The organization I work for recently announced that it’s expanding nationally. The new market is still TBD, but this news has me and more than a few of my colleagues wondering, “What would it take for us to pack-up and re-locate?”
Here’s a quick overview of how we got here: New York Needs You (NYNY) was founded in 2010 with the mission of increasing economic mobility and college completion for high-achieving, first-generation college students in New York. We do this by providing intensive career development, one to one mentorship and professional networking opportunities to our student Fellows, who as the first in their families to attend college, are not only 5x more likely to drop out but also, on average, earn 10% less than their peers post graduation.
Two years later, we replicated our program model in New Jersey as (you guessed it…) New Jersey Needs You (NJNY) and now we’re taking our mission to new markets across the nation under the oh-so-appropriate name, America Needs You. Yes, our company’s growth has been rapid, but our expansion is not only reflective of the prevalence of our cause but also a tangible illustration of the explosive growth of the nonprofit sector.
The nonprofit sector is growing
According to the Nonprofit Almanac of 2012, employment in the nonprofit sector grew by 17 percent from 2000 to 2010. In 2013, the State of Global Civil Society and Volunteering released a report comparing nonprofit data from 16 countries and found a few key findings:
- In six of the 16 countries for which data is available, nonprofits employ 10 percent or more of the total workforce, making them one of the largest employers of any industry in these countries.
- In eight of the countries in which historical data was available the growth rate of the non-profit sector’s contribution to GDP exceeded the growth rate of the GDP
These numbers not only give think global act local new depth, but they also beg a new question, with civic engagement, social entrepreneurship, and nonprofit growth at historic levels, do we have to limit ourselves to our doorsteps when searching for job opportunities?
Are you thinking of moving?
Try this exercise: Envision a room with four corners where corner one is for those who will never leave their hometown for a professional opportunity, corner two is for those who might leave their hometown for a professional opportunity, corner three is for those who are more than likely to leave their hometown for a professional opportunity, and corner four is for those who are definitely leaving their hometown to pursue professional opportunities. Now, which corner are you standing in?
When I did this exercise with 25 college students and 25 professional volunteers, it didn’t take us long to figure out that pure professional opportunity isn’t always enough to jump ship. The more we focused on professional factors like salary, organizational growth opportunity, industry growth, and professional advancement, the more we realized that our personal metrics were continuously connected to our final decisions to re-locate.
For instance, if you find that you’re creeping towards corner one, you more than likely live in an area that offers an abundance of professional opportunity and provides pivotal pieces of that ideal work/ life balance. If that’s the case, the question you’re inquiring internally isn’t exactly “What would it take for me to up and leave?” as much as it is “What reasons do I have to up and leave?”
Perhaps the job you have right now isn’t perfect, but you know there are more opportunities in a 10-mile radius that require your skill set. You also know that your immediate family is only 30 miles away, you’ve mastered commuting to work in 15 minutes after a 7:50am alarm, and your social calendar doesn’t exactly qualify as stale or stationary. Not to mention you just lucked-out and found a great deal on a studio apartment on Craigslist so you can finally fulfill your dream of living alone.
But what about idealists like me who aren’t exactly in corner one, yet not quite out the door at corner four? If I were offered a dream job in a new city, here are 10 metrics I’d consider when trying to figure out if the juice is worth the squeeze:
- Proximity of Family
- Cost of Living
- Public Transportation/Walkability
- Safety/Sense of Security
- Social Life/ Number of Bars/Night Spots
- Volunteerism/Civic Engagement
- Population Diversity (Age and Ethnicity)
- Unemployment Rate
These metrics often inadvertently impact how we consider general job opportunities, so you can imagine that each factor becomes exponentially more important when talking re-location. Now, if you’re truly ready to make the big move, ask yourself some of these follow-up questions:
- What am I leaving behind?
- When can I see my family/closest friends?
- Will I be able to save?
- Where can I meet new people outside of work?
- What’s the cost of living?
- Can I live alone or will I need a roommate?
- In what cities is my industry growing the fastest?
- What’s my back-up plan if things don’t work out?
- Will I need a car?
- Am I moving alone?
- Is your employer reliable? Is this a new company location/ how long has this company been around?
- Is your employer willing to cover the cost for the move?
- What am I gaining?
Our personal metrics are values we define and prioritize based upon our unique interests, ideas and identities, and no matter how hard we try these guidelines inextricably affect our professional choices. But regardless of whether we leave for a change of scene or a change in salary, the growth of the nonprofit sector in both size and economic impact proves that professional opportunities for Idealists are everywhere, so at the very least ask yourself … what would it take for me to move elsewhere?
Lawrese Brown is a Program Coordinator for New Jersey Needs You, a nonprofit organization that fights for economic mobility for students who are the first in their family to attend college. She is passionate about people, chicken wings, improv games, and education inequity.