would have been cheaper.
posted by wcfields at 4:39 PM on February 22, 2012

Yes, sell your crap and make only one trip north -- in your situation, the cost of driving back and forth could cover you for food and gas money for a month or more of couch surfing in PDX. At 1000 miles each way, an extra roundtrip might cost $400 in gas alone (assuming an average mpg car), plus hotel costs, food, the risk of repairs, etc. That money can carry you a long way if you are living ultra cheap in Portland.

That said, if there are bigger issues impeding your job search in LA (like depression, say), moving north isn't going to magically solve them. I'm not saying that this is the case -- just that if it is, the productive approach is going to involve putting your energy into solving the underlying issues, not moving.
posted by Forktine at 5:01 PM on February 22, 2012

Is the job market actually better in Portland than LA? That seems hard to believe.
posted by The Lamplighter at 5:09 PM on February 22, 2012 [7 favorites]

i also question whether the job market is better in portland than LA. definitely salem is not. LA is a pretty huge market and portland is not.
posted by violetk at 5:22 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

The job market here is really dismal.
posted by alpinist at 5:52 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Agree with Mannequito, if you can take it with you, might as well do it.

But on the larger issue, you need to differentiate yourself from the competition. Applying to craigslist ads and checking online classifieds is what everyone else is doing.

Identify likely companies that might need your skill set. Research key individuals at that company. Make an approach. Follow up, and remain consistent.

Be bold, you really can do it!
posted by felspar at 7:44 PM on February 22, 2012

I have been in your situation, and got a well-paying job with bennies and everything, courtesy of LinkedIn. Not their job listings, although I did look at those, but by searching for every person in industries I wanted to work in, who also went to my university. I sent courteous emails explaining that I was new in town, and that I'd love to meet for a coffee or beer and get the skinny. Very few people completely blew me off, several led to freelance gigs before I even met in person, and I made a couple new friends. In fairly short order I had a job in my field that is pretty much exactly what I was looking for.

Best of luck to you!
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 8:40 PM on February 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

I've been told Portland is one of those towns that everyone thought would be a great place to wait out the recession and, as a result, is full of overqualified baristas and waiters.

That said, if you really have given up on LA and have no reason to stay there, you may as well give Portland a try. The worst that happens is you're in a cheaper city with the same problems you had before.
posted by deathpanels at 8:42 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nthing the previous sentiment re: Portland being a professional black hole.

Great parks and bars and music, but bring a trust fund.
posted by bardic at 8:56 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

No, the job market is not better in Salem. If you really want to get away from LA and find a job, try Hawaii. Seriously. Science and tech majors are pretty hard to find there but there's still a demand.
posted by fiercekitten at 10:10 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Skip on up North to Seattle and you may find the job market much stronger. I'm an IT consultant in PDX and without my word-of-mouth contacts I'd be temping again just like I was 4 years ago. Everything I hear (anecdotal) says Seattle has a lot more room for growth, though living in the city proper has become more expensive.
posted by tmt at 2:51 AM on February 23, 2012

I've temped in Portland for several multi-month stints (that usually resulted in me being hired on). I would be surprised if you get placed in a week, can you plan to stay a little longer? Have you temped before? Are you temping in LA? FWIW, a few years ago, big-name firms wouldn't even take my resume - scope out some local temp agencies.

The job market is bad. What the posters above said about all the service industry jobs being taken is true. Beware!
posted by momus_window at 6:09 PM on February 23, 2012

What the posters above said about all the service industry jobs being taken is true. Beware!

there's a joke that even the service industry ppl all have degrees— even advanced ones—in portland. except that it's also true.
posted by violetk at 5:42 PM on February 24, 2012

I concur with Prince of Cups- research and make a few phone calls ahead of time to find out what the temp agencies will require in order to employ you and make sure you can provide proof of it. It was about 10 years ago for me, so this may have changed, but similarly, I wanted to have a job or temp position in place before moving to Portland. This wasn't ok with my agency- they needed proof that I lived in Portland, so ultimately I moved into an apartment first and hoped that work would soon follow. I forget what the proof was- a phone number? A bill with my address on it? You may be able to get around this by using your friend's address/phone number, just make sure you know what it is that you'll need before you're in Portland, especially if you only have one week. (And like others have said, could you plan on a little more than a week? It will take some time to get set up in the system at a bunch of different agencies, and they probably won't have work for you the exact minute you finish filling out forms/taking tests.)

And hopefully you feel like you have a support system in Portland that's stronger than what you have in LA- because once you're here, you may be in and out of jobs for a while, and it gets very gray and rainy this time of the year. I mean, I hope everything works out for you right off the bat, but if it doesn't, will you feel better being unemployed here, or in LA?
posted by Secretariat at 3:42 PM on January 25, 2013

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