Moving to Seattle; landing safely.
July 30, 2008 12:34 AM   Subscribe

At some point within the next year I will have the opportunity to move to Seattle, Washington in order to be with the man I love. He will be relocating there in order to pursue his career. However I have some cold feet…

I currently work in a couple steps above entry level position in a tech company, making just under 40k before taxes, 401k , etc…

I don’t have a diploma beyond Highschool, and my primary concern is making ends meet. I’ve struggled to get myself out of the hole dug by poor life decisions and into a situation where I am self sufficient and actually reducing my debt.

Is anybody familiar with the job prospects in Seattle? I’m experienced with general tech, web design programming and hardware; stuff like that. I plan on getting a bachelors from a state university once I pay off my debts.

I’ve been squirreling away money into a savings account and at my current rate will have enough saved to survive a month or so on my own. I have an overwhelming fear of ending up back on the streets; basically back where I was before, except now in an unfamiliar city… It’s one thing to be homeless at the age of 20; at least it’s cool to be a gutter punk. But at 28, things are not so rosy.

While my partner can help with my share of the bills, I’d rather not do that, in fact I’ve gone thus far in my life being self sufficient, and being the responsible one in relationships.

He is a good person, and I love him very much and I know he feels the same, but neither one of us could handle a long distance thing; as it’s not going to get any easier to move the longer I am where I am now.

I throw myself upon the altar of mefite wisdom. Any suggestions for keeping myself on my feet?
posted by kzin602 to Travel & Transportation around Seattle, WA (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
With only a high school diploma, you're in a tougher spot.

Maybe you can start applying for tech jobs in Seattle, but don't leave your current spot until a job that pays as well as your current job turns up (if it does).
posted by k8t at 2:00 AM on July 30, 2008

I did the same thing you did, for the very same reason, and quit my old job before I found a new one. I don't want to discourage you with my anecdotal experience, but the transition was a stressful few months. Moving alone was stressful enough. I don't regret a thing, though.

If you can, try to get some kind of work lined up before you go — it's easier to apply for something better once you're settled in your new situation and have a steady income.

Good luck to you and your partner.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:50 AM on July 30, 2008

> I plan on getting a bachelors from a state university once I pay off my debts.

Have you considered taking a student loan to cover the cost of your studies? Check the rules where you live. Student loans tend to have low interest rates and accommodating repayment schedules. Shop around, ask a couple of banks. If you can roll your old debt into your new student loan, the whole will feel less threatening.

Plus, degree jobs pay much better. Your current debt will be much easier to repay off of your future salary.

> While my partner can help with my share of the bills, I?d rather
> not do that, in fact I?ve gone thus far in my life being self sufficient,

You should definitely share the bills. It's one of the great joys of being a couple. Suddenly you have more disposable income because so many expenses are split two ways, rent, heating, phone, etc.

Sharing the bill doesn't make you dependent so long as you have an exit. You have to make enough money that you could live without sharing the bills in order to share them, if that makes sense. If the relationship goes sour, you need to be able to hit the big red button. Breaking up can be expensive once you start cohabitating. You have to break the lease, pack boxes and move them and buy beer for the friends who helped you. Then you have to start paying your own bills. If that's not an option, you will feel trapped.

So, your first financial objective, once in Seattle, will be to ensure the red button is always available. You can even buy parts the button before moving. Buy a bus ticket back home, or to somewhere safe.

Good luck.
posted by gmarceau at 3:15 AM on July 30, 2008

He is a good person, and I love him very much and I know he feels the same, but neither one of us could handle a long distance thing; as it’s not going to get any easier to move the longer I am where I am now.

In 2001, I quit my job without having any other plans and moved to Seattle to be with the woman I loved. Prior to that we dated long-distance for about 18 months. Our first five dates where in six different countries. Fun, but not the way to build a lasting relationship.

She moved with me back to Sweden in 2002, we got married in 2003, moved together to London in 2004, and then back to Stockholm in 2005. We just had our second child. During all this time we worked togeher, shared expenses when she was working or when I was working, and allowed each other to become dependent on each other because that's what life partners do.

If the relationship goes sour, you need to be able to hit the big red button.

Personally, and despite having hit the ground hard more than once in my life, I don't like working over a safety net. If you do not jump into love with both feet and embrace it fully and completely, you're not giving it a chance.

Choose your risks carefully, but do not be hesitant to take them.

Good luck!
posted by three blind mice at 3:39 AM on July 30, 2008 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: >Have you considered taking a student loan to cover the cost of your studies?

It's student loans that got me into the mess to begin with, unfortunately going to one of those horrible trade schools... In this case: Collins College.. Game Design.. Ugh. I could have gone to ASU for a fraction of the cost and gotten a degree in business or something IT related that would be useful.. Anybody who has any experience with those kind of schools know they are very overpriced.

