Finding the City that Meets Your Educational Needs for Affordability, Employment and Fun
As a college graduate, you are in a time of transition—and this may mean moving to a big new city in order to begin the next phase of your life. Just as you were tasked with making an informed decision about the college you enrolled in, you should also use the same care when deciding where to relocate and begin your career. From employment to housing to leisure activities, there are several factors you need to consider before you pack up the moving truck. This page includes information that can help, such as factors to consider when choosing a location and how to hit the ground running on a job search.
Finding Affordability: What Makes for a Great Post-College Town?
Chances are, you’re probably starting the next phase of your life with a student loan—which may be a tremendous expense that is akin to a mortgage. This means that when looking for a city to call home, you really need to be strategic to find a place that’s affordable, filled with job opportunities, and enjoyable to live. The following are some factors that should go into this important decision.
- Unemployment Rate for College Grads.
Although it varies from city to city, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found a nationwide unemployment rate of two and one tenth percent in April 2018 for people age 25 and older that hold a bachelor’s degree. You’ll really want to determine the unemployment rates for your prospective cities using resources from the BLS website.
- Median Household Income.
If you hope to balance your living costs with earnings, determine the median household income by city. Among other sources, you can use the U.S. Census Bureau American Factfinder.
- Cost of Living.
Nerd Wallet offers a free cost-of-living calculator based on income and location. Each state has its own average. You can find your state at USAToday’s 2018 cost of living index.
- Median Rental Prices and Home List Prices in the Community.
If you’re planning on renting in your new location, you can get an idea of how much you will be paying by looking at the prices of available rentals on sites like Craigslist. If you are in a position to buy a home, this is a good time to do it, as the median nationwide home listing prices dropped $4,000 or 1.3 percent for 2018, according to the National Association of REALTORS©.
- Job market.
Study the job market of all the cities you’re considering before you make your move. “Look up the top employers, the major industries represented there, and the overall health of the job market for the job you want. Even ‘window shop’ on the major job boards, such as Indeed.com or Monster.com by typing in the job type you are targeting and see how many pop up,” said Dana Manciagli, Founder of Job Search Master Class®. “If you don’t see your jobs, then it’s the wrong city!”
For many recent grads, the age and diversity of the people living around them is an important consideration. Consider who your future neighbors, coworkers, and friends may be before you move.
- Entertainment Opportunities.
Whether you enjoy fine dining at restaurants, going dancing at clubs, a night at the theater, or spending weekends at parks and museums, it’s important to factor in your leisure time when choosing a city. Consider places where you can swim, go biking, hike, or whatever you do to fight stress or get in a good workout.
It takes a lot of work to find a city to call home, but remember that just because you relocated after college doesn’t mean you have to stay in the location you chose forever.
“Know you’re not committing to that city for life,” Manciagli said. “What if you’re not crazy about your choice after three years? Your company may want to relocate you to another office. You may fall in love and want to move to their city. Be flexible and look at your next city as an adventure on so many levels.”
Spotlight: The 5 Best Cities for New College Grads
Business Insider reports that Madison has a 1.5 percent unemployment rate for those with bachelor’s degrees, which makes the city an excellent choice when looking for work. In addition, the city is affordable with a median rent of around $900, and there is access to many recreational activities, such the arts, bars, and restaurants.
Named as one of the most affordable cities by Livability, Cincinnati has a median monthly rent of $649 and average home price of $70,000. Also, the city has a low unemployment rate of under five percent and a high percentage of residents (20 percent) who are in their 20s.
Although the cost of living has increased in Austin in recent years, so has the economy—making it a good place for young job seekers to begin their careers. In fact, the unemployment rate for this city is less than three percent and the average monthly income is around $2,500, so recent grads can live more comfortably than they might in other locations.
Albany, New York
While Albany doesn’t have the hustle and bustle of New York City, it is still a promising place for young people to relocate. The city has a low unemployment rate, as well as an increase in jobs in certain sectors, such as education and technology. Also, nature enthusiasts can enjoy nearby nature preserves, parks, and hiking trails, while those who like to party can visit the city’s bars and clubs.
Des Moines, Iowa
With an average rent of around $750 and an average commute of merely 19 minutes, recent grads in Des Moines won’t have to worry about gas and rent eating into their entire paycheck. Also, the city is the home to many large corporations and startups alike. This fact, coupled with its unemployment rate of less than five percent, make it likely that new residents will have an easy time finding work.
Questions to Consider When Searching for an Affordable Post-College Town
From job prospects to social life, the location you choose after college can be key in creating the life you want. When making this important decision, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do other young adults live in the city?
