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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.

GUEST POST: Is a broker right for you?

8 Mar

By Lindsey Wojcik

Searching for an apartment in New York City is like a jungle hunt. In my first experience, I felt like a young lion cub. I prepared for my hunt by making appointments with recommended brokers, with the paperwork to go in for the kill. During my initial hunt, I often felt another species I didn’t fully understand was preying on me: the elusive New York real estate agent or broker.

When I moved to New York in October 2009, I didn’t know anyone. I’ve experienced the hunt and moved three times in my first 13 months in New York. In that time, I learned that  finding a place often becomes a second job and that brokers (for the most part) are here to help. Here’s the lowdown Sarah’s friend Katie gave me before I moved here:

  • Timing is key. Most landlords don’t know if their tenants will be leaving until a month before the lease is up. Once landlords or management companies are notified, they alert brokers throughout the city who then post their listing in their database. It can take awhile to secure a place, especially if you have to discuss finances, involve a guarantor, etc. but a week should be fine.
  • Brokers are going to need paperwork, which can include:
    – Bank statements
    –  The last few pay stubs
    –  Social security card/birth certificate/passport
    – Brokers are very particular and often require:
    –  Tenants to make 40 times the rent
    – Guarantor to make 80 times the rent
    –  A broker’s fee

She also suggested CitiHabitats, Manhattan Apartments, Ardor NY, and management offices of buildings for leads on places.

So we started with appointments at real estate agencies like mentioned above. These agencies often have agents assigned to specific neighborhoods in the five boroughs, mostly focused on Manhattan. In my experience they always require a broker’s fee, equivalent to one month’s rent or a percentage of it.

During my initial hunt, my roommate and I visited these companies with a limited budget, all of our paperwork and a guarantor. After viewing roughly 15 apartments in our price range outside of our desired neighborhoods, we decided to hit Craigslist instead of using the bigwig agencies. If you have a bigger budget and few or no neighborhood preferences, an agency like this may work for you.

Here’s where searching for an apartment becomes like a second job. My roommate and I have used Craigslist for each of the three times we moved.

Scour Craigslist and call about everything of interest to you. The great thing about Craigslist is the apartments are often posted by brokers no-fee and fee-based. If you see something you like, call to inquire. If the specific listing doesn’t work, ask the broker if they have anything else that fits your needs.

If you’re moving from another state, visit the city two to three weeks before you move to look at places and meet with realtors. In my experience, the turnover rate with available apartments is typically two weeks before the move date.

Trust your instincts when dealing with brokers, or anyone from Craigslist. Some may not have your best interest at heart. When the timing is right, you’ll find your apartment.