should I give up on job-searching in my new city and move back home?

A reader writes:

Shortly before the pandemic, I moved across the country to pursue a career in an industry which is incredibly competitive and centred in the city I moved to. I had enough experience in my previous city which made me confident I could at least secure an entry-level position here, and I was getting interest from companies I had applied to. I’m also still early in my career, but just past the phase where I’d be considered a new grad. However, my industry was deeply affected by COVID-19 and there have been significant layoffs. So now, very few positions are opening up and whenever one does, I’m competing against those who had been laid off and have much more experience than me. This is also an industry where local experience and connections are very important. This was made all the more clear to me when I recently interviewed for a company in my exact field for which I had all the qualifications and significant experience in, but the person hired had less experience than me, but all her experience was local.

In addition to that, I don’t have a social support network here at all and making new friends is virtually impossible in this current climate, whereas I have a strong support network back home. All of this is making me strongly reconsider moving back if I am able to secure a job back home. I have a strong safety net and emergency savings account and secondary source of income which means that financially, I’m not suffering terribly, but it’s also not great either. I’m still applying for any and every job I’m qualified for, but it also feels frustrating since I’m worried that they’ll limit my ability to move back into my industry in the future and I would rather be living back home if I’m working in a job that’s not in my field because at least that way, I’d have a support system.

The problem is, at this point, I haven’t been employed in a full-time capacity in over half a year and I quit my job in my previous city to make this move. Before the pandemic I was regularly getting interviewed and even got an offer in my field (which I turned down because I got a “run, don’t walk” vibe from the interviewer and was also leaving a toxic workplace, but now I regret not taking). How do I justify this to employers and not make it seem that I quit a job without another one lined up for no reason? Before I moved, the general consensus with most companies is that they’d be interested, but that I’d need to be living in the city before they seriously considered me for a position, which is why I chose to move without a job offer, which I now see as naive and foolish.

I’m just feeling really down. This move was supposed to push me further in my career and now I feel like I’ve taken 10 steps back from where I started. I’m applying to any job I’m qualified for, but I’m also thinking that if I wouldn’t have moved away from my hometown for these types of jobs and would have rather stayed there. I didn’t move here only for my career, I do love the new city, but what fun is it without anyone to share it with?

Thank you for any advice you can offer and sorry if I sound like a Debbie Downer in this email and if this is the 1284th email you’ve received about COVID-19. Your blog has provided a source of comfort and if anything, it feels less lonely to know that I’m not alone right now. Who knows, maybe another reader is dealing with something similar and they’ll also feel less alone.

If your heart is telling you to move back, you should move back.

I’m not 100% sure from your letter that it is, but I think it might be.

You haven’t failed, and your decision to move to this new city wasn’t naive or foolish based on the info you had available at the time. Before this happened, you were getting interest from the companies you’d applied to. So you made a reasonable choice — and then the world was upended by a pandemic. That’s it. You weren’t silly or naive. You, like everyone else, are the victim of a (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime scenario that none of us foresaw.

And don’t blame yourself for turning down that job with the bad vibes either — you should turn down jobs that have screaming red flags if you have any choice at all, and at the time, you did. And you wouldn’t necessarily be better off right now if you had taken that job; you could be working somewhere that was destroying your mental health and jeopardizing your physical safety.

As for how to explain your situations to employers, all you need to say is, “I’d moved to X right before COVID-19 hit. The pandemic made my job search there a lot harder, and also made me realize I want to be near family.” They’ll get it. The pandemic is a legitimate explanation for all sorts of weird job search situations. Employers get it. Don’t stress about it.

Anyway. If you’re not absolutely sure you want to move back, why not give yourself a deadline? You could decide that if your situation hasn’t changed in X weeks, you’ll move back. Knowing you have a plan might take some of the pressure off and keep you from being constantly in “what do I do now?!” mode.

But really, if you wouldn’t have moved knowing what you know now and you wish you were still back home … you can course-correct. It’s not a sign of failure; it’s just adapting to circumstances that have changed profoundly.

