The best small town jobs and the best towns to live are?
When you decide the best small town jobs, keep in mind that if you get a call from another place, then take the plunge! It can have a significant effect on your happiness where you live and if your present city does not suit your needs, then leave. When you are young, it’s a lot easier to make that move for town jobs.
It’s the quintessential American story: an old car is packed up by a small-town guy or girl and heads west or east to follow their fortune. Some Americans have often preferred to move somewhere new without first seeking a career, from 19th century settlers to modern-day families searching for a lower cost of living.
In 2009, David Weliver, founder of MU30, planned to move to Portland, Maine (see below). Of course, this happens in the midst of the worst economic crisis in decades that our country has experienced. Nine years later, the labor market is getting stronger and incomes are rising. What about today, then? Is it a smart idea to pick a place before you find a job?
I interviewed three friends from diverse backgrounds who have made big moves in recent years, to get the pros and cons as well as practical advice. Read their stories and learn how your own relocation can be successfully executed using their guides.
David Weliver: Did not go for the best small town jobs but for family
It didn’t surprise my wife and I or any of Portland’s other 64,000 denizens when Forbes declared Portland, Maine, the most livable city in America this year. With a low cost of living, fantastic culture and dining (we were also called the “foodiest small town” of Bon Appetite), and convenient access to the ocean and mountains, freaking Portland rocks.
The only big thing missing in Portland for well-educated, ambitious young people? An array of opportunities for employment.
It’s difficult to find a job anywhere in this economy, but it’s always been difficult here. Particularly for college grads who want a professional career. It is not as difficult to get a retail or service gig here in town, but there are few and far between higher-paying jobs.
We had a decision to make when my wife graduated from law school here a couple of years ago. We weren’t married yet, and I lived in the comparatively employment-rich suburbs of Boston, two hours south. In Massachusetts, we could live. In publishing, I will continue my career and my wife will have plenty of work opportunities to choose from.
Or I’ll be able to move to Maine. Thanks to their law school networks, my wife had job opportunities. But I’d have to quit a job with the possibility of never getting a job again in my profession.
I relocated, as you already know, to Portland. We decided that our quality of life was more important to us when it came down to it than what we did for a living. That’s not to say that career is not important to us; we are both ambitious and very proud of our employment. We just wanted to live here in Maine for real.
Karla Markwardt: For town jobs across and back again to the country
Karla grew up in Wisconsin and has more than once adopted the approach of “location first, then job.” Overall, she says, “If I don’t love the town jobs I have, and I’m not in a committed relationship, I’m always interested in moving somewhere new.” Hence, she describes her key reasons for choosing a new location as restlessness, a breakup, and/or job dissatisfaction.
As she left home to attend Temple University, Philadelphia was Karla’s first major step. She says she only applied to colleges on the East Coast because she wanted to get away from the Midwest. Karla found herself longing to return to the center of the country after graduating with a degree in Finance and spending several years living and working in the Philly region. She wanted to stay in a big city, so before searching for a town jobs, she chose Chicago and moved there. Karla wished to experience life on the West Coast many years back. A friend from Philly was about to move to Seattle, so she was followed there by Karla.
Kelly Broxton: From West Coast to East for town jobs
Kelly grew up in California’s Bay Area and was living as an adult in Seattle when she decided to move across the country. She says, “I was attracted to the East Coast because I had spent my entire life on the West Coast and liked the idea of living in a place with tons of greenery and real seasons.” Plus, “I wanted my (at the time) one-year-old son to be a stay-at-home mom, and then later my daughter.” For just one salary, the price of living in Seattle was way too high, so we decided to move somewhere that could work. And… I was looking forward to a fresh start with my new family in a new place.
Hillsborough, NC, a small town between Chapel Hill and Durham, ended up becoming the new spot. “The decision-making process of Kelly combined personal preferences, family history, and events: “I come from advanced fields and politics is important to me, so I wanted to find a place that was also very liberal, ideally close to a college town. Since my parents attended and met there and I’d visited a few times, I was a little familiar with the area around UNC Chapel Hill. Also, in Winston-Salem are my aunt and uncle. So we ended up in Hillsborough, not because it was our first choice, but simply because it was the nearest town to UNC Chapel Hill, where after applying for a job my husband was working, where we could find a nice house for the amount of money we were able to put down and good public schools.
How to choose a location first for town jobs
The stories of Karla and Kelly remind us that most location choices aren’t entirely random. His wife studied law in Maine in the case of David and they decided to settle down.
Karla has always wanted to live in different places, and she has the freedom to pick up and travel whenever she gets the itch, because she doesn’t have a spouse or children.
For Kelly, family background and the involvement of relatives in North Carolina helped her zero in on the state; Her husband’s work offer cemented his choice of area. In the sense of major life changes, such as going to or graduating from college/grad school, beginning a family, or moving on after the breakup of a relationship, these movements can also be seen.
Here are some guiding questions if you are in a similar situation and considering a location-motivated move:
- In any other states or towns, do you have friends or family? It will make you feel less alone in your new town and know only one guy, even an acquaintance or a distant relative.
