Moving for job prospects versus moving to your dream city
June 29, 2013 11:34 AM   Subscribe

Pondering my options (kind of far in advance, it is summer I have a lot of free time to think about life and stuff) for when I finish grad school about a year from now. I feel like it would be logical to move to DC if I can't find a job in my current location, but have always wanted to live in Boston. What sort of thought processes have you gone through when making similar decisions about where to settle? How did it work out? And what are your thoughts on DC versus Boston for job prospects?

I am currently living abroad working on a master's degree in a field I have about five years of experience in prior to going to grad school (international development). Barring getting a job in my current location for a year or two after I graduate, I would like to move back to the states and try living in one place and settling down for maybe five years or something to see how it goes, since I am tired of moving around all the time. I am pretty sure the job search in DC would not be too difficult if I moved back there and that would be nice (most of my connections are there and it is the best place for international development in the states) but I have family in Boston and love the city (I like DC too, but it is definitely second to Boston in my mind) and could see myself living there long term.

Also potentially significant: my interest in international development has been waning a bit and I wouldn't mind a transition into something where I could use similar skills to those I have built up the past couple of years (project/program management, administration, grants, language skills) but wasn't in the international development field. Not sure precisely what that would be, but one thing that comes to mind is some sort of administrative or management position in a university, or a local government or nonprofit.

I was wondering what others' experiences had been in choosing where to settle down - was there a specific place you wanted to move, and how did you balance your desire to move to that place with the possible job prospects? How did it work out? And, thoughts on Boston versus DC appreciated. Thanks!
posted by thesnowyslaps to Work & Money (6 answers total)
I've lived in Boston since 1999, and spent four years commuting to DC every week for work. Like you, I love DC, but consider Boston a better city to live in. I was able to find a work arrangement that worked for me and enabled me to keep a foot in both places. Don't overlook this possibility, too. We have a lot of organizations up here that that support ID efforts, research them, consult to them, or provide services they use. We also have a strong economy and a lot of organizations that could use your skill set if you decide you want to transition to something else.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 11:52 AM on June 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

If your heart is in Boston, I'd go there and figure out how to make it work. Sounds like if you went to DC, and all worked out well, you'd build a life there, and have a harder time moving to Boston at a later date?

After school, I chose to move to Portland, versus going to Chicago (where family was), or myriad other cities I was looking at. I don't regret my decision - I love Portland. But if I ever did want/need to move closer to family, it's going to be very difficult because of the life I've built in Portland.
posted by hydra77 at 1:04 PM on June 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

My SO and I have actually been going through a similar process over the last year. We've lived in New Hampshire for the last 10 years and have fallen in love with Boston. We finally decided to make the plunge last winter and will be moving there in the next few weeks. So for us it was a matter of making a decision that we wanted to live in a specific place and then doing everything we could to make it happen. Once we made our decision, my SO began job hunting and I began apartment hunting, etc. Generally, I'd sum our approach up by saying that we realized that we only get one go around at life and that we wanted to make our opportunities rather than following the ones that happened by. That said, grabbing the bull by the horns is certainly stress inducing - it's much simpler to follow opportunity than make it.

As far as choosing between D.C. vs. Boston goes, I think only you can decide what's right for you. That said, here are a couple of steps for figuring it out if you're really uncertain:

1) Take some time to identify the factors that make up the core of what it is that you're looking for in a place and then rank them.
2) Once you've ranked them in order of their importance to you, figure out how well each place will address each factor. You can even do it on a scale of 1-10. You've got plenty of time to research what would determine each city's scores and the research process will help prepare you for whichever place you end up.

Here's a hypothetical of how this might work out (truncated version):
Cultural opportunities: 1 - meaning most important (Boston: 9, DC: 10)
Night life: 2 (Boston: 8, DC: 5)
Job opportunities: 3 (Boston: 7, DC: 10)
Affordable housing: 4 (Boston: 4, DC: 7)
Safety: 5 (Boston: 8, DC: 4)

Then, you just weight it by multiplying each city's score by the inverse of the factor's importance. So, on the above example, there are 5 factors, which means that Item 1 (cultural) is weighted 5 times. So Boston would score a 45 and DC would score a 50. Item 2 (night life) is weighted 4 times, so Boston scores a 32 and DC scores a 20. Etc. Then you'd total them all up and see what scored the best.
You could also weight your factors on a scale instead of just ranking them. For instance, maybe I feel like cultural opportunities and night life are almost equally important. I could weight each of them a 9 out of 10. Perhaps I think job opportunities should be weighted about a 7 of 10 and affordable housing a 6 with safety bringing up the rear with only about a 2.