Grads may prefer to forge professional and social relationships with people ages 20 to 29. When researching cities look at the percentage of this age group for each one.
- How much does it cost to live there?
To determine affordability, consider the monthly gross rent/housing costs, the monthly utilities, and the percentage of monthly income that goes toward financing the total cost of living.
- How much is your student loan debt?
Currently, there is $1.48 trillion in total U.S. debt on student loans. The average national monthly student loan payment for borrowers between 20 and 30 years old is $351. If you plan on repaying yours on schedule you need to add the monthly payment when balancing the cost of living with income.
- What kinds of jobs are available?
To best determine the career opportunities in your prospective city, do a search of different job boards in that location.
- How tight is the local labor market?
Low unemployment figures typically represent greater opportunities in the labor market. To get an idea of what prospects there are for recent graduates, get information on the area’s unemployment rate.
- What are the transportation options?
Is there a robust public transportation system in the area you’re looking at or will you need a car to get around? If public transit is not an option, consider how much can you afford toward a vehicle purchase or lease without compromising your budget. Also, to save money on your commute, find out if your prospective employers will pay for your transportation to and from the office.
Advice for Recent Grads: How to Jumpstart Your Career in a New Town
Job hunting can be a challenge no matter where you live. Relocating can be too. But just because you’re the new kid in a new town doesn’t mean you have to position yourself behind the eight ball when it comes to your job search. The following are some tips to help you get the best results when looking for work.
- Network, network, network!
Networking begins in college, by compiling a list of graduates with the same major, asking your professors if they can write recommendation letters and/or introduce you to contacts in the field. Exploit the network of alumni from your school as active contacts. Attend career and employer fairs at your college, collect business cards, and hand out resumes. If you have had a successful internship, contact people with whom you’ve forged a relationship for job leads. Use job sites and social media to identify and target companies. Visit their websites and postings at Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.Though networking is an effective method of finding employment, it only helps if you do it right. Manciagli describes a bad example of networking in this way:“I recently met a college graduate-to-be at a large event. She was quite engaging, and I mentioned that I was a job search coach (implying I might have some insights). She quickly reached into her pocket and said ‘Oh, good, here is my card, will you contact me?’ The good news is, she had a personal business card and didn’t whip out her device to connect with me on LinkedIn. The bad news is, she did not take ownership of collecting my information and I never heard from her again,” Manciagli said. “Learn how to prepare for networking events and list out your steps for things you will do before the event, at the event, and after the event. The more thought you put into it, the more results you will get out. The same holds true for career and job fairs.”
- Think outside the face-to-face box.
If you’re not a social butterfly who feels comfortable going around the room talking to strangers, that’s okay—you can still network in a manner that makes you comfortable, Manciagli says.“If you would rather have a tooth extracted than go to a networking event, then don’t go!” she said. “Find LinkedIn groups, local organizations with a Facebook group, online forums, and virtual career fairs. Either way, the same principles hold true: Have a clear goal, do your research, prepare your elevator pitch, and ask great questions.”
- Promote yourself on social media.
Complete your profile on various social media platforms to build a post-college network. This can be done through LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or even field-specific platforms like GitHub. Be sure to scrub any negative postings you have made on social websites as employers review them.Need help cleaning up your social profiles? Check out our step-by-step guide for college students and recent grads who need a little help making their profiles ready for professional success.
- Conduct an Informed job search.
Don’t wait for recruiters to come knocking at your door or an offer to fall into your lap. Search for relevant openings on job boards like Indeed, Monster, CareerBuilder, Dice, LinkedIn, and Glassdoor and commit time every day to finding positions. Also, you can create email alerts that notify you when pertinent jobs become available.
- Don’t commit random acts of applications.
Although it’s important to apply for jobs, it’s also imperative to be strategic. Sending applications to any and every job post on a board is not going to improve your chances of landing a job.“Some college grads are just flipping through job postings, not reading the full job description, then pressing ‘send’ with their resume attached,” said Manciagli. “They may send 25, 50, or even 100 per month then wait…and continue waiting.”
- Look for a suitable temporary job or internship.
When all else fails, find a temporary bridge job or paid internship. Depending on your finances and the length of time it takes to land the right position, consider taking a bridge job where you can gain useful experience in marketing, information technology, communications, customer service and other in-demand skills. Forbes Magazine points out that unrelated bridge jobs may have appeal such as dog walking, pumping caffeine as a barista or serving on a restaurant’s wait staff. The magazine cites benefits of a bridge job, including regaining your confidence, fueling your desire to actively search for the right job, and making sufficient income to tide you over.
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