How to Move to New York City Without a Job

 I am often asked how did I move to NYC without a job? And the short answer is: I planned for it.


There’s a lot of uneasiness around being unemployed. Everyone around you has a job, and they expect you to have one. They’re constantly asking “what are you going to do?” or the dreaded “what’s the plan?” If you’re going to be without a job for a period of time, prepare to have to explain yourself to everyone.

And on top of the harassment from other people, you will also have your own moments of uncertainty. You’ll ask yourself, “when will I find a job and start making money again?” There will always be doubt while you’re looking for a new position. “Will this ever happen?”

The thing about moving to New York without a job is that the “without a job” part is intentional. You aren’t being laid off or fired. You’re making a conscious decision to leave your old job in another part of the country so you can move your life to a new location. And unless you’re one of the lucky people who can work remotely at their existing job, the truth is, you’ll have to leave your job when you choose to leave that location.

But don’t worry about moving to New York without a job. As I mentioned above, you simply have to plan for it. Unless you have incredibly in-demand skills, it might be safe to assume that you’ll be unemployed, or underemployed, for at least three months. Many people I spoke with had stints of unemployment that lasted six months. This can vary a lot by your skills, your portfolio, your talent, and your career field. So you need to have an honest look at how hireable you are.

The New York job market is equally amazing and frustrating. There are so many companies looking to hire. Proximity alone increases your chances of landing an amazing job at a fun company. However, these companies are only going to hire top talent, and in a city of more than 8 million people, there’s a lot of insanely talented, ambitious people applying for these jobs. Competition is fierce.

So, how can you move to NYC without a job?

Plan to be Unemployed

Look at your skills, achievements, and employment history to determine your hiring potential. Even if you consider yourself highly-employable, it could take a while to find a job in New York. You’ll need to save enough money to help you get by during those months. This post includes an outline of how much money you may need to save. I’ve also put together some easy side-jobs that can help you earn income quickly once you’re here.

Build a Portfolio Before You Move

Employers want to see results. The best thing you can do is start building your portfolio before you move. If you don’t have one, it’s time to start working on it. If your current job can’t help you build one (i.e. you’re in food service, but have a marketing degree), it’s time to get creative. Consider volunteering your services, starting a blog, freelancing, or pitching stories to online publications – anything that shows your skills create results. There are a lot of really great resumes in New York, but a good portfolio can help you stand out. Here’s how to look super polished with an online portfolio and resume

Master Your Resume and Cover Letter Before You Move

Creating an outstanding resume, portfolio, and cover letter requires practice and time. Get these into perfect shape before you move to New York. Once you’re here, you will have less free time than you think. Having a viable and effective resume is the first step in your job search. Complete this step before you move, so you don’t have to start at the beginning once you’re here.

Don’t Be Afraid to Apply Before You Move

There are so many variables that go into how fast a company will respond to your application. I applied to a huge amount of jobs when I first moved here. I didn’t hear back from about 80% of them. The ones I did hear back from took about a month to reach out after I submitted an application. Go ahead and apply a month or so before your actual move day. Companies in New York are a lot more comfortable conducting interviews over Skype. You can continue in-person interviews when you move. If they like you, you may even be able to negotiate a relocation bonus!  

It’s All About Who You Know

Tapping into your network is one of the strongest ways to land yourself a job. Unfortunately, if you’re new to the city, you might not know anyone. If that’s the case, it’s time to get some flashy new business cards (I use and grow that network. I recommend joining some career-oriented meetups at or local chapters of professional organizations. You never know who you will meet and what connections they can make for you.

Remember, when you look for a job, it’s all about patience and persistence. I’ve detailed a few things you can expect in your job search here.

Of course, if you can move to New York with a job lined up, do it. Your life will be so much easier. But if that’s not the case, I hope this guide helps you feel a little bit more confident in your decision to move without one.

Readers who’ve moved to New York without a job, what was it like for you?


  1. Reply

    Great tips here! I hope this inspires lots of gals to follow their dreams!!

  2. Reply

    YES! I’m going through something similar right now and these are such great tips. I love it!

    1. Reply

      Yeah, I think these tips can be applied to anyone who is moving to another city without a job. Good luck!

  3. Reply

    If only I could..but thank for these tips. Never say never..

  4. Reply

    This is so true! I did the same thing with Atlanta. I ended up holding serving jobs until I found a long-term option that I love.

  5. Reply

    Great post! That takes a lot of courage to move to NYC without a job set up, but so inspiring that you can still make it work as long as you have savings and are ready to be competitive and hustle in the environment. I would love to live in the city one day, it has always been my dream to live in Soho or TriBeCa ❤️

  6. Reply

    Thanks for a great post! I quit my job in Hong Kong and am moving over to New York to be with my partner. I have to say that the NYC job market seems 10000x tougher than that of HK’s.

    Every few days when I feel demotivated, I try to find posts like this from other people who have gone through the same thing just to help keep the momentum going.

    1. Reply

      The NYC job market is really tough, I agree, but don’t feel demotivated. I’m all about managing your expectations. It might take a little longer to get a job, but there is plenty of opportunity out there. Just follow the steps in this article and work on building your resume and portfolio. Also, New York employers like to know you’ve put in your time in the city, so you might have to start at a slightly lower-level, but you’ll advance quickly. It sounds like you have some international experience, and employers will find that very valuable. Good luck!

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