When 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’s “foodiest 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!