My heart goes out to my friends and family in Illinois. It is my home state. The unemployment is in the double digits. My friends who are teachers are facing layoffs.
B and I escaped by moving across the country, but we had many examples to inspire us. My parents both moved right out of college to Illinois from Georgia and Wisconsin, because that was where the opportunity was (at the time). B's parents moved from Oregon to California then the Midwest. The two years before I moved I had several other examples of friends exiting Illinois for opportunity elsewhere. One friend moved Oregon for networking. One to Brown University from doctorate work and another to Arizona to teach. One friend moved to Boston for actuarial science. Another to Thailand for an English teaching opportunity.
In fact last year, we had felt more like we were left behind. Now after a few months of living in H-town, I reconnected with some old friends in IL and realized they had the same left-behind feeling B and I did yet they feel unable to break out of IL and move themselves. Here are the steps B and I took to start our search
Step 1: Look at a List of the Fastest Growing Cities in the United States Search
This is where the opportunity is. Especially if you are in a support industry (education, IT generalist, retail, etc) these jobs exist everywhere but there is not always high demand everywhere. This can change from year to year. As we know, Nevada and Arizona were booming for several years and now are at a bust (be careful, but just because you work somewhere next year does not mean you will live or work there in ten years). Last year, Houston was one of the cities on the list.
To narrow your search, also compare the per capita college graduation rate of different states and cities with the unemployment rate. Duel-income couples are often hesitant to move because of the challenge of securing two positions. By looking at these two numbers it can clue you in to how well education is an asset in the job search. In IL, if you had a college degree employers acted like "who cares?" In Texas, it gives you an edge.
Step 2: Choosing on a Career
Maybe you are at the end of college, maybe you have had a career for a while now, but ask your self seriously: What do I want to do for a job/career?
If you have just finished college, you have probably been asking yourself this question the whole time. My husband had spent all of college preparing for a career as a History teacher, but instead capitalized on his five years of IT experience working for the university throughout school. With a background in hardware, he got a job in programing. With quick learning and outside reading, he taught himself everything and took a short term test project to the forefront of the company's future plans.
If you have a highly specialized field, you may have narrower geographic locations to choose from for your career. It is still useful to go through Step 1 for an overall picture of the country, but alumni organization and professional organizations will be able to provide more tailored information on the best locations for opportunity. That said, ask yourself, do you want to stay highly specialized or do you want to transition into different field that you can use related experience? I stress related experience because going back to school is added expense, and if you consider that you are eliminating any geographic barriers to your job search, it is very possible you can advance/transition your career.
A Meteorology friend of mine feels lost, unsure of what to do with her specialized degree and debating going back to graduate school (and more debt). But I see so much opportunity for her. She has a background in statistics and math. She has numerous internships in field work with chemistry and natural sciences. I keep hoping she can transition into geological sciences and will come to H-town for a job with the oil companies.
Step 3: Discovering Your Passion
Ask yourself (and your partner): What do you want to do with your free time? This second question is equally important as the one in Step 2 because there will be days when you hate your job, when you are run down, and regretful about leaving family and friends. You need something to inspire you and keep you going beyond your job. B and I thought about the dream for our retirement (sailing), then realized we could do that anytime if we simply lived in the right place. We could not (really afford to) sail in Illinois. In Houston, we sail year-round and live in the third best boating bay in the U.S.
So what do you like? What is your dream to do? Skiing, hiking, arts and music, theater, biking, rodeo sports, dirt biking, quilting, fishing... Again, this question is as serious as the career question in number two. By eliminating geographic barriers you can explore things not possible where you live now.
Look at the list from Step 1. Ask yourself the questions in Steps 2 and 3. Now review the list from Step 1 and see if there are any cities where your interests from Steps 2 and 3 intersect.
Omaha, Nebraska had a lot of job openings last year when we were looking but we decided against it because we could not sail there. Miami seemed like a great place to live and maybe start a boating business, but the present job market did not have opportunity. Only Houston had the two things we wanted and needed.
Further Reading: Will You Want a Job in That State After College? Forbes