How to Find Your First Job in New York City

So you’ve finally decided to make the big move to New York City…but how are you going to pay the rent?

The prospect of new opportunities in a city that’s full of them is thrilling, but the process of moving, from apartment hunting to figuring out how to get to the city with all your stuff, can be incredibly stressful.

And if you’re not specifically moving for work, finding a job in the city is probably the most panic-inducing aspect of making the transition. New York City is a place where millions of people come to chase their dreams, but in a city of over 8 million people competing for opportunities and resources, it can be tough to get a foot in the door.

Here are a few tips for finding a career in the city:

Give yourself a hard deadline for moving

If you want to move to the city, it can be tempting to test the waters by applying to a few jobs from the safety of your current town and waiting to see what happens. However, hiring managers really don’t want to waste energy on the interview process for applicants who aren’t sure about moving.

To work around the problem of having an out-of-town address, state your moving day right up front in your cover letter, so companies will know that you’re a serious applicant.

Get your story straight

If you’re applying for jobs before your move and you manage to land some phone or Skype interviews, one of the first questions interviewers might ask is: “Why are you moving to New York?” This might seem like small talk, but in reality, it’s a barometer to see how serious you are about moving to the city.

Be sure and have a prepared answer for interviewers who ask why you’re moving to the city. Come up with specific goals and objectives you’re hoping to achieve with your move so that it doesn’t seem like you’re relocating on a whim.

Make the move on LinkedIn

There are plenty of reasons why you might want to keep your move secret from your current employer, but if you’re able, change your location on LinkedIn to New York City.  That way, if recruiters are searching by city, your name will be thrown in the mix.

It’s also worth searching for people of all career stages in your field on LinkedIn, not just to connect, but to review their resumes. Their work history can provide a useful timeline of the ways their careers have grown and evolved over the course of their time in the city and provide some useful insights for ways to break into your desired industry. 

Build your network

One great thing about moving to New York City is that those of us already living here love to share our war stories of just starting out. Contact anyone in your social network, even friends of friends and acquaintances, who live in the city to let them know you’re moving and looking for work. Once you arrive, meet up for beers or coffee with as many of those connections as you can. You never know who will have a lead on a job or an interesting insight into ways to land your first gig.

Alumni networks are another good way to make contacts in the city. Check out alumni networks through LinkedIn and Facebook or even resources through your university to meet up and discuss ways to find work.

Make contact with headhunters

Headhunters are always looking for new talent. So if you’re planning a move or are freshly arrived in the city, reach out to as many local headhunters specializing in your field as possible.

When you’re contacting headhunters, it’s important to approach the conversation with the same attention to detail you’d use when applying for a job. Send a professional, error-free email with a headline that stands out. Recruiters get a lot of messages from people hoping to be fast-tracked to a dream job, so make it clear that you’ve done your research and state the reasons you’d be a good fit for their services.

Prepare for a period of unemployment

Moving to New York City takes a lot of courage, and it also takes a lot of careful planning. We’ve all heard those stories of wide-eyed dreamers who came to the city with $20 in their pockets and ended up launching wildly successful careers on a wing and a prayer. Use those stories as a guide for what not to do.

Instead, expect to spend at least a month looking for work, but prepare to spend up to three months on the hunt. Factor in the costs of apartment deposits, rent, and living expenses to come up with a clear budget for how much money you’ll need not just to make it to New York, but to make it in New York as you wait by the phone to hear back on your applications.

 Don’t be afraid of a side hustle

It can be easy to get so caught up in the idea of moving to New York to become a “blank,” that you forget that it’s possible to work toward goals while still having a satisfying job doing something else in the meantime. Perhaps your dream is to work on ad campaigns for a top Madison Avenue agency. Pursue that dream, but don’t forget to scan Craigslist, Indeed, or other job sites for opportunities outside your chosen field.

Many successful New Yorkers have come to find their true callings in a roundabout way by taking a side job that ended up becoming a career. And even if you don’t discover a passion for pastry after working the counter at your neighborhood coffee shop, you’ll probably end up making at least a few new friends, which is also important in such a sprawling city.

Emily Alford