A degree can be a ticket out of the old hometown, but do just a little more homework before you leap.
You've done it. You have a four-year degree in your hand, and you've emerged on the other side of the Great Recession intact. Now what? You must get a job. But if your hometown isn't cutting it, you should expand your horizons. After all, the world is your oyster. But how do you determine where to move to?
Go where the jobs are: That seems like a no-brainer, right? Sure, finding out where the boys/girls are is more fun, but it won't make you any money. Indeed.com has several great tools for figuring out where the jobs are. Under the "Trends" tab, check out "Job Postings Per Capita." You'll discover that Los Angeles has only 33 jobs per capita compared with the less glamorous city of San Jose, which has 175 jobs per capita. From there, you can check out your field under "Industry Employment Trends." You'll see that postings for jobs in "Media" have risen by 9 percent this year, and that the top locations are in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.
Indeed.com gets some of these figures from the United States Department of Labor, which publishes a great resource for all job hunters. The Occupational Outlook Handbook covers every field, including health care, legal and computer technology. You can see what the average income is, and what the projected overall hiring rate will be in the next 10 years. (Obscure fact: The need for athletic trainers will rise by 30 percent between 2010 and 2020. Who knew?)
Go somewhere affordable: It's possible that the top locations for your chosen career path are places like New York or L.A., but those certainly aren't the cheapest or most livable cities. That's why you'll also need to have handy the "Places Rated Almanac." The series, which is available at Barnes & Noble (for $2.99 used), has been publishing for 25-plus years and gets into the nitty-gritty of major and minor metropolitan areas. The book takes into consideration a multitude of factors like housing, crime, weather, population, growth, climate and recreation, as well as the entirely subjective but usually overlooked category of "ambience."
Another book to help guide you with your choice is "Cities Ranked & Rated" (a cheap 30 cents used) from Barnes & Noble. The paperback covers the 45 fastest-growing U.S. cities, as well as those in Canada.
Because cities change swiftly, we recommend comparing the information in the above books with data found on websites like Forbes.com, which recently published the ever-handy guide to "America's Best Cities for Young Professionals." (No. 1: Des Moines.)
Get schooled in your place of choice: Once you've figured out where you are going, pick up a few books to get you situated in your new city of choice. As always, a local's perspective is the best option. Guides called the "Newcomer's Handbook" are available for all major metropolitan areas and cover the terrain in minute detail, breaking down various neighborhoods, education, crime statistics, the type of people who inhabit the neighborhood and more. So if you're considering moving to Seattle, for instance, check out the "Newcomer's Handbook for Moving to and Living in Seattle: Including Bellevue, Redmond, Everett, and Tacoma" ($16.47) at Amazon. And if you can't find a specific guide for moving, pick up a travel book to help you get the lay of the land.
If you're moving to a place as overwhelming as the Big Apple, you'll need a lot of help. Most people are shocked and unprepared when they show up at apartment viewings and are faced with the concept of the New York City "broker fee," which can be up to 20 percent of the year's rent. Barnes & Noble carries "Relocating to New York City and the Surrounding Areas" ($14.88), which covers all that and more with maps and statistics galore, giving you an inside scoop on the different neighborhoods and breaking down what you can expect to pay for an apartment in Manhattan proper. It's not pretty: Be ready to part with more than $2,000 a month for a small closet, otherwise known as a studio.