- How portable is that profession for you? In small-town jobs Maine, David knew he probably would not find a similar publishing career. Similarly, before moving, Kelly gave up her position as Digital Marketing Manager at Starbucks’ Entertainment Department, but she was able to work for the company remotely in a part-time, one-year contract after she arrived in Hillsborough. For Karla, in any major city, finance and business jobs are fairly easy to find. Currently, she is an account manager at Trupanion, a pet health insurance firm.
- What else would you do if your town jobs isn’t portable? David worked and developed his blogging company in a coffee shop. Via Rover, Karla gained money as a dog walker and pet sitter while looking for a full-time job. While looking for a permanent position, the friend who moved with her to Seattle took a temp job at a university. Kelly ‘upsold’ things she found on eBay and Poshmark in local thrift stores and started an online screen printing company, Cheeky Moon Shop, where she sells politically radical t-shirts and tank tops.
- What are your personal location preferences? Kelly mentioned wanting to live in a four-season liberal town, Karla prefers to stay in big cities, and David mentioned Portland, Maine’s low cost-of-living and foodie choices. Create a list of the attributes and do some study that you want to find in your new town. You could end up with more alternatives than you would have found on your own.
Financial considerations when you move without a town jobs
All moves are in some ways costly, but moving to a new state or city without a listed city jobs can be extremely difficult in your bank account. Take advance stock of your finances and figure out how you’re going to pay for the month or two for the transfer itself as well as living expenses (this is how long it took Karla to find full-time jobs in Chicago and Seattle, respectively) it takes to find something permanent.
Property that you can sell:
Do you own equity house? A car that you’re not going to use or want to drive to your new home? Sell everything you can in advance to create an inventory of cash for your transfer, from these big-ticket items to smaller possessions like clothing, books, and furniture. The benefit of selling stuff is that you won’t have to pay to transport them, although you will still have to spend cash furnishing your new place.
Liquidate accounts for savings, investments, or retirement.
Karla says that to fund her relocation to Seattle, she cashed out her retirement account. From a personal finance viewpoint, this is not always the right choice, but if you’re willing to move and this is your key resource, it could be a good option.
Look for a moving service which is lower-cost.
In fact, Kelly is the person who turned me to the PODS that my husband and I used to move from North Carolina to Pennsylvania. It’s cheaper than a full-service moving business, because you can load and unload your own things. A similar self-service experience is provided by other firms. And the option of renting your own truck or trailer, a la U-Haul, is still there, of course. In the event that you are not able to unpack as soon as your belongings reach your destination, these companies also have storage.
Live with roommates:
Karla now has her own apartment, but at first she sub-locates a room with roommates. Living with others will keep your operating costs down and allow you to make friends and lead yourself to your new town.
Are you in need of a car?
You will escape the cost of maintaining a car if you switch to a community with excellent public transportation or biking facilities.
Stick to a budget:
Leave space in your financial plan for the unforeseen costs that eventually follow a transfer. And stick to it once you build a budget. Karla understands the need to visit and usually spend more cash while you are new to a city and not working full-time. However, if you do not bring yourself into debt or at least hold it to a minimum, you’ll be better off in the long-term.
If you’re going to use credit cards, you already know that at the end of the month you shouldn’t rack up charges that you can’t pay back. Nonetheless, many individuals do it anyway, especially in times of change such as moving or temporary unemployment. Be smart about it if this is you, and pick from our best 2018 credit cards. You want to make sure that you at least get something out of the use of your credit card, including a low interest rate to cash back and rewards.
Reasons to find a job first
Although David, Karla, and Kelly eventually worked out the “leap before you look” method, there are still strong cases to be made in favor of searching for a job first.
- If you get a work offer in another area, you might be able to land a relocation stipend. This happened to my family when, shortly after our first child was born, my husband accepted a new job in North Carolina. Every last cent of our transfer from Philadelphia was not compensated by the stipend, but it definitely lowered the cost by a lot. A year later, when we wanted to move back to PA, we had to pay the moving costs on our own.
- Housing is another justification for first securing jobs, as landlords may be hesitant to rent to someone new to the city and who does not yet have a job.
- The smarter path is probably to find a job first, and it will still encourage you to move to the area of your choosing. Work searching from afar, however, can be hard and some businesses may be reluctant to contact a person who is not yet living in the region. By reaching out to people on LinkedIn and trying to create a professional network before you travel, you can begin your job search remotely.
Overall, I can think of a lot of other people I’ve met who’ve moved at least once in their lives without a career, and they’ve all finally landed on their feet. You can make things work if you can manage ambiguity.
When I asked Karla if she had any regrets about her different movements, she said she never felt guilty that she was doing anything new. The parting advice from Kelly is to “figure out your priorities and plan accordingly, not only at this moment but in the long term.”
If your priority is, as it was for me, to be with your children while they are young, do it. Select a place in which you can find work, but also one that fits your cultural and aesthetic preferences.
Have you ever changed without first seeking a job? In the comments, share your insights and advice.