Tag Archives: benefits

Common Misconceptions About US Life (Part 1 – New York)

Its interesting when I was thinking about what to talk about today, I was wondering what the average person struggles with. When you first think about moving to the US and imagine life in a particular city, what images conjure in your mind and what experiences do think you will most enjoy?

From this I came up with topic where I will hopefully demistify all that is unclear for you as well as tell some home truths about actual life versus what you might experience on a holiday or see on tv/movies.

Sex and the City is widely seen as one of the main players in the modern female sexual revolution but it also helped glamorize New York as a must live destination beyond what it was already thought to be.

Each year wherever you are in the world, you hear the story about some local home grown star from your region of the world who went to LA and Hollywood after years of struggle and made it big with that major movie, tv deal or recording contract. Then you see things from Paris Hilton parties to the Oscars televised and California also seems like the place to be.

NY and LA are probably top of most people lists of places to visit and potentially live if they desire the US and are two cities which have many benefits you probably aren’t aware of but also huge negatives that you would never really experience properly unless you live there. These are the things I think anyone should consider when moving to any city in the world.

Firstly let’s talk about NY

You watch a sitcom like Friends or Will and Grace and as mentioned above Sex and the City and whole NY experience just seems like 24/7 fun if you love city life. I mean you have hundreds of shows to choose from, thousands of restaurants, conveniences everywhere as things run for 24 hours, life, musical events every day almost, celebrities everywhere without even mentioning the endless famous sites, museums and areas. Then you take in the type of lifestyle they seem to portray on TV with their jobs and it all seems so easy. IT ISN’T

New York City is made up of 5 parts with Manhattan being the most famous (the other FYI are Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx & Staten Island). Now Manhattan rentals are on average the most expensive in the US and the World by a fair way given what you get. The price for a studio so a 1 ROOM apartment with a mini kitchenette and tiny bathroom attached in a middle of the road area of Manhattan usually start around $1,800 USD (so approx 1,260 GBP and 2,770 AUD as I write) per month. While most other living costs in NYC are cheap compared to world standards (although expensive by US standards), the rent alone takes a huge chunk of the average person’s salary. So groceries, utilities, internet/cable, cell phone, etc. are all pretty cheap because of the competitive market. However health costs are not but will leave that for another post šŸ™‚

NY probably work longer hours than most of the country and remember the average US company only gives 2 weeks annual leave and just because a day is a Federal Holiday doesn’t necessarily mean it is a day off. Each company decides that policy (generally 2 federal holidays, Martin Luther King Day in January and Columbus Day is October are often omitted)

So with large expenses, longer hours, tiny apartments and less holidays do you think the slack lives of Joey on Friends or Jack on Will and Grace are even remotely possible!

I am not trying to scare you about life in NY, it is amazing and as mentioned above there is so much to do..all the time BUT be prepared for the reality of NY. It is ultra competitive, it is harsh and ruthless, the people can seem snobby and unfriendly at times and finding a place to live is like Christmas sales in other parts of the world, if you turn your back, it will be gone!

NY has the only fully operational 24/7 subway system in the world. It is 3 times bigger than The Tube in London and has more stations than all the other subways in the US combined. It is easy to get around.

NY is also extremely safe in most areas. From being the most violent and dirty cities in the US in the 70s and 80s, it is now in the top 5 safest cities in the country with very little crime at all given how many people live here. The streets and subways are very clean with barely any graffiti or damage and the police presence is large and visible all the time. You can walk around Central Park at night, take the subway all hours and be perfectly fine. Of course there are the odd really undesirable areas in outer Brooklyn, outer Queens and areas of The Bronx but for the most part everyone is always stunned by how clean and safe the city is.

So while this is only a short outline of NY and only covers some parts and as promised I will do other parts of different cities and aspects of life, I hope this cleared up a few misconceptions in your mind šŸ™‚

Good Luck As Always and Happy Australia Day/Indian Reupublic Day/Chinese New Year


The US Job Interview

OK we have talked about this in other posts as an important part of the whole process to be present in the US for and to have US contact details on your resume. (We will discuss the US style resume in future posts)

Now the general format of the job interview is no different to what you are probably used to in the Western World. Basically after completing an online application of some sort and/or sending in a cover letter and resume and possible other relevant accompanying documents, you first point of contact if you make the next stage is usually a phone interview.