Here's a couple of caveats:
1) Regarding my scores above, remember that some scores will be very objective and others will be very subjective. Maybe a nice climate is important for you. I love having 4 real seasons, but maybe you hate the cold. We'd score climate very differently if that were the case. On the other hand, housing costs will be pretty well set for you by the market in whichever place you settle.

2) Often, I think exercises like this are useful more for helping you to feel like you've got a good reason for doing what you want to do anyway. If you really, really want to live in Boston (and I'd understand if you do - I've spent a good deal of time in DC and would, obviously, choose Boston), don't let numbers stand in your way. A good way to tell if you're letting the numbers get in the way: do you find yourself disappointed when one city does well on a ranking and the other poorly? Don't ignore that.

Good luck wherever you choose and have fun deciding!
posted by Quizicalcoatl at 2:56 PM on June 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

Boston all the way.

One thing I see a lot from friends and acquaintances that have decided to move to DC for "career opportunities" instead of other destinations is that they very quickly fall into one of two camps - the lovers and the can't wait to leavers. Really take into consideration some of the less sexy aspects of living somewhere (traffic, cost of living, overall quality of life, hassles) before you make a decision. I've had a number of friends that relocated here (many of whom have subsequently left) from San Diego, LA, Houston, and Chicago that have all comment on how unprepared they were for the punishing traffic and congestion here.

Career wise there's a lot that DC currently offers but the coming federal budget cuts could really jeopardize that for everyone here. When you also take into consideration the soul crushing traffic (which you will never escape unless you are insanely lucky) and the out of control housing and rental market a lot of the luster of DC starts to fall off very quickly. If you were only looking to stay for a couple of years to get experience I wouldn't even mention it, but it sounds like you're looking to start putting down roots.

One thing I would highly suggest you do is to spend a few days in both places exploring a "worst-case" scenario should you decide to move to either one. In DC that would be using WMATA (Metro) from Capitol Hill and riding it out to Rockville or driving from Vienna to downtown DC (or vice versa) during rush hour. As budgets change and positions come and go you'll probably not be lucky enough to work and live in close proximity you should prepare yourself what commuting issues (or nightmares) you may be subjected to over time.
posted by playertobenamedlater at 2:31 PM on June 30, 2013

As a DC resident, I feel obligated to say that I love living here and think there are crazy opportunities here. People have been saying for decades that federal budget cuts will lead to job cuts and fewer opportunities but it doesn't happen. Regarding traffic, it's really not an issue for me. I don't have a car. I take the bus to work. My commute is less than half an hour each way. I've lived here for more than nine years. For a majority of that time, I walked to work. Rent isn't cheap but I've never paid more than $1400/month for a place in NW DC. My husband and I have always worked in NW DC. I've felt safe wherever. Summer can be brutally hot but I was in Boston during Memorial Day weekend and it was freezing, raining, and windy.

That said, I like Boston and I'd consider living there. If you love it, you should go for it. I love Living in DC. I think I would like living in Boston. YMMV.
posted by kat518 at 5:36 PM on June 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've noticed that the DC employment pool has considerably dried up over the past year, while rents have basically skyrocketed. Do not move here unless you have actual job prospects, and are sure that you can afford housing. If you're currently employed and currently in a good housing situation, things might seem fine, but the situation is pretty terrible for newcomers right now.

I love DC, but there's a rapidly growing chance that this will be my last year here.

(Also, I've lived here for nearly 4 years, and have yet to sit in any considerable amount of traffic during my daily commute. Unless you need to get your kids into a good public school system, it's not that difficult to engineer a fast and easy commute)
posted by schmod at 8:17 PM on July 1, 2013

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