Choose Where You Want to Live, Then Find a Job

If another city is calling you then take the leap! Where you live can have a big impact on your happiness and if your current city doesn’t fit your needs then leave. It’s a lot better to make the move while you are young. Once you have kids and a long time career the move gets harder. Just do it, you’ll figure out the details when you arrive.

Choose Where You Want to Live, Then Find a JobWhen Forbes named Portland, Maine the most livable city in America this year, it didn’t surprise my wife and I or any of Portland’s other 64,000 denizens. With a low cost of living, great culture and dining (we were also named Bon Appetite’sfoodiest small town”), and easy access to the ocean and mountains, Portland freaking rocks.

The only big thing Portland lacks for well-educated, ambitious twentysomethings? An abundance of career options.

Finding a job is tough anywhere in this economy, but it’s always been tough here. Especially for college grads who want a professional career. It’s not as hard to get a retail or service gig here in town, but higher-paying jobs are few and far between.

When my wife graduated from law school here last year, we had a decision to make. We weren’t married yet, and I was living two hours south in the relatively employment-rich suburbs of Boston. We could live in Massachusetts. I could continue my career in publishing and my wife would have plenty of job opportunities to choose from.

Or I could move to Maine. My wife had career options thanks to her networks from law school. But I would have to leave a job for the prospect of never having a job in my field again.

As you already know, I moved to Portland.

When it came down to it, we agreed that our quality of life was more important to us than what we did for a living. That’s not to say career isn’t important to us—we are both ambitious and take great pride in our work. We just really want to live here in Maine.

And so I did what I would recommend to others: Move where you want; then find work. Think I’m crazy? Penelope Trunk probably agrees with me.

You might have to take whatever work you can get for a while. You might have to take an unpaid internship on top of the work that pays the bills. But if you know you want to live somewhere and you commit to living there and finding a career there, you can make it happen. And in the long run, you’ll be happier and healthier for your decision.

When I dropped my career and moved to Portland, I took a job in a coffee shop until I was confident I could pay the bills with my blogging business. I don’t necessarily plan on blogging full-time forever. I may go back to school or, if the right full-time opportunity comes along here, I’ll take it.

But I’m ecstatic to be living where I want to live.

What about you? Have you picked up and moved without a job? Did it work? Have you traded an “ideal” career for a better quality of life? Let me know!

Published or updated on October 15, 2009

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About David Weliver

David Weliver is the founding editor of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues we face during our first two decades as adults. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.


  1. I just found this site, and it’s funny because I’ve been trying to move from the Boston area to Portland ME for about a year now, but the lack of decent paying jobs is what’s holding me back. Hopefully I can make the leap soon!

  2. I am filled with hope by your story. I am a single father in my mid thirties. I have felt trapped in my life by circumstance and poor choices. I know was’nt the point of your post but it raised my spirits and renewed a small sense of hope in me. Thank you

  3. Yes. Sort of. I moved to California. I had an internship which made it easier to make the move. It included housing so at least I had some where to stay while figuring out my new life. I’d be too scared to just pick and move with nothing. But I knew I wanted to move out here and the only want to do that was to just move… it’s too hard to get hired when you’re not in town for interviews, esp if you don’t have a degree from an Ivy League school.

  4. David Weliver says:

    I love hearing these stories about others who are doing this and are happier for it. Awesome!

    Understandably, this strategy is easier the less-attached you are. But that’s why for young workers who haven’t put down roots yet, I think it’s especially attractive.

    @MC, as for doing it with kids; I think it could still work—especially if there’s an area you want to live for the sake of bringing up your kids in a better environment. I just think you need to have a solid plan to be able to provide for your family during the transition, so that makes it trickier obviously.

    @Steve, your career change at 62 is inspiring! That’s great. An interesting aside—being a pilot is a career I always wanted. I have my private pilot’s license and always dreamed of going professional, but after considering how rigorous the lifestyle is I opted not to pursue it. I can imagine you’ve got mixed feelings about your career-change, but the ability to stay grounded (excuse the pun)—where you want to live—should be nice!

