Diploma Diaries: Not My First-Choice City

By Managing Editor Kara Apel

It’s hard enough finding a job these days, let alone in the city that we want.

If we’re lucky enough to even find a job in our chosen field, we may find ourselves having to move to city that is either less than ideal or a place where we don’t know a soul.

As someone who moved to a city where I didn’t know a single person, I can relate. While it was a little hard at first — having spent more than one Friday night at home without plans — I made myself go outside my comfort zone to meet new people and eventually started to enjoy my new life.

Want to enjoy your new life, too? Here are some steps you can take to turn any new city into a home:

1. Get Out There and Make Some Friends

Having friends to do things with makes everything a little easier when you’re adjusting to life in a new city.

Your first step is to try to get to know people at your workplace. Does everyone go to happy hour every Friday? Is there an office softball team? Figure out what the office protocol is and get involved. Making friends in my workplace really helped me adjust to the transition because I found people I could really relate to.

Check out your Facebook network and see if you know anyone who lives in the area. If you find someone who you’re not close with, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask him or her if they’d like to go to lunch or coffee. I’ve become good friends with a friend of a friend from college who lives in my city. I was nervous to reach out at first, but I’m glad I did!

Joining organizations in your area or volunteering is also a great way to make friends. Since you have a common interest, it’s a lot easier to find something to talk about. No matter what kind of organization — religious, professional, etc. — always have a smile and a handshake ready.

No matter what, always be willing to say hello and reach out, no matter where you are. You never know … your new best friend could be just around the corner!

2. Explore Your Surroundings

Pretend you’re a tourist — and don’t be afraid to ask questions! Everyone from co-workers to your hair stylist will have recommendations on what to do and where to go, it’s just a matter of taking the time to ask.

Find out what makes your new city tick and what makes it unique. Even a small city or town will have some interesting things going on — it’s just a matter of you taking the time and energy to explore.

I live in a smaller metro area, but there are so many festivals that happen throughout the year. All I really needed was a wingwoman to go with me to try them out (see the first tip above!).

Once you’re done exploring your city, take a road trip to explore the cities around you as well.

Are there any possible fun day or weekend trips that you could take? Something that helped me adjust was going to the beach for the weekend with friends who lived in that area. Those trips helped keep me sane when I was first starting out.

3. Make the Best of It

There is no need to constantly project negative energy into the world just because you aren’t happy. So why not make the best of your time while you’re there?

I’m still in my early 20s and I’ve heard these are supposed to be some of the most fun years of our lives. Why would you want to waste such a fun and important time in your life being unhappy? Accept it and move on.

Yes, you can probably start planning for the day when you can happily vacate the town you feel stuck in, but why not first give it a try before completely writing it off?

Feeling homesick? We all do at first.

While there is nothing you can really do about that feeling unless you live close enough to drive home for a weekend, plan a trip back to your hometown or maybe see if your family would be willing to drive and meet you halfway. When you have a trip to look forward to, it makes the time fly by.

My family trips keep me happy and always perk me up. And it’s always fun to get a little spoiled by Mom and Dad!

4. Take Steps to Get to Where you Want to Be

If you are truly unhappy, focus on doing what you need to do to move on. If you want to be able to find a job elsewhere, that means you need to do stellar work at your current job. Set goals and work to achieve them. Give your boss every reason to want to support you in moving on.

Also try to find additional opportunities outside of work in your field that would also look good on a resume. Anything you can do to add to your skill set will give you a leg up on the competition when you’re searching for a new job down the road.

If you can’t afford to be in the city of your dreams quite yet, start saving up cash so that you eventually can. For every dollar you put into your account, remind yourself that this is going toward your dream job.

When it comes to getting used to a new city, it takes time, a lot of patience and optimistic thinking. But if you work hard at the tips above, you’ll proudly be calling it your home before you realize it.

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