Whether you’re fresh out of college or looking to switch things up in your creative career, you may be thinking about a job relocation.
Moving is both an exciting and a daunting process. The exciting part is the chance to meet a different group of like-minded professionals and the thrill of discovering a new location. The daunting part is a fear of the unknown. What if there are lots of creative jobs but, for whatever reason, you end up hating the city?
The creative world is all about taking smart risks that pay off, and that includes a job relocation. Here are three factors to keep in mind as you make your decision:
1. Creative climate
Creative professionals thrive in an atmosphere where there’s a high population of artistic people and a good number of creative jobs. Judging by the per-capita activity on certain project-funding and music platforms, there’s no place like San Francisco, according to Forbes’ 2016 list of America’s Most Creative cities. Next up are Boston, Nashville, Austin and New York City.
Center for an Urban Future, an American public policy think tank, found that New York City has the most creative jobs, thanks to an influx of artists, designers and actors. The areas that saw the greatest growth in the creative sector from 2003 to 2013 were Austin and Portland. Other U.S. cities to consider for a design job relocation are New Orleans (it’s more than just great music and food) and Salt Lake City (think Sundance).
2. Employers of interest
As an ambitious new designer, you may be interested in an entry-level job at one of the nation’s big advertising firms. Adbrands.net lists Epsilon, Accenture and Deloitte Digital, all of which have offices in major cities, as the top three U.S. agencies as ranked by estimated revenue.
New York City took the top spot on Forbes’ latest roundup of Top 10 Cities for Marketing Jobs. San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle and Los Angeles also placed high on the list. These metro areas are home to corporate headquarters and coveted in-house design positions.
In making a job relocation decision, think of the kind of creative expertise companies in each city or region tend to need and how closely it matches your skills and interests. For example, Los Angeles has a high concentration of entertainment and media agencies, while San Francisco is home to countless tech startups. Chicago is known as a hub for businesses that focus on CPG (consumer-packaged goods) marketing.
[Related: 10 Surprising Cities for Graphic Designers]
3. Quality of life
Quality of life means different things to different people. In general, we all desire nice weather and environmental conditions, comprehensive healthcare, and short commute times. It’s great to be part of a passionate team, but not at the cost of work-life imbalance.
To avoid the hassles of parking and car ownership, look for an area with a good public transportation system. Perhaps you’re an avid cyclist, which means bike-friendly cities like Minneapolis/St. Paul and Portland may be higher on your list. Crave a vibrant arts and music scene? Check out a prospective locale’s museums, galleries, theaters and clubs before a big move.
Robert Half created a handy City Comparison Tool that can help you decide where to look during your job search. You adjust four sliding scales — career prospects, cost of living, quality of life and cultural diversity — and the interactive app returns a best city for you based on those values.
It’s never easy to pull up stakes. Approach this decision the same way as you would an employment offer: Do thorough research, weigh the pluses and minuses, and then make the best choice for yourself and your creative career. Even though a job relocation is a little scary, there’s no gain in life without taking some calculated risks.