The most important hurdle most Australians will face when trying to move to New York is finding a job. Your visa literally relies on being able to score a good position, and without one, you’ll be on a plane home within three months.
I happened to be very lucky and landed the first job I applied for in NYC, but this is highly unusual and was an incredible stroke of good fortune. Most friends within my circle of expats spent weeks—sometimes months—trying to land a gig, and I know several people who returned back to Australia without one.
To make sure that doesn’t happen to you, I spoke with New York-based career coach Maggie Mistal and shared her advice. CNN labeled her “one of the nation’s best known career coaches,” and millions of people have watched Mistal’s career-focused videos and appearances across YouTube, CNN, Fox Business and The Today Show. She’s also dished advice in The New York Times, USA Today, and Money, so if anyone is qualified to help you land a job in NYC, it’s this woman. Here’s what she shared.
- You must be assertive.
There’s a reason why they say if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. In Mistal’s experience, the caliber of employee in New York is extremely high, which makes landing a job particularly competitive. “New York is where people go to make it big, prove themselves, show what they’re really made of professionally,” she said.
New York is inherently a tough place to live and work, and the same ethos applies to looking for a paid gig. “From finding a place to live, to navigating the throngs of people on the sidewalks, to even placing your order for lunch, you’ve got to know what you want and be ready to take action to get it or you’ll be passed up The same is true for jobs in New York,” Mistal counseled. Being goal-driven and confident, she says, is key to becoming successful: “You’ve got to know what job you want, why it’s a fit for you and be ready to explain that to a hiring manager. New York is a place where asserting yourself is not only rewarded, it’s expected.”
- Know that almost every profession can prosper in NYC.
New York City is best known for certain industries, such as finance, fashion, and media. However, don’t be discouraged if you work in another field—Mistal believes that just about any profession can thrive in NY, calling the city a “melting pot for careers from creative arts to real estate to fashion to financial services.” She recommends checking out sites like Crain’s New York to learn more about some of the city’s growing sectors.
- Find a job elsewhere and apply for a transfer.
If you’re struggling to find a job in Gotham, look for companies with offices in New York City, but also other locations around the U.S. and even internationally that have openings. Less desirable locations may allow you to get your foot in the door with highly-competitive employers, and potentially transfer later.
This is a strategy that Mistal actually employed herself. She worked for a global consulting firm in Philadelphia and after establishing herself put in my request to transfer to the New York office. “It made for a much easier transition into the more competitive New York environment because I knew the company already and had a sense for the type of work I was there to do,” she said. “Remember, in a place like New York, there’s always room for good people. So prove you are ‘good people’ in a smaller office where it’s easier to get in the door, then put your hat in the ring for New York when you’re ready to play in the major leagues.”
- Search all the major job sites.
The first place you will probably start hunting for a job is online. Indeed.com aggregates job listings from all types of sites in one place, and is an amazing free resource. Make sure you also search LinkedIn (and keep your profile updated!. “A solid, authentic profile that speaks to your genius you can be sought after for jobs by recruiters looking to hire,” said Mistal.
Anyone searching for a job with a specific purpose or mission can search Idealist.org, a platform that connects socially-minded people who want to do good with opportunities for action and collaboration.
- Network, network, network.
Mistal says that most jobs in New York are still landed by referral, which means the easiest way to apply for a role is to network your way into your dream company. Again, this is something that worked for the career coach herself, who found her second position in New York after reaching out to her professional network.
Serendipitously, a work contact told Mistal that the head of [human resources] at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia had once worked for the same consulting firm as her. Although they didn’t know each other, the mutual friend was able to join the dots, which led to an amazing opportunity. “I met with her not for a job but for information about her industry and company and career. After a few minutes, she expressed to me their need to hire a lead for their manager training department. She asked me if I thought I could do that job and I said yes,” Mistal said.
In New York, it’s easy to build a solid network and have informational conversations like this to learn more about different companies, industries, and career paths. Check out industry networking events on sites like Meetup.com and industry publications, and attend as many as possible. Also, try and regularly meet up with other great people in your industry or in a new area you would like to explore.
It takes skill to know how to conduct an informational conversation that reveals useful information about the jobs and companies that would be a good fit for your skills and style. You need to be genuine, authentic, and show interest in your new contact’s career. Afterwards, you can follow up with an email (more advice on that here) to continue building the relationship and explore potential job openings. “In my experience as both an employee and for my coaching clients, it’s informational interviews that lead to the connections that lead to jobs.” Got it? Great, then get networking.