Being Employed VS. Being Unemployed in NY

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately. I’ve been catapulting myself into the beginning weeks and months of my time in the City and how it felt to live life then. I know, it’s not terribly long ago. But I feel like the memories are fading already, after a good one and a half years.

One thing I will always look back on and feel good about is not having a steady job when I first moved here. This might sound backwards to you. Most people do it the other way around: They get their visa which is connected to a job offer in the States and then move over here. At least this is what my German friend did. We moved here at about the same time, only one week of a difference, and we ended up still being here. Ironically, not at the same job, not in the same apartment, not even with the same friends, but we are still around.

What I remember is that he had always been intensely stressed out when first moving here. His former job site in NJ had surely kicked his a** and his boss made him work a good 12 hours through the entire day. So it seemed that during the week and even on some weekends, he had basically no time left to explore New York and see what this city is about. I, on the other hand, had been busy looking for an apartment for 2 days (what a joke compared to his 2 weeks of fruitless efforts), and had then taken it pretty easy, living off of the savings I had accumulated in Europe. The first month I was here, I felt like such a tourist, it was incredibly refreshing. After about six weeks though, money become sparse, how unpredicted indeed, and after a few unsuccessful applications I entered the American food industry and waitressed my way through the LES for two steady months. I am not encouraging anyone to become a waiter or bartender. I hated that job, there is simply no career made in a bar filled with scum bags and cheap bosses. But it did give me enough leisure time, as I only worked three days and nights and had the rest of the week to myself. Since this was during the summer, it was sweet to be able to go to one of New York’s fabulous beaches on a Tuesday or Wednesday (read more about beaches here). It was nice to be able to hang around in Bryant Park on a hot August afternoon. It was enjoyable to go out during the week without having to jump out of bed early the next morning.

And even though I had been looking for something steady, it is, in general, pretty hard to find a job here in the summer. You might wonder how this is relevant upon season, but NY has this thing of snatching underpaid interns who are eager to get into a business during the hot months. Not really a good time for desperate college graduates to get their foot in the door AND aim for a decent salary. And true enough, I made it into my first 9-5 in the beginning of October. After 6 months of dwelling, exploring, and seeing New York at every possible hour of the day it was time to enter the working world. And ever since then I have basically never taken enough time off to get the feeling back which I had during those first sweet months in the Big Apple. The pros of having a steady job here are that it is nice to have a routine, to be able to get to know other working people, to expand one’s friend’s circle, if possible. But on the flipside, it compromises a great deal of your time and might stall you in a way never foreseen.

I consider winter the best time to be employed, if there is ever a season to be named. It’s good to be inside, to evade the cold, and to be occupied instead of feeling depressed and lonely. Once spring comes around, though, this city shows a completely different face. It is like a circus around Times Square, quite colorful in the Village, drunken in the Lower East Side. The warm months are most likely the best to be unemployed. Of course no one can really live like this over here, unless they switch jobs twice a year.

I know that some Americans have come here to pursue a serious career. Bankers, investors, advertisers, … you name it! I sometimes pity them and their life style somehow and wonder if it is worth going through all the stress during a time most crucial in their life. They are nothing I would like to become but then again it is very interesting to witness them and see how they undergo the metamorphosis of a naive student to a serene business man (who will eventually end up on coke).

To me, New York is not really about a career. I know I will eventually have to say good-bye and go back to college to pursue a graduate degree. To me, New York has always been about the journey. About breaking out of a boring everyday situation, away from the rigidity and stubbornness of the European system and meeting a bunch of crazy people. It’s about living somewhere far away from home, coping with different cultures and personalities, and gaining some valuable experience on the trip overseas.

I am sure a year, even a few months of employment will look splendid on your resume and appear impressive to recruiters. But it is often forgotten that you can surely slave yourself to death here. It is after all the city of which if you make it here you can make it anywhere. For a very good reason: See New York as the training for everything else in your life, be it a job, be it even life, and then working or living in every other state, maybe even country, might seem like a piece of cake to you. The stress levels you reach here couldn’t be higher than anywhere else.

So if a job simply drains you, takes all your energy, and doesn’t even leave you with a tiny bit of satisfaction, then I am not sure it is worth pursuing for too much longer. It’s all about the memories created during your life time, and New York especially is one of those cities you want to focus all of your energy on. Where you want to take in every sight, witness every oddity, and not waste away at a frustrating job site.

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5 thoughts on “Being Employed VS. Being Unemployed in NY

  1. amaaaaazing post! and i agree 100%! life is all about the journey, the experiences. i have had 2 longish jobs since college/university and they were fantastic, but they were in completely different fields. and here i am in sweden, making my way into a new society & creating ways to find work. but i will never, ever take a job that will suck the life out of me again. don’t get me wrong, i want to be full-filled, i just don’t want to work every moment. i want to live life! i want to continue to live as you did your first 6 months in NYC.

    speaking of you moving to NYC, how did you get a visa if you didn’t have a job? this is a HUGE question for me & my wife (a swede) as we consider moving to NYC. i can do it fine, without a job, of course. she can’t get a visa based on our marriage (it’s not recognized federally. stupid DOMA), and i thought for sure it was not possible for her to move without a visa? did you have anything (paper-wise) when you left germany for NYC? or did you arrive on a 3-month tourist visa = just your passport? i am so curious!!!! you can email me your answer, if you prefer. 🙂

    • Hey Liz, interesting question indeed. I have two citizenships, as I am American and German, and this is also the reason why I moved to New York without having a plan laid out of what I am doing. I doubt I would have taken the trouble to relocate to a new country without even being sure if I would be able to work here.
      Now,my German friend on the other hand, who really does need a visa to get around in this country, started with a traineeship. The company sponsored him for one and a half years. After this he was allowed to stay in the country for three months. He managed to find another job during these three months and the company sponsored him a three-year-visa (which he pays back in terms of his salary deduction, but it’s not that much). Lucky boy he is! I believe certain countries have a harder time in obtaining a visa, take GB as a good example. I am not sure about Sweden but would believe it shouldn’t be so difficult. Visas seem to always be connected to a job, so your wife would most likely know what she wants to do before getting here. I think she should shoot for a Swedish company here and rely on her language skills to get a job. We don’t have that many Swedes in NY.
      Sucks that you can’t sponsor her, the world is def not as open-minded about ss-marriage as it should be! Maybe you should re-marry in New York and go from there?

      • Thanks so much for the response and for the tips! It’s awesome to read your blog, and get a little view of what life in NYC is like for real. Hehe. We’ll see what happens with our possible move to the big apple… who knows what’s in store for us. 🙂

  2. You brave girl. I moved to Georgia without a job and abandoned the search when we got our orders to Germany (and haven’t yet found work here) but if I were not married I would be scared to be jobless. Even moving from Ohio to Florida I had a job lined up before I moved down there. Not having the security to know I have my rent paid for, food, etc. would inhibit my ability to have fun with any savings I had.

    • Well, what shall i say? I was out for an adventure, and I surely got one. It def helped me in building up a healthy self confidence and now I only have to decide on which adventure to hop on next. I have always been like this, my first time abroad was in FL, I was 20 and all by myself. The fact that I didn’t stay for long didn’t matter, it was the time spent there that did. How is Deutschland?

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