Hear the first-hand experience of young Irish people living and working in the US in IrishCentral’s latest series on the J-1 graduate visa. We speak to recent Irish graduates working across a range of industries on their careers, motivations, and the highs and lows of their stateside adventure.
This week, Laura Meehan tells us of her time in New York.
Laura is 23, from Dublin, and studied journalism and French in Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT).
I arrived in New York City just 8 months ago, fresh out of college. I didn’t even wait for my graduation.
After spending four years studying Journalism and French, and slaving away on a final year thesis, I was raring to do something new and different. I decided to do a graduate visa and move to New York because, honestly, I wasn’t sure what to do after finishing college.
I knew I wanted to get into media and was beginning to realize just how vague the word “media” is. Everyone would always ask me “what type of media?” and my answer would constantly change. I thought having a year of experience in New York on my CV would be impressive regardless of what I ended up doing here so, without much direction, I packed up and left for the Big Apple with my two best friends in tow.
Struggling to make it big
Right now, I am writing this article from my desk in the most beautiful office space imaginable right in the heart of Tribeca. The phrase “landed on my feet” doesn’t even cover how lucky I feel to be here.
But I’m skipping way ahead, the last 8 months haven’t been all glamour or success. The process of finding the right job (and one that you actually like) in a new city is very challenging.
For the last two months, I’ve been having the most incredible time working at one of the biggest and best media agencies in New York—and the world—but the first half of my visa year was a lot different.
What I found when I first started applying for jobs in New York, was that there were lots of options for media positions. I applied for internships in TV production, print, PR, events, media planning/buying; anything that seemed interesting.
After what felt like a hundred interviews and weeks of running all over Manhattan, I was offered a position as a PR/events intern at a very small company. It was unpaid and I wasn’t sure if it was really where I wanted to be but it wasn’t like I had employers banging down my door, so I took the position.
Leaving a job when you’re unhappy
I spent my days mostly walking my boss’ dog, running errands and sending out event invites. New York was beginning to lose its sparkle when I was put in touch with a contact at my current company.
After four rounds of interviews, I was offered the paid position and kissed my dog-walking days goodbye.
I have learned a huge amount over the past eight months. Not only in terms of professionalism and new skills, but also, that New York has too much too offer for you to settle! That would be a big piece of advice I would give to others looking to move here: Do not settle for anything less than what you want, because you will find it!
In a city like New York, you will find what you’re looking for. What my roommates and I remind ourselves is that we’re here for a good time, not a long time, so if you’re not having fun and enjoying what you’re doing, find something else.
Boosting your confidence
The biggest change New York has had is on my outlook of my career, my abilities and myself. I work closely with hugely successful people who are not much older than I am. Most people I work with are in their 20s and 30s and they are incredibly smart, talented and brilliant people. This has created such a change in how I consider myself. I no longer consider myself “too young” for anything.
I came over here thinking I’d try my hand at an internship, probably work in a bar to make money and meet people, go out and have a fun, crazy year. I thought getting a “proper” job would come later, that the hard work, the professionalism would all come with time.
Now I see people my age or a few years older at the top of their game, it has given me such a wake-up call. I’m not too young and working here has really taught me that I can do anything and can have it all.
Keeping up with life in New York
The biggest difference between New York and Ireland, and probably the hardest thing for me to get used to, is the pace of life. New Yorkers are superhuman workaholics, everyone is available on email 24/7, you cannot be “uncontactable.” Even on holiday or out sick, you’re expected to be on email. Weekends, evenings, you’re on email.
It’s overwhelming at times and I often want to throw my work phone into the Hudson but I know this is incredible for me to be able to learn this much and that I will probably never work this hard again.
Even on the toughest days, I know I’m in the right place and that Dublin and my family and friends will still be there waiting for me when I’m ready. That also reminds me to enjoy this because it won’t last forever. This time next year, I will probably be sitting on the 46a bus commuting to work and I’ll think back to New York City and all the buzz, the stress, the excitement, the whirlwind of it all, and I will be so glad I stuck through the madness.
Moving to New York is without a doubt the best thing I have ever done and even when I’m feeling homesick for Ireland I know how lucky I am to be here.
Have you taken the plunge and moved to the US on the J1 Graduate visa? Tackled the visa process, the job and apartment hunt and lived to tell the tale? IrishCentral wants to hear from you! Share your J1 Graduate visa story with firstname.lastname@example.org to take part in our series and advise the next batch of US recruits.