This phone interview can often be either inpromptu or set at a particular date and time and you will cover most general stuff about your background and resume and then information pertaining to the company and position to which you are applying,

The only curve ball (as they say often in US speak) or questions you may not be used to is immediate questions relating to your compensation or how much you want to be paid. Often this is asked earlier in the application for you to specify but it becomes a lot more intense when you are stating amounts to a person at the company over the phone.

A lot of people either because of their cultural backgrounds or indeed that in most other Western countries, money and negotiating is not such an open and direct topic as it in the US. People are well versed in this early in life often with the general entrepreneurial spirit that is in US culture or at least by college when talk is open about the type people expect when they graduate.

My best advice is to research your position a little on the Internet. There are plenty of sites from a simple Google search that will tell you the average salary for your position in the area which you are applying (area is important too as sometimes the differences are huge as you will places like NYC have much higher salaries across the board because of the much higher cost of living and possibly prestige of the city). Then be confident and add $10K to what you think as always best to aim high when you do this as invariably you will never get more than you originally state. So why settle, be American and demand more šŸ™‚

The face to face interviews are as you would expect and a more detailed analysis is done on you and more often than not you will have multiple people interview you, often separately so they can each get their unique take on you to discuss later. Obviously if you are applying in one of the traditional industries; law, high finance, etc. dress the part but wherever you go, it never hurts to over dress as you will rarely be penalized for it.

As I said in the previous post, if you feel like you are getting to the final stages of an interview and/or you are applying for what you feel to be an important or senior position, don’t be afraid to be asked to be reimbursed for travel and other costs. I have had plane tickets, taxis, car rentals, subway, etc. paid for in these situations. If you have got to this stage or going for such a position it is almost expected that this will be done for you. Of course in most cases that is not going to be a plane ticket from Aus to the US because as discussed most would expect you to be in the US already but IĀ  would advise to always ask the question as the monetary costs can add up. If you don’t get a position it is at least some comfort to have some expenses offset given you can get your time and occasionally your sanity back šŸ™‚

Always good to leave on a good note as if you were 2nd or 3rd in line, often 1st person might reject for whatever reason (usually b/c they got a better offer), so they will usually turn to you in that situation. Be prepared to discuss details of your contract which may be for a specified period but usually for most levels of workers is something like “employed at will” with 90 day probationary period.

Essentially that means in first 90 days if they are not satisfied at any time they can fire you with no compensation other than what you have worked thus far. After the initial 3 months they can still fire with you on the spot with no notice and you will have to leave at that moment, only that you will probably get a payout for unused leave etc. and maybe some other termination compensation depending on the circumstances.

The US system of hire and fire is brutal so don’t expect 2 weeks notice or even in many cases cordiality if it happens. Seeing it in front of my eyes this past year with all the layoffs in 2008 even with people who other than for the economy wouldn’t have lost their job being told randomly, they are fired and given barely 10 minutes to leave. Essentially from the momemt you are terminated you are seen as a security risk and they can’t get you out of their fast enough. Suddenly the friendliest people and atmosphere in the world become like your worst immigration and airport security nightmare….official and borderline scary. While it is obviously worse to have happen to you, it is certainly not fun to watch either like a sick car crash from close up as its happening!

Ok enough of the bad stuff but this why I implore you to demand a lot when you start, including ensuring things like your benefits are up to par like medical/dental/vision, life insurance, retirement, etc. which should all be musts in your overall package. Medical insurance is super expensive and annoying to deal with but make sure you have it so it becomes at least a tiny bit easier. I will go into more detail about this another time.

The final piece of advice is about when to drop the hint about the sponsorship part. I was reading many forums and there are a lot of different opinions on it. My mantra is to have this there from the beginning, it avoids so much heartache and if explained properly will not be an obstacle. Let’s face it an employer that is not open to sponsorship is unlikely to be convinced later on and may be annoyed that this secret was kept for them. I tried lot’s of different strategies and by far the most effective and best for my own piece of mind was the initial upfront approach.

Stay tuned in a future post and I WILL REVEAL exactly what I wrote and said for you to use yourself…..