My decision to move from Brooklyn to Ann Arbor with my boyfriend, Mike, as he started at Ross this year was, of course, based on a whole range of factors: friends, family, cost of living, quality of living, career opportunities, etc. Unlike many incoming partners, I was neither married nor engaged, so it was more of a choice for me than it might be for others. Still, in most respects the question of whether or not to leave New York was answered in the resounding affirmative.
Full disclosure: I’m originally from the metro Detroit area and I spent a summer during undergrad living on the U of M campus. I already hate Ohio State. My favorite “pop” is a Vernors and I’m all too familiar with the late-night charms of Big Ten Burrito. I know “up north” does not mean the U.P. I also know that the U.P. is Michigan’s Upper Peninsula—and where to visit once you’re there. So I have family here. And friends. Not to mention that after more than 6 years the high rent, slow subways and concrete vistas of living in New York City were getting to me. My bags were packed. I was ready to go. But we didn’t so much leave on a jet-plane as in an overstuffed Mazda wagon.
What about career opportunities? Well of course I would find a job. That seemed to be the easiest part of the equation. I had been an assistant editor with a big-name children’s publishing group at Penguin Books (a job I loved) and had a resume chock full of other interesting and worthwhile experience. Plus a whole network of Michigan-based friends and family members who I was certain would be able to get me on the fast track to an awesome job in Southeast Michigan. As my boyfriend would say, I was “hilariously overconfident.” What I failed to account for was Michigan’s struggling economy—something I couldn’t understand coming from a city that was relatively booming even in the throes of the recent economic downturn—and the fresh batch of educated, motivated young people turning up in Ann Arbor every fall clamoring for jobs. Namely, the other partners.
I started my job search in April or May, calling leads from family members and reaching out to employees at “dream job” companies, hoping to at least make some solid connections that would help me land a job as soon as I got out to Ann Arbor. And, for the most part, people were more than willing to talk with me. But I kept hearing the same thing: “You have a wonderful resume, but I just don’t see any jobs opening up here.” When I started applying for actual jobs via LinkedIn, CareerBuilder, and the U of M job board, I felt like I was sending my resume out into the ether and, accordingly, I rarely heard a word back. Not even a “thanks, but no thanks.” By the time we had landed in Ann Arbor, I still hadn’t landed a job. I spent the majority of my days in front of the computer writing cover letters, applying for jobs and having informational interviews with people in publishing around Ann Arbor. I was certain that something would stick the next week. Or the week after. Two months later I had taken on a few freelance editing projects, but still hadn’t found anything permanent—or that got me out of the apartment on a regular basis. And I needed to get out of the apartment. I realized that I had to set my sights a bit lower, cast my net wider. If I couldn’t be in publishing or a field directly related, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. I just needed to find something steady that would give me a modicum of pleasure (and money). I could always keep my eye out for something else.
And finally, something stuck. It certainly isn’t perfect. I didn’t land at a “dream job company” by any means. But the job involves a lot of writing, I’m able to leave by 5 pm and my office is maybe a mile from my apartment. So I count that as a win. Not to mention that by spending all that time without a job I realized that I needed to do some things that would make me happy regardless of my employment status. So I got involved in tutoring here in Ann Arbor and contacted my old editor at the children’s publishing company to offer my services as a manuscript reader. I went for a lot of runs outside. And those things make me happy even if I’m not happy at my job every day.
Advice for those of you looking for jobs in Ann Arbor? Have an open mind about what sort of job you would be willing to take. Cultivate sincere relationships with local people in your industry (even if they can’t offer you anything immediately). Don’t get discouraged. And most importantly find something, anything, to do that makes you happy.