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New Year, New City? How to Land a Nonprofit Job Once You Move

A woman works at a laptop on the floor.

In an age where “location independent” lifestyles are glamorized and enabled by ever-changing technologies, many people feel empowered to switch up their environs. However, unless you have one of those niche jobs where you can work remotely 100% of the time, it is still a huge undertaking to pick up and try out a new place.

While Uber and your other favorite apps will be just as helpful there, your well-built, comfortable network of friends and colleagues may not travel as easily. Luckily you will meet new community members, networks, and opportunities that make it all worth it! If you are ready to hop a ride to a new city, you may find these tips good guidelines for how to hit the ground running in a new place.

I come to this as a huge cheerleader for those whose instinct or daring is telling them it’s time to check out a new town and set out for unknown territory. Having moved to a city I’d never visited before a few years ago, I know exactly how terrifying and thrilling it can be to take that leap – and I would do it again (I’m actually on the move again right now). I believe that taking the risk to make new friends, connections, and projects happen in new places helps you see important sides of yourself that staying in the same place may never allow.

As a self-proclaimed “common-good careerist” I am also aware of the intense financial and logistical challenges those in the nonprofit field face when making such transitions. I had very little personal savings and few friendships or connections in my new home to fall back upon, which often led to feelings of isolation and vulnerability. Yet the resourcefulness and resilience I found within myself from facing those challenges made those downsides passing discomforts. Here are some things to think about before making the switch.

Have a good “safety net” plan. Odds are if you’re moving to a city with a population of 300,000+ people you already know a few folks there through your connections. Search your social and professional networks to see who you might be able to get to know in a new place and let them know about your plans. I found it equally important to let my closest friends and colleagues know that I might be in need of a safety net in the near future. Moving to a new city can be extremely daunting and lonely and I was so glad I’d let my people know that I might need to Skype or call more often than usual. For me, there’s little more calming than an hour talking with an old friend, so that was what I turned to when things got overwhelming. Reflect on what makes you feel most secure and calm and make sure you set yourself up to have those things/people when you need them.

Decide how picky you are going to be about your first job in a new place. Trying to get a new job and also start in the new place can be challenging as you may not have the local connections to people and organizations that potential employers may be familiar with. If you have a background in Development but are looking to go into Communications, decide if you have the time and money to hold out for that ideal position to come up. Or, assess whether you can invest a year or two figuring out the lay of the land in the position you look more qualified for on paper. I actually took on part-time work in a coffee shop for six months before taking a full-time role that would fulfill my career goals. It was a great way to get to know my neighborhood and meet new people!

Learn as much as you can about the new place before getting there. Doing your homework before landing somewhere will save you a lot of grief. Browse through Idealist postings and Craigslist rentals to get a sense of the employment situation there and which neighborhoods best fit your style and budget. I remember talking on the phone with a friend of a friend who lived where I was moving and she pointed me towards some great areas, activities, and opportunities. It’ll make it that much easier to hit the ground running when you arrive.

Meet new people, then meet more. People make the place and since you’re looking to find new housing, get a new job, and make new friends, put yourself out there constantly.

All sorts of in-person events exist and I found it best to be open about being new to the area and talking about things I was looking for. A best practice is to decide how many hours a week you want to put yourself out there. I actively enjoy meeting new people and reaching out, so 10-15 hours a week was my sweet spot, but consider how much personal energy you have for the process and make your own call.

My way of filling my “new people” calendar is searching through Meetup, community calendars, and adding Facebook pages from local organizations to be notified of upcoming events. My personal favorite – typing “free + [city you’re in] + [date/month of activities into a search engine] + events” into a search engine (e.g. Googling “free Boston October 2015 events”).

Reach out to the local Alumni network. This is a brief last suggestion, but if you are fortunate enough to have an active Alumni network where you are moving, definitely utilize it. Having an alma mater in common with new people can really help boost your professional and personal relationship building.

I hope that these suggestions help with the transition and embolden some of you to embrace change and try out that new location you have in mind! If you find that you like the challenge and rewards of new places it can be an important feature of your career and can even help you have great experiences overseas. I’m always happy to talk through my experiences and learn about yours!

About the Author: Amy Wipfler is a Rider Services Coordinator at Zagster, a bike-sharing initiative in Cambridge, MA. A commongood careerist at heart, she loves working to get more people biking and building community. When she's not talking to someone new over coffee, Amy can be found planning a new set of travels, checking out art shows, or enjoying the internet rabbit-holes of Idealist or Feministing. Feel free to contact her

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