Just moved here, may I walk your dog/serve your burger/tutor your child?
October 7, 2012 9:51 AM   Subscribe

Just how tough is the minimum wages and/or temping jobs market? If I were to move to Chicago tomorrow, how long would it take me to get some sort (any sort) of employment?

Obviously this is hard to answer with certainty (and also, I feel like someone must have asked it before, but I did search for similar. Anyway, I am considering a move to Chicago with no employment lined up. How tough will it be to find a job with a temp agency or food service job while I job hunt for something better?

Snowflake details:
College grad, lots of work history but no retail or food service experience (most of my work history is with nonprofits, kids, and environmental education). In general I'm presentable and I have good references. Can probably swing a few of my past jobs to look like they were 'customer service oriented.'

I have around $3k that I could use to buffer the move if I'm about to starve, but I don't really want to spend it if I don't have to-- I would rather find something within a couple weeks (even if a part time job at a grocery store) that would bring in enough money to cover most or all of my living expenses (probably around $700-800 a month based on what I was paying for the bare essentials last time I lived in Chicago a few years back) while I look for a job that is more in line with my interests. Is this realistic?

My current job is not terrible, but I've been living on the east coast for a little over a year now and eventually I want to relocate back to the Midwest to be closer to family. The death of my car (if I move to chicago I don't need to replace it), the moving away of quite a few friends, and in general the underwhelming-ness of the job I just started has me thinking that now is as good a time as any.

I want to take some time and travel internationally for a few months after I quit this job, so I couldn't line up a job while still employed.

I could live with my mom cheaply while job hunting (she lives about 3 hrs away from Chicago), but I'd rather avoid returning home because I'm worried that I'll end up there longer than I thought and I really don't want to live long-term in my hometown (or with my parents, as much as I love them).

Am I thinking about this in a logical way/are my expectations realistic?
posted by geegollygosh to Work & Money (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You can probably scrape by on $800 or less per month if you live somewhere like Pilsen or Logan Square.

Estimating 3-4 weeks (rather than 2) to find employment is probably more realistic at the moment, though - especially if you don't have food service experience.
posted by BrandonW at 10:11 AM on October 7, 2012

I phrased this question as "if I were to move tomorrow," but I would actually finish out the season at my current job and then travel so the timeline would actually be moving May-ish if the season affects anyone's answers.
posted by geegollygosh at 10:42 AM on October 7, 2012

One thing to keep in mind is that low level service industry jobs often don't pay for a few weeks after you start working. So if you went to an interview on Monday, got the job Thursday, and started work next Monday, you would be looking at a paycheck by the end of the month or maybe even the first week of November. That's almost a month between getting the job and having money. Definitely plan for how you'll live for those first few weeks.

I can't speak for Chicago, but here in New York City I've been noticing an uptick in Help Wanted signs for service industry jobs. Granted, it's also the beginning of the pre-holiday ramp up, and some of those might be seasonal jobs. So I can't speak to what it will be like when you finally arrive where you're going and start the job hunt.

A word of warning -- January and February are relatively slow months for retail (and I'd assume also the restaurant industry). It's probably wise to plan your move so that you're not looking for a job right after they've just let all their seasonal help go.
posted by Sara C. at 10:48 AM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

With a college degree I actually think you'll be okay. There are all your tutoring companies here (Kaplan, Princeton Review, and Revolution, which is smaller and pays better) so if you test well, those are good options. I moved here right after the crash (ugh) and while it took me a long time to get full-time work, I had a slew of PT jobs that paid decently. I temped for a while, too, and they basically just wanted you to have the degree and some work experience - I don't think they really cared what it was.

Mariano's is a fancy grocery store chain that keeps opening stores all over the area - I know a bunch of people who've worked there for a few months while looking for other stuff, and I don't think they had much in the way of food service experience. They're showing 86 openings right now, which is pretty good. If you're good with kids, work in a library! There are lots of part-time openings around Chicago.

But anyway I see the same thing here that Sara C. is finding in New York: lots of help-wanted signs, many of 'em at fro-yo places and the like. If you keep your expectations low (which you seem to be), it shouldn't take you longer than a few weeks to find something.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 11:12 AM on October 7, 2012

This time of year you will be able to get a job in a restaurant very easily, since places will hire for the holidays. I live here and it's always been pretty easy to find a job waiting tables.
posted by katypickle at 2:40 PM on October 7, 2012

Are you willing to work in food service? I've been seeing a good number of help wanted signs at restaurants and bars lately.

If you're willing to live in an "uncool" neighborhood, you should be able to get by on $800/mo.
posted by me3dia at 6:59 PM on October 7, 2012

I've moved to Chicago three different times, all without work lined up. Twice I was open to anything, and found stuff with temp agencies very quickly. The other time I was more picky and that took longer, maybe six weeks. All three times worked out fine, Chicago is a great city especially considering how low the cost of living is!

It'll probably take a week or two to schedule your interviews and tests with the agencies, and then it'll be another week or two until you're paid, so definitely allow some cushion.

I had good luck with the agency Smart Resources downtown, but I know there are a load of good ones out there.

Does the $3000 you have saved include what you'd need to pay as a security deposit on an apartment? First/last month rent and security deposit can add up to a big chunk of money even if your normal monthly expenses are fairly low, so just make sure you have that budgeted.
posted by lettezilla at 5:59 AM on October 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have a similar background to yours and have been temping for a while. I am registered with three agencies and have no trouble getting work at all. It pays pretty poorly though, $10-12/hr is standard. But it'll pay your rent and put food on the table. Also, you get paid weekly, which is really nice.
posted by Jess the Mess at 6:07 AM on October 8, 2012

I have never temped in Chicago, but I have friends who do, and they have had very good luck finding positions. One of them actually got placed by the temp agency to work at the temp agency, so I have heard insider information that if you can write and speak fluent English and demonstrate a basic understanding of good sense (showing up on time, being polite), you already stand out of the crowd and are pretty much A-listed to get a good placement. This is just one person's take on one particular temp agency in Chicago, but I definitely got the sense that the market for temps there is good right now.
posted by jessypie at 9:13 AM on October 8, 2012

Temping market in Chicago is pretty strong right now, but a heads-up: rents are increasing significantly. The rental stock diminished during the housing boom (everything went condo) and now nobody can get a mortgage to buy all the empty cheap condos lying around.

You can probably still scrape by on 800 a month but you're going to have to hunt seriously for those cheap apartments now. Are you willing to live in a studio? That can make a huge difference--they've figured out how to charge $1000/mo for a really run-down 1-bedroom, but not how to get away with that in a studio (and chicago studios run big unless you're right downtown).
posted by like_a_friend at 12:14 PM on October 8, 2012

Waiting tables, preferably upscale.
Claim experience -- it's not rocket science -- or go thru a couple jobs to get experience.
Benefits: 1) Cash every day; 2) Meal(s) every day; 3) Hours well suited to looking around for other work.
Good luck!
posted by LonnieK at 1:10 PM on October 8, 2012

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