After dedicating years to completing your college education, landing your first job after graduation is a notable milestone. Finding a role that aligns with your degree and desired career path is ideal, but a factor that’s not often considered is the importance of where your first job is located. As a recent graduate, you may have always dreamt of building your career in a bustling metropolitan area like Los Angeles or New York—although California’s population has declined in the last five years, in part due to the pandemic. Moving to a larger city comes with its share of pros and cons. Before accepting a job offer as a new grad, you should learn how the job’s location can affect your finances later in adulthood and keep these five considerations in mind.
1. Cost of living
Moving out of your family home means taking on significant financial responsibilities. These expenses—including housing, transportation, and groceries—will vary by location. If your first job is in a popular housing market like New York County, expect to allot most of your budget toward rent. The latest Census data found that the median gross rent in New York County is $1,740 per month. Rent in Los Angeles County isn’t far behind at $1,460 per month. These figures are a considerable jump from the national median of $1,062.
What to do: If you’re determined to live in an expensive area due to a lifestyle preference or a potential job opportunity, look for affordable housing options. Searching for another young professional to share an apartment and split costs with, for example, is a great option for recent graduates. Remember, this living situation can be temporary until you’ve saved enough money to rent your own place.
2. Opportunities in your industry
Another factor to weigh is whether your location of interest has a healthy job market within your field or industry. Being eager to take the first job that extends you an offer is normal. However, you’ll want to assess whether there are a good number of employers within the area. This thoughtfulness comes in handy if your first job falls through or when you’re ready to move on, because you’ve already vetted the area for potential employers and future prospects.
What to do: Think about the top three companies you’d like to work for and research their headquarters or office locations. Based on this list, search for their industry competitors and their locations to see which cities have overlap. Tools like Indeed or LinkedIn can help with this research. Consider focusing your job search on the cities with the most employers in your field so you can continuously move up or laterally within your new career.
3. Job market competition
While looking for an entry-level position in a big city might seem like a great idea, you may want to think again. Settling in a location that has an abundance of entry-level professionals in your field can actually work against your earnings. Companies are more likely to offer competitive starting salaries when there’s a sparse employee pool to choose from to attract talent to the area.
What to do: With your potential cost-of-living expenses in mind, research the average starting salary for entry-level workers in the area. Then decide how much money you need to earn to sustain the lifestyle you would want to have in that city.
4. Ability to repay your student debt
In addition to new monthly bills, you’ll likely need to start repaying your student loan debt six months after graduation. Living in an expensive city can result in falling behind on bills or your loan repayment goals—and falling into default with your students loans will only dig you into a deeper financial hole.
What to do: Search for remote positions with companies that have headquarters in expensive cities. A remote job gives you the flexibility to live in a low-cost area while repaying your student loans. After paying off a considerable amount of student debt, ask your company if you can transfer to its headquarters so you ultimately live in your preferred location.
5. Networking exposure
The earliest years of your career are an opportunity to build connections and network with others in your industry. Throughout your career, it’s these lasting relationships that can invite professional advancements, future job referrals, and more opportunities for a successful financial future.
What to do: If you have a potential first job lined up, see whether the area has local professional associations or groups that you can join—or if there’s any alumni from your college living in that area. Also consider vetting each organization to see who else is a member. Networking can be a lucrative way to find a professional mentor.
Where you work can sometimes be just as important as the job you get. As you’re conducting the postgrad job search, be sure to consider all your options carefully. Location, field, and position are all important parts of landing a job that’ll feel fulfilling both personally and financially.
Check out other great career and financial advice with the blogs and articles in our Internships and Careers section.