By Marnie McGuire
It seems like more and more people these days are anxious to make a change in their life. For some, a new hobby, class to broaden a skillset, or vacation is just the ticket. For others, the change they crave is bigger. They decide to move away to a new place; perhaps for a job, to foster a long-distance relationship, to their hometown to start a family, or simply for the challenge that a new city brings with it. Regardless of the why, making a change in your life, specifically deciding to move away and start over, can be scary, exciting, a test of strength, and the perfect opportunity to learn about yourself.
Last fall, I picked up my life in Chicago and moved to Grand Rapids. Now, granted, I know this isn’t that big of a move (especially when you compare it to cross-country, international, or transitioning from a small town to big city), and having lived on my own in Chicago for nearly 5 years made me into a fiercely independent woman, and still it was terrifying to move to a new place without a job, close friends or any clue about what I was going to do with my life. But I had come to the point where, despite my love for my friends, family, and job in Chicago, my life felt stale. I wasn’t growing. My career wasn’t going anywhere and it grew increasingly challenging to find a niche for myself amongst a dense and competitive workforce. I was sick of keeping up with the restaurant and bar scene. Everything was expensive. It finally dawned on me that it was time to shake things up and give life a go in West Michigan, a destination I had visited a few times for vacation but realized might also be a fun place to live.
Looking back on my experience, I am beyond thankful for the outpour of advice, albeit some unsolicited that helped get me to where I am today. Wherever you’re headed next, here are five tips from my own journey to help you navigate moving away and starting over.
1.Make sure you’re moving for the right reason
Have you dug down deep and truly asked yourself why you want to move? Is it because you’re running away from something? Or because you feel lonely where you are? Ever hear the quote “Wherever you go, there you are”? Yea… it’s true. No one can dictate the right or wrong reason for you to move; that’s something you have to honestly ask and honestly answer for yourself.
2. Save money
I can’t stress it enough...save save save! Not only will you have to deal with the hard costs of moving and a hefty rent deposit or a down payment on a home, but you’ll find you need cups and cups of coffee, bottles of “I’m feeling homesick and miss my friends” wine, take-out food, and new things to help your new house or apartment start to feel like home. And then once you are physically settled, the real challenge of moving to a new city sets in, and you need to get out and do things and meet people and start to feel like part of your community. And then, when you start missing people or realize you have a wedding coming up that you have to travel to, you’ll wish you had a bit more saved. I moved to Grand Rapids without a full-time job which added a bit of a strain, especially considering all these things I wanted to do, and in retrospect, I would have saved up a bit more so I didn’t feel so stressed. Alas, hindsight is 20/20.
3. Tell anyone and everyone that you’re moving or that you’re new in town
Most people have a huge sense of pride about where they live, and they want to share it with newcomers. If you’re new to town, or will be moving shortly, tell anyone you meet! You will be surprised how excited people get to hear that you’ve chosen their city as your new home. And an added bonus is that you might even find a job this way. That’s what happened to me… I was sitting at Founders Brewing a few months before I moved to town, and began talking with a woman. It turned out she knew a lot of people in the nonprofit community, specifically at organizations that were in the heart of downtown which would allow me to meet a lot of people in the community and would be fun places to work, and she offered to forward my resume to the woman who is now my boss. She was so helpful in sending over job leads, contacts, and general advice about the job search process, and it all started over some beers and conversation as strangers.
4. Networking is key
I know this is a hard one for introverts, and for some, the concept of networking is just awful, but this kind of goes hand-in-hand with #3. Put yourself in situations where you can meet people, especially people other than your tight-knit friends and family. If you’ve ever read The Defining Decade by Dr. Meg Jay, you’ll remember she hammers the point, “Try to network with people outside your social circle, since most people's circles are narrow and homogeneous (and become more so with age). It's the connections you least expect that lead to the most interesting jobs -- and relationships.” Networking groups, like YNPN-GR, sports leagues, new business or store openings, or really anything you truly enjoy doing are all great opportunities for networking and meeting new friends.
5. Job search outside your comfort zone
Unless you’re moving somewhere for a new job, you will have to jump right into your job search. I found that being in a new city where no one knew me was a great opportunity to explore career paths outside of my comfort zone and experience. I got the chance to completely start over and learn about new skills and job responsibilities that I ended up really enjoying. My background up to this point was a weird mix of marketing, community outreach, sales and operational support, revenue optimization, promotions, and communications. I never in my life thought that this “weird mix” would be a perfect combination for a fundraising career!
Marnie is the Manager of Corporate Partnerships and Fundraising Events at the Grand Rapids Art Museum and is a true believer in work life balance… after all, happy humans are happy employees! Find her at The Winchester more often than not, or connect with her on LinkedIn.