I graduate from college in…eight months. (Yes, I did just take time to count it out on my fingers.) Eight months. The next eight months will fly by, and come graduation day I’ll be crying, wondering where my college years disappeared to and mourning the end of an era. I’ve spent a long time saying that I’m ready to be done with school, and while I am, nostalgia and reality have given me a strong taste of “enjoy-it-while-it-lasts-itis.” I have to balance myself carefully between making the most of the here and now and preparing for the future.
It’s no secret that I hope to find work outside of Illinois. I feel like it’s time for the next big adventure in life. Because of that, I’ve been spending a lot of time researching locations that I’d like to live at or near. I’ll follow the job offers wherever they take me, but it’s also nice to stay educated on where you could end up. Because of that, I’m putting together a checklist of things a college student should consider when looking into new places to reside.
- First and foremost, cost of living. What will you be getting paid to work in the region you’d be working in? Can you afford to survive in that area? Could you get the same pay in an area with a lower cost of living? Remember, any money you don’t spend on your necessities can be put toward paying off student loans and car loans. (That is, if you have student loans and car payments to worry about. I do, but I know not everyone else does.)
- Resources. For me, I need a good balance of rural and urban. I like knowing I have the resources of a large city (hospitals, nightlife, activities, travel accessibility) with ready access to a rural setting. Living in the Chicago suburbs and Sacramento has shown me that I can do well in a more urban setting, but I need dirt roads and open spaces to sooth the soul every now and then.
- Support base. If you pick up and move somewhere else, will you have the moral support to make that place home? Starting a new life in a new place can be difficult and emotional. This moral support can come from people in the physical area, friend and family back home, or even people who live elsewhere. I’m lucky enough to know that I can move just about anywhere in North America and have someone close enough to visit on a weekend trip or spend a holiday with. At the same time, I have a few close friends and a large family here in Illinois that will do whatever they can to help me, as well as friends all over the continent to offer support via long-distance communication.
- Climate. Chicago is known for some unpredictable weather, and Sacramento is known for its consistent and fairly mild weather (albeit dry and hot). You have to have a good understanding of what weather to expect, and how to prepare for it. Some people don’t do well in heat, so moving south would be less appealing, whereas some folks hate the winter, so vice versa. This may influence more than just your wardrobe, too. Home decor (blankets, rugs, mudrooms…) may vary, as well as your choice in automobile.
- How strong is the industry you’re going into in the area you’re moving to? I’m lucky; agriculture is virtually everywhere. Just about any major city in the U.S. has some sort of agricultural tie, whether it’s through a state or national organization, an agency, or a large company. Indirectly parallel to this point is also the question of the local economy. How strong are other industries in that area? A strong economy means that an area will be a more stable place to live.
- How long do you plan on living in this area? Is it a “just for now” situation or are you looking for a place to put down roots? While I plan on playing it by ear, I would be happy either way. I have a lot of energy left for adventures, but I also would not mind finding a place where I “belong.” While I have some locations in mind for my post-college plans, some of them would be short-term (a few years) and some hold potential to become a real, lasting home. (At least, I think so right now. Plans can always change!)
- How far from home are you planning on really going? Do you want to be able to come home for a weekend, or are you willing to take a flight to visit? Think about the occasions on which you’d choose to return home. If you plan on going home often, are you willing to pay for that much travel? This can change depending on how close you are with family and friends back home, whether or not you’re in a relationship, and your ability to adapt to new places.
- How similar or different from home is this new place? Do you want to completely change gears and kick up a new lifestyle? Or would you rather have touches of home here and there? Or maybe you want to move somewhere that is exactly like home, except a few hundred miles away. These are all factors that can influence the way you feel about your setting.
So, these obviously aren’t the only things to consider. The job itself that you would be relocating for is a big factor in your success in that area, obviously, and there are a million-and-one things to weigh about that decision. Pay, benefits, company culture, work environment, the work you’d be doing…but this list is just meant for considering cities. As I move forward considering where to send resumes and places to potentially visit over winter and spring breaks, I have considered location as a big factor of the decision-making process.
What are other things for blossoming professionals (or even seasoned pros) to consider before a relocation? Share some of your experiences with moving or drastically changing lifestyles. As someone who looks to be moving within the year, what advice or suggestions can you offer me, and other students who may be in similar situations? Your feedback in appreciated!
Also, if you have not checked it out, please read my giveaway post here. The idea is to open doors of dialogue surrounding World Food Day, which was yesterday. The day may be over but world hunger is never-ending, so let’s use whatever forums we can to share ideas!