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Starting Out

How New Grads Can Find the Best City for Them

Stacy Rapacon

Zone in on the best corner of the world for you by considering your career, costs and idea of fun.

As young adults, many of you enjoy a unique time in your lives when you can relocate wherever you like. You’re often free from any significant ties, such as kids or a mortgage, that can tether you to a certain location. Plus, with the technological advances of the past decade, you need not fear losing touch with family and friends; you can stay connected with the touch of a button — regardless of distance.

So when the world is your oyster, how do you decide in which part to settle? Here are six questions to ask when figuring out which city is best for you:

See Also: 10 Best Cities for New Grads

1) Will I find good work there?

In today’s tough market, Generation Y has had a particularly difficult time finding and keeping a job: While the job market has shown signs of improvement, with the national unemployment rate at 7.6% as of March, 25- to 34-year-olds suffer joblessness at a TK.K% rate, and 20- to 24-year-olds are unemployed at a staggering TK.K% rate. But some areas have held up better against the recession. Austin, Tex., Salt Lake City and Washington, D.C., for example, have experienced lower unemployment than the rest of the country.


Jobs in certain industries are more prevalent in some areas. For example, if you’re interested in politics, the nation’s capital is the obvious choice. Or if you aspire to “make it work” as fashion’s next hot designer, the Big Apple might suit you best. If you have no particular trade in mind yet, look to big cities with opportunities in a wide range of fields. (For career ideas that promise a prosperous career, see 10 of the Best Jobs for the Future.)

To jump-start your career, look for job-training services or small-business incubators in your next city. Growing towns with smart leaders spark their economies by helping to connect talent and ideas with businesses and investors. These services hold networking events, educational seminars and other mixers, and they can give you guidance if you’re looking to start your own business. You should reach out to them, too, for possible internships or volunteer opportunities in the area.

2) Who lives there?

Sure, you can check up on your Facebook friends wherever you go, but you want to settle in a place where you can establish a solid social network. Areas where you already have family or friends make a lot of sense. And try locations that are populated with a good number of other young people. Not only will you feel more comfortable having neighbors in a similar situation as you, you’ll also create connections that could prove helpful in a job hunt. (For more tips on how to network to boost your career, both online and off, see 7 Ways to Use Social-Networking to Land Your Next Job and How New Grads Can Compete in the Job Market.) While twentysomethings represent a substantial 13.8% of the country, in Ann Arbor, Mich., Boulder, Colo., and San Diego, people in their twenties make up a whopping 19.7%, 17.0% and 16.8% % of the respective populations.

3) How much is rent?

You might not be looking to buy a home quite yet. (If you’re thinking about it, see Should You Rent of Buy?) But you still need to familiarize yourself with the housing markets of the towns you’d consider moving to. Rent is going to eat a big portion of your monthly expenses. While the average monthly rent for the nation is $870 per apartment, many of the best cities for new grads unfortunately come with higher housing costs. Just be sure your paycheck is big enough to compensate for higher rents.

4) How is the commute?

Nobody likes sitting in gridlock on the daily. So convenient public transportation and close proximity between work and home are important factors to take into account. Plus, an efficient public-transit system can save you all the costs of owning a car.

Hipsters might also consider the green factor of your prospective city’s commuting situation. Besides subways, trains and buses, find out about local carshare or carpool programs. And check into how bicycle-friendly the city is, too. Many cities are establishing more bike paths around town and bike lanes on streets. (Plus, bicycle commuters qualify for tax benefits and save much more money by leaving the autos at home: See Benefits of Biking to Work Keep Adding Up and try our How Much Can I Save Biking to Work? calculator.)

5) Will I have fun there?

Be sure to pick a city that meshes with your preferred lifestyle.

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