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Deciding Where to Live and Work

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A woman sits on a wall looking out at a city.

Maybe you just graduated and are looking for your first social-impact gig, or perhaps you’re trying to find a job in a city where you’ll want to settle down longterm. Some people always know where they belong, but for the rest of us, it can be difficult to decide where we want to live and work.

Big cities have their appeal, but often come with higher price tags. And while smaller towns present more affordable living options, the nonprofit job market can be sparse.

The world is a big place, with every corner offering different pros and cons. If you’re unsure where to start your job hunt, read on for tips about deciding where to live and work:

Best places to work

It seems as though we’re often inundated with new lists telling us the top places to live and work. Though you shouldn’t make a decision based solely on what you read in a ranking, these lists can often be great places to start.


  • Zippia recently published a list of the best states to find a nonprofit job. They looked at the number of nonprofits in a given state, the number of people employed at nonprofits, and the unemployment rate. The top five on their list: New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Vermont.

Wallet Hub

Where should I apply?

Select your favorite potential-locations from the lists above as well as conducting additional research, considering affordability, diversity, education, and other qualifiers.

Pro Tip: If you’re interested in living somewhere walkable, try Walk Score, an apartment rental site that measures cities based on pedestrian access.

Even if your move isn’t a done deal, it doesn’t hurt to highlight your interest in relocating if you’re applying for an out-of-state position. Be specific if you can, and state why you’d like to relocate and, if you have the info, when you’ll arrive in your new locale.

Knowing what cities or states you're considering can also help to direct your networking efforts. Once you have selected your top locations, research local nonprofit associations and groups for opportunities to connect with folks on the ground. Don’t forget to scour social media to see if you already have a connection or two in your dream city.

Pro Tip: For more ideas on searching for jobs from far away, check out How I Landed a Job From 3,000 Miles Away and 5 Creative Ways to Use Social Media to Find Your Dream Job.

How do I decide?

Best case scenario, you’ve got more than one offer and you get to decide where you want to move. What a nice problem to have!

Having relocated for work on quite a few occasions, I can tell you that what matters most is how rewarding your gig is and how happy your community makes you. Whether you live in New York City or Duncan, Oklahoma, if you love what you do as well as the people in your community, you’ve made the right decision.

But of course, it can be hard to know how it’s all going to gel before you make the move. To weigh the pros and cons of various locations and job offers, ask yourself these questions:

Is this the best decision for my career?

  • Think about the potential growth opportunities, both within the organization and within the field or city.
  • Consider what you will learn and what skills you’ll be able to add to your resume.

How far will my new salary go?

  • With cost of living differences, the reality is that a $40,000 salary will go a lot further in a small midwestern town than a large east or west coast city. There are tons of salary calculators online where you can compare cost of living between locations and even calculate the value of your benefits.

What about quality of life?

  • Will I be spending an hour each morning commuting to work?
  • Are there things I like to do or groups I'd like to seek out (hobbies, sports, religious communities, outdoor enthusiasts, etc.) in my proposed city?

Will my family and I be happy?

  • If it’s not just you moving, it’s important to take into account the happiness and potential success for partners and kids.

For more questions to ask before you make a decision about relocation, check out our quiz, In Which Small City Should You Start Your Social-Impact Career.

Once you have made your decision, that's where the real fun begins! Time to pack up your belongings and get ready for your new life. And no matter which direction you're headed, trust that it's the right one!


About the Author | Samantha Fredrickson has worked in communications and nonprofit advocacy for more than a decade. She has spent much of her career advocating for the rights of vulnerable populations. She has degrees from the University of Nevada, Reno and New York Law School.

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