I had convinced myself that I was not capable of being accepted into a "real" school, of course now I know better.
posted by kzin602 at 6:33 AM on July 30, 2008

Not going to give you advice about sharing bills or advocate moving to another city. If you decide to follow him to Seattle, there is a huge tech presence there so finding a job in the tech field might not be as hard as it seems.
posted by CAnneDC at 7:24 AM on July 30, 2008

This will depend on the type of loan that you have, but I believe if you re-enter college full-time with some student loan debt under your belt , you may be able defer your previous student loan payments until you finish school again.
posted by tastycracker at 7:57 AM on July 30, 2008

As far as jobs go, there's a fairly decent computer software test contractor ecosystem in place up there, especially for Microsoft.

Or at least there was when I was there in the late nineties and early 2000s. A lot of people, myself included, are able to work for places like Microsoft with no degree - you just have to work through a place like Volt or another agency.

Sometimes if you're really lucky you can get hired on full time somewhere without a degree. It's a lot easier on the West Coast than the East Coast. Different culture. I'd start looking at contract agencies a few months before you intend to move and see what the prospects are.

Keep in mind the life of a contractor has benefits and problems. My best advice is get a decent hourly rate and keep saving money. I knew a lot of guys who would work for a year, then take three months off, then work a year, then take three months off. Not a bad life at all.

Once you get residency in the state, UW is a good option for getting a degree. I think the in state price is fairly reasonable.
posted by krisak at 8:06 AM on July 30, 2008

This might not be the kind of advice you're looking for, but since you mentioned your debt is in the form of student loans, you could look into putting them into forbearance while you're in transition. It's difficult to make ends meet when you don't have a lot of savings and don't have a new job lined up, but it might be less stressful if you only had to worry about meeting your base level living expenses and put your debt-payment on hold for a few months while you get things together. In my personal experience, I've found that student loan companies are usually very amenable to this sort of thing, so calling them couldn't hurt. Just one more way to save a bit of money during the move/transition period. Good luck!
posted by booknerd at 9:12 AM on July 30, 2008

Just as a quick FYI about state colleges, it takes a year to get residency. And existing student loans generally go into suspended animation (I don't remember the technical term offhand) if you are a full-time student. It's definitely something to look into once you've been here for a while.

Anecdotally, I've noticed from one email list that I'm on that there seem to be more job openings than there were a couple of years ago.

Speaking of which, now might be the time to start looking for groups in Seattle for networking. I've been a member of Digital Eve Seattle (which, yes, does accept men) since before it was Digital Eve, and since before I started working web full time. (ie, about 1998 or 1999.) It's a good group of techies, and there's quite a few jobs posted.

It also seems to me that there are a lot of short-term tech jobs available, but I don't know if that's just confirmation bias.

I'd definitely start looking & applying now, and being clear that you will be moving to Seattle.

Good luck! I moved to Washington from CA when I was 17, and have been here for 16 years now. (wow, that long already?!) It's a great place.
posted by epersonae at 3:43 PM on July 30, 2008

The bad news is pretty much everyone in Seattle proper has a degree.

The good news is, honestly, if you're a contractor and you're in software/web, having a college degree doesn't matter if you have the experience, esp. with the web. I know a number of web geeks who only have high school educations or associate degrees. They are all working on their bachelor's, but nonetheless they're still getting paid.

Talk to Volt. Put your resume on Monster/Dice/Hotjobs and the contracting agencies will find you. You'll probably end up at Microsoft, which isn't all that bad -- I know plenty of people who have been contract surfing at MSFT for years. There are drawbacks (the infamous 90 days off unpaid every year, and orange cards don't get you much respect), but it's money, and it's good money.

But definitely get the debt paid down and look to getting your butt into the community colleges once you establish residency. They LOVE older students, and UDub LOVES older students with AAs.

(Small word of caution: You may think working at UDub would be a great idea, and for the most part it is -- killer benefits to offset the low pay. However, you can only take six hours of courses a quarter for free. That's 40% of a normal quarter load -- a 4 year degree takes 7 1/2 years, even with summer classes. Oh, and tuition reimbursement is considered a taxable benefit.)

If you're going to move into together, you really need to talk about sharing expenses. This is where the communication part of relationships comes in. Sit down and hammer out something fair and equitable for both of you.

If it doesn't work out, well, it doesn't work out. I moved here chasing after a girl. She dumped me four months later. 12 1/2 years after she dumped me, I'm still here. You never know.

Good luck, and welcome to Seattle! Mind the Seattle Freeze -- just expect it'll take some work to break through.
posted by dw at 3:03 PM on August 1, 2008

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