When I first visited BU, I loved everything about it. My parents and I got out of the car on Bay State Road to get a tour, and I immediately told them that this was the college I HAD to go to. (To which they responded, “You have to look at the school first.”) It was a rainy day, but I was in love. And everyone kept saying to me that if I loved it that much on a day like that, then I would love it even more when it was nicer out (which I obviously found out was a small percentage of the time thanks to New England weather). My tour guide was a PR student, and I asked her a million questions. Long story short, I knew I wanted to go to BU, and I knew I wanted to be a PR major.
I also had other goals in mind even from the time I was a freshman. As I entered my freshman year, my sister and future brother-in-law were moving to New York City. As a Jersey Shore girl, I decided that I too would graduate and move to New York City. I also realized I had extra space in my schedule and decided to do a dual degree between PR and Business Administration. That summer I had my first internship at Nike Communications (a boutique PR agency focusing on luxury brands) and absolutely fell in love with the city. At that point I decided that when I graduated I was going to move to New York City and work at a PR agency. Keep in mind, I still had three years left of college.
The following summer I was at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. Even when I was there, I told my supervisors that the plan was to go back to NYC and work in a PR agency. But when that next semester started, something weird happened. I was on my routine run around the Charles River, and as I crossed the Mass Ave. bridge and looked at the city, I felt at home. I felt more at home than I had even when I was at home or in New York City. But I ignored that, because I had said for so many years that New York City would be my home.
So I continued to intern in New York City during the summers. I spent the next summer at Burson-Marsteller, and the plan remained the same. I had the Jersey Shore a train ride away, the city at my disposal and many friends and family in the city. Plus, there was no doubt that I was a New Yorker at heart. I loved the hecticness of Wall Street, walked just as quickly as the locals and enjoyed the crowds. The fact that NYC isn’t really clean didn’t bother me. Spending a lot of money on small amounts of food didn’t really get to me either. So why would I live anywhere else?
As I entered my senior year, everything changed. The thought of moving away from Boston made me miserable. I loved the feeling I got when I arrived back in South Station or Logan, and going to Penn Station did not give me that same feeling. How could I move away from a place that I loved so much? How could I move away from a place that I had made my home for the past four years? I always called Boston my “college city,” when in fact, it should have been called my “home city.”
Changing your future when you have had a plan for so many years is difficult. I had always planned to start my career in New York at a big agency. Deciding to stay in Boston at potentially a much smaller agency was scary. It was really hard to realize that I wanted something different. And it was really hard to realize that sometimes the work/life balance and happiness outside of work should be a huge factor in deciding where to live after graduation. Yes, work takes up a lot of time, but it is also important to love the city you are in. Choosing a city that is not New York City does not diminish your accomplishments and is not any less prestigious. The larger cities are not necessarily the right fit. I know I could move to New York City, thrive in an agency and survive off a low salary in an expensive city. I could do it, but it would not be the choice that would make me the happiest. And that’s how I made my decision to stay in Boston after years of saying I would move to New York no matter what.
So after making this decision, I want to give some advice to those who may be in my position as they enter their senior years (or even as they think about these choices before senior year).
1) Don’t miss out on networking opportunities because you never know what city you will end up in. I went to many events in and around Boston even though I thought I was going to end up in New York. There are many professionals in Boston who can connect you with people in other cities. BUT, you also do not know where you will end up until you are graduating. There may have been a few events I decided not to go to because I “knew” I wanted to be in Boston. But look where I ended up. Always take advantage of the opportunities you have in your city/college town. They really do pay off.
2) You do not have to be in New York City to be successful. Many people have the idea in their head that because it is the largest city and the hub of many industries, it is the only place you can make a name for yourself. Yes, there are thousands of incredible people there, but there are also thousands of incredible people in other cities. New York will always be there. You can always go to the city later in life. And when you are at a smaller agency in a smaller city, you may have the opportunity to have more responsibilities and learn more than you would have at a larger agency in the larger city.
3) When looking at agencies, look at the culture. Look at the people who work there. Look at the work they do. Look at the work/life balance. The name of the agency is not always everything. A name will not make you happy. Other things do.
4) Try new things before you graduate. This past year I have stopped going to so many traditional PR events and gone to many digital/social media events. I used to only go to PRSA events, but now I have gone to events put on by The Publicity Club of New England and The Ad Club. Don’t limit yourself. Try out new things, and see what you like. You could be completely surprised by what interests you.
5) Make the most of your college years. Go to professional events, but also be a student. I didn’t learn this as much until my senior year when I really felt like I had a good balance. The balance is key when you are a professional, but it is also key when you are a student.
So to all those who are skeptical of moving to another city, take it from a New Yorker who decided to stay in Boston: I’m proud of it, and I’m excited to start my career in Boston.