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You found us! How to use this blog

28 Feb

Updates, May 2012:
Welcome, new readers! We are growing daily and so happy to have you here. 
Have you found our Facebook and Twitter yet? Join the conversation, meet other newcomers, ask us anything!

This is, the definitive guide to moving to New York City as a young professional. We give a running start to the thousands of twentysomethings who move to the city each month, many of whom are unsure how this whole thing is gonna turn out. We’re here to tell you the truth about NYC: It’s not impenetrable, impossible, prohibitively expensive, or too much of a pipe dream to really do it.

Yes, life in NYC is challenging, but if you hold tight to the gratitude and allure you felt in those first few months, it will stay with you for years. There’s too much to appreciate to be jaded.

Sarah Protzman Howlett, founder of

In these pages, you’ll find nearly everything you need to get started on your new life in NYC, including how to prepare before you even land. Via the search and categories at right, you can read about how to apartment hunt, how to navigate public transit, and how to spend wisely while you’re having funfun, fun! Most of our readers spend a lot of time on this site, devouring the posts and bookmarking them for future reference. We hope you’ll do the same! Now, for the FAQ:

I’m trying to get a job in NYC before I move. Why isn’t anyone hiring me?
Usually because of the sheer number of capable people already living here. It’s hard, but not impossible, to get the attention of a company from, say, Georgia, when there’s an equally qualified person, resume-wise, two subway stops away. Having said that, don’t give up contacting companies in the city, and remember that your network is always bigger than you think. Better yet, fly out for a week of informational interviews and networking events. If you take the leap and move without a job, consider temping — maybe working in the afternoons or evenings while you go on interviews in the mornings would work for you.

How much money should I save before I move?
As you can imagine, there’s no definitive number — but I usually ballpark it at around $3,000. If you have a roommate or two or three, there’s no reason this amount shouldn’t last you at least a couple months, food and PBR included. Even if the New York dream is just a glimmer in your eye at this point, start socking away $20 a week; it’ll buy you precious flexibility and peaceful sleep once you’re here.

Can I afford to live alone? Roommates are soooooo freshman year. 
Not if rent would have you treading at or near the 45%-of-your-income mark. A cool life is way more satisfying than a cool apartment, I promise. Part of the New York adventure is meeting new folks. Move in with someone you don’t know — tiny apartments and bff’s don’t mix — via rooms/shares on Craigslist. Open houses will make your head spin, but you’ll find something right for you. Not to mention they’ll give you great stories to tell.

I have expensive taste and a huge sense of entitlement. Will I survive in this booming metropolis of temptation?

What’s it like to date in Manhattan?
Educational. Bottom line is, you’ll have good dates and bad, but there are great people out there, and it’s important to meet a wide swath of people. You’ll see new places and experience haunts you never would’ve found on your own. And remember, almost everything is funny in hindsight.

Should I send you my own experiences, thoughts or tips?
Yes! Join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter, and email me at


Interviewing in NYC? Be expensive but worth it

17 Mar

“You know, Aaron* didn’t negotiate at all, and he should’ve. He’s got more experience than you.” —my former boss in NYC, upon completion of my salary negotiation

Many young people new to the professional world, especially women, are timid about naming our price. But you’ll earn more money in 10 minutes of salary negotiation than in three years of cost-of-living increases. So buck up.

In a city like New York, where a raise can be the difference between paycheck-to-paycheck and relative comfort, negotiating skills are your best armor (after being of high character, of course).

Here’s what’s always worked for me:

• Never, ever throw out the first number. They will want you to, but it’s not up to you to decide if what you’re asking is too much money — it’s up to them. Instead, ask, “What is the range of salaries here for my position?”

• Never, ever accept an offer on the spot — always ask for more (even if you’re excited by their initial number), and be ready to defend why. All they can say is no. Take 24 hours, as you’ll want to research the range of salaries for similar positions in your field before you counteroffer, if you haven’t already.

• More or different work for the same pay, even if it’s for a better title, is crap. A career is not supposed to go sideways. Let your boss know that you consider a promotion what they call a reshuffle. If it’s a demotion, find a new job.

• If they won’t budge from their initial offer, ask for a full performance review at six months. Tell them you’re going to work your butt off until then, and that you want to revisit the salary discussion at that time.

• Further, if they won’t give you more money, go for more vacation. You want $5K more, and they can’t get it for you? Ask for another week’s vacation. You can also bargain with things like moving expenses or work-from-home days.

• Related to this: Your vacation time should never decrease when you get a new job, even if it’s a lot more money. Careers are meant to go UPWARD, not downward or sideways, and vacation privileges are indicative of that.

Once you do it a few times and get comfortable, salary negotiation is an exhilarating exercise. It’s just business, and they’re just people. So do your research, earn the respect of your boss, and go forward confidently. Even if you don’t get everything you want, you’ll know your stuff, which reflects extremely highly on you and how seriously you take your job.

*Not the real name of my former coworker.

**My latest book, The Guide for New New Yorkers, shows newcomers how to survive and thrive in your adopted city, with advice on everything from apartment hunting and salary negotiation to meeting friends and avoiding debt. Want more insight into what it’s like to build a New York life from the ground up? Check out Two Years in New York City, a memoir in snapshots of 20-something New York life, written as they happened.

Reader mail: “I have zero savings.”

22 Sep

I got the sender’s permission to repost this; I hope it’s helpful to you all. I know a LOT of you are worried about whether you have, or will have, enough money to move to New York, and what roof will be over your head once you arrive. Read on to see our exchange — his predicament, then my advice.

“So I just got a job in Times Square, and I’m moving to NYC ASAP. I’ll have an income starting October, but I have zero savings.  I have a friend who is looking to move out of his apartment in the next few months, and is willing to contribute a decent chunk of change to our rent if we move into a two-bedroom. The problem is: I cannot afford the security deposit/fees. He is considering taking out a loan. (AHHH! Stop. Please. Alejandro.) I have two options: Crash at my uncle’s (for as long as he allows) and friends’ places for as long as I can take the awkwardness, and try to save $3000+ or live in a room rental place for six months to save up enough. Thanks for your consideration and awesome blog!”

Hi Diego*,

Here’s what: Stay at your uncle’s. Watch your pennies like a hawk. You can’t go out every night in New York right away, so discipline yourself fast and know that not going into debt is the absolute best reward you can give yourself for following your New York dream. Racking up debt on account of “But I deserve it!” is cliché.

There’s no shame in easing into your new life slowly and doing the right thing.

I’d be careful about moving in with anyone — especially a friend — who’s promising to float your share of the rent to a disproportionate degree, let alone someone who needs a loan (!!) to do so in the first place. Things tend to get out of round quickly in situations like that. A better option is to move in with someone you don’t know via rooms/shares on Craigslist, show proof you WILL have income, and see if it’s OK to post-date your security deposit check until you have the funds. It can’t hurt to ask.

I would never advise someone with no savings to pay a broker’s fee. That $2,000 you’re giving them to open the front door? Better saved or spent elsewhere. Also, do your math: if your rent would have you treading near or above 45 percent of your income,  look around: A studio on a train line but a little farther uptown might save you a lot of dough. Ipso facto, more going-out money.

Cheers, mate, and good luck.
Sarah Protzman

*Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.