{ 108 comments… read them below }

  1. Artemesia*

    Relax about concerns about being out of work or moving or doing odd things — the pandemic has made all this bog standard normal. You are not going to have to explain why your world turned upside down; everyone’s did. Do what feels right and hope for the best.

    1. Hazel*

      The pandemic is a legitimate explanation for all sorts of weird job search situations. Employers get it. Don’t stress about it.

      Even though I wholeheartedly agree with Alison and with Artemesia, when I was job searching after being laid off, I felt that I had to say that over 50% of the company was also laid off. Even though I knew better, I felt ashamed and thought hiring managers would be judgmental about my being laid off. I’m just mentioning this because I’ll bet other people are feeling this way, and I want to tell them it’s really true that no reasonable person is going to blame you for losing your job (even if you think they will). I started a new job 3 week’s ago, and I had several interviews during my search (after following all of Alison’s advice), and no one ever said anything about my being laid off, except that they were sorry it happened.

  2. Jen*

    All the best to OP. I know how hard these decisions can be. Please don’t feel stupid. You took a chance, most people won’t change the brand of cereal they eat. Kudos to you!

    1. OP*

      Thank you so much for this! I think part of what’s getting me down is just feeling like if I go back, it’s giving up and failing, when in reality it’s just adapting to unforeseeable circumstances. Either way, this comment made me smile :)

      1. Aphrodite*

        Failing is only not doing something. Succeeding is doing something and repeatedly failing without stopping; ask Thomas Edison.

      2. Sparrow*

        Yes! I know it can be hard to fully change that mindset (I’ve definitely been there) but don’t let that lingering fear keeping you from making that decision if it’s the right one. Just keep reminding yourself that you’d be making the strategic choice that makes the most sense given your current situation, which is not at all the same thing as giving up or failing. If it were me, I’d probably follow Alison’s suggestion of setting a deadline for myself and, until then, apply for positions in both places. Good luck!

      3. LDN Layabout*

        OP, you were stopped by a global pandemic. A disaster.

        You have not failed. You’d be making a mature and measured decision based on the new world we’re all in.

      4. Aquawoman*

        You’re so hard on yourself! Not foreseeing the thing that hasn’t happened in your, your parents’ or probably your grandparents’ lifetime is not “naive!” It’s kind of a “no one expects the Spanish Inquisition” thing. Also, having a gap on your resume in 2020 is so not a concern.

      5. PoppingInForThis*

        I feel for you. If it makes it any easier, my daughter, who has worked successfully through college and for two years after in Big City, is moving home to her small rural town because…the theaters are closed. (She does theater tech and is a director and playwright). No one thinks any the less of her AND it gives her the opportunity to look for work nationwide, when otherwise she would be tied to a lease, friends, etc. She can also do some pro stuff from here. No employer will give you the side-eye.

      6. Avasarala*

        Repeating something or returning somewhere doesn’t mean you’re giving up, failing, or repeating something you’ve already done! It’s not a circle, it’s a spiral–we may return to the 3:00 position or 12:00 position as we continue along the spiral, but that doesn’t mean we’re in the same exact place doing the same exact thing. Our experiences and our contexts are totally different.

        And many many other countries and cultures around the world don’t have this hang up about “going home to live with family.” In many places it’s desirable to live with family, and people often move out to college and then return home to live and work and support their families! You’re definitely not doing anything wrong here!

      7. Catosaur*

        I just like to think of it as a backup plan! And it’s always easier to make the tough decisions when you have an option you know will work on the back burner. You can always move again later if you end up back home.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      I could not agree more! It is absolutely *not* your fault that this apocalypse-movie-level pandemic has upended everything, and you didn’t fail at anything. Going home is not quitting. At all. There is nothing to say that, should normalcy ever return, you couldn’t make another go of it, but deciding now is not the right time is a perfectly reasonable, non-fail-y decision. Be kind to yourself, and I’m sorry that COVID19 messed with your plans.

  3. Detective Amy Santiago*

    If it wouldn’t be a financial loss for you (breaking a lease, etc) then I’d probably move back home now