  5. Excellent post, David, and one many folks at any age would do well to seriously consider. I’m at the other end of that age spectrum (62) and am in the process of a career change from being a pilot to finishing a second grad degree in historic preservation. Before beginning the degree, I knew I wanted to live in my home state of Virginia. Given the immense history of the state and my interest in it, making the decision to live there and concentrate on historic preservation was relatively easy. Nevertheless, even before deciding on this new career path, I’d locked onto where I wanted to live. The job, income and career would have to fit the locale, not the other way around.

  6. I truly appreciated this article. My husband and I recently relocated from Los Angeles (where we’d been for 10 years) to Wilmington, NC. We’d visited a few times and really loved the community and the quality of life that we weren’t getting in LA. We both left career jobs and while we’re thankful to have found work here, the pay and the jobs themselves are not comparable in the least. However, though we’ve had some lean financial moments, we’re both glad we took that plunge…

  7. Depends on what your situation is. As an unemployed credit professional over 50 and with no retirement prospects, the question isn’t so simple. So please don’t be so glib about stuff like this. With unemployment as high as it is, and in the last week of benefits, tell me (or should I say, I will tell you) that you don’t really know what you are talking about. Give me a f****n break. That’s like telling a poor native family living in Guatamala that its best to drink bottled water because its pure. Just go dunk yourself, please.


  8. What do you think about making this sort of move with kids?

  9. “When it came down to it, we agreed that our quality of life was more important to us than what we did for a living.”

    I absolutely, wholeheartedly agree!

    There are so many things more important in this life than our jobs… like our happiness for one! Who cares about how much money you make if you’re not happy living where you’re living… right?

    Makes perfect, non-conformist sense… love it.

  10. This article really hits home — I lived in Missoula, Montana, for a few years when I was in my mid-20s. I absolutely loved it — a beautiful college town in Western Montana? What’s not to like? And I really wanted to stay there.

    The problem: I was making well under $20k, and I couldn’t begin to pay off my student loans. So eventually, I bailed and moved on. Now, I live in my hometown of Chicago.

    I have few regrets — I wouldn’t have my wonderful daughter if I’d stayed in Missoula, for instance. That said, I still look back fondly on that time, and there’s a tiny voice that asks, “What if…?”

  11. I agree with your thinking and am glad that it worked out for you. I was in somewhat of the same position as you when I first graduated from college and decided that I wanted to live in Florida rather than in Pennsylvania where I was originally from.

  12. David Weliver says:

    IntelligentSpeculator—so true about the social aspect. It’s not easy, either! I moved up here knowing I knew almost nobody in town by my wife!

    And since I’m kind of an introvert by nature, meeting people has been tough…especially now that I work at home, for myself.

    I made a few friends through my coffee shop job, have gotten chummy with my wife’s friends, and have started volunteering to “get out of the house”, but making social connections is a challenge.

    But, if you want to live somewhere and make it work, it can be done.

    I moved to NYC after graduating college for a job, and I didn’t know a soul in New York. Not surprisingly, I didn’t last a year there because I didn’t make the effort to create a social network. If I could do it all over again, I’d have started working to make friends the minute I got there.

    Of course, if that happened, I probably would’ve stayed and my whole life would look different now. Things happen for a reason!

  13. Great post. This is the type of thing you hear all the time but so few people actually go ahead and do, I applaud you really. How was the social aspect of the move, leaving all friends and family behind and starting over?

  14. Hey David – Great write up and thoughts.

    We agree that finding a community that you want to be a part of is a key to happiness. It’s definitely scary at times and you have to be confident about the move (like you were). You have to do your research to make sure you’re going to be happy or you could end up regretting it.

    We think this will be how most people (recent grads) think once the economy improves. For now, back to Mom and Dad’s house. :)

  15. David Weliver says:

    Glad it worked out, moved!

    It’s definitely scary. There were times I have asked myself: “What have I done?” And I know it would be even scarier if I were on my own (and not married).

  16. I moved from a rural area to Washington, DC without a job. I got work through a temp agency for about a year, and then got the job I was hoping for about a year later.

    It was terrifying at times (at one point right after moving, I only had ten dollars in my checking) but at no time did I regret it.

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