The best thing about living in a city like NYC is the people you meet. People from all different places, all walks of life, and chasing all kinds of dreams. A year ago, I was nervously wondering if I too could be one of those NYC transplants.
Moving to a new city isn’t easy. It’s filled with challenges from where will I live, how will I make friends, and the overall how the hell am I going to survive? Having passed my one year anniversary in this restless city, I wouldn’t say I am a New Yorker by any means. I haven’t figured it all out. I am not rocking an incredible, stable job and an endless schedule of fun. I am rocking a variety of unpredictable freelance jobs and a endless schedule of “what now.” However, I didn’t have a clue of what I was doing when I moved here. I knew no one and was pursuing something I didn’t have a degree or experience in.So even if I haven’t ‘made’ it, I’m not where I was a year ago.
When people ask me how I’ve managed to make a life in NYC, this is my best advice.
You really have to be intent on making it in New York City in order to survive. You have to chase things here, really chase them. I am a big advocate of cold emails. Interested in a company? Email them for an informational interview- explain who you are, what you want to do, and that you’d love to sit down and ask some questions. This is best for small companies & individuals, a lot of them are happy to chat and give advice whereas big companies rarely give you the time of day. I got a few photo assistant jobs by emailing studios/photographers and explaining how I wanted to learn more about photography and why I was interested in them specifically. A few companies I talked to didn’t have work for me but check in every once in awhile to see how/what I’m doing. When I find an individual who is doing something in my field, often through their blog or twitter, I ask them to coffee so I can pick their brain. I’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response from people who are more than willing to give me their insight and even help with job connections. You aren’t going to get any advice without asking for it and you aren’t going to accomplish anything without working for it.
Try. A lot.
I have had about 103 jobs since moving to NYC (give or take a few). From serving, to assisting on photo shoots, to writing gigs, to copywriting for restaurants, there have been a lot. When I moved here, I had a really rough idea of what I wanted to do: I wanted to be in the creative industry. I liked writing and photography. If you sit down in any interview and tell them that you just want to write and photograph, they will laugh you out of the room. There are so many routes you can take from just one interest that you won’t get very far without focusing in. You have to figure out what fits and what doesn’t. I was able to find things that I really love that weren’t on my intial radar just by having so many different opportunities. Today when I’m faced with the dreaded question of what I want to do, I’ve got a long, detailed list, which helps me pinpoint the opportunities I should be going after and the skills I should be working on. I also get a lot of compliments on how awesome it is that I’ve been involved in such a wide range of things in a small amount of time.
Of all the jobs I worked in the last year, I applied to and got rejected by even more. I landed a few jobs that were supposed to be long-term and they ended up lasting maybe a month. I’ve even had people schedule interviews with me only to not show up to them. You are competing with so many people in every aspect of your daily life here and it’s inevitable that things will not always go your way. It sucks. There is no way around it. To make matters worse, I don’t think it gets easier the more it happens, I think it gets a lot harder. I don’t have a recipe for what to do when this happens. I’ve taken long walks, immediately started applying to more jobs, and just stayed in bed all day watching movies. I’ve been fortunate enough to always have pretty tough skin, which has definitely paid off living in such a rough city. No matter your skin thickness, this city is going to make you stronger, and a large part of that is by beating you down on occasion.
Make it wonderful
On my very worst days, I worried that I made a huge mistake in moving to New York City. Everyone I know here admits that they struggled for the first six months. Any time I’m feeling down, I force myself out of my apartment and go explore. It lifts my mood immediately. If you really want to survive in this city, make it yours. Breathe in the high moments and the low ones. Remember why you came, what you want, and keep stepping towards it.
What are your tips for surviving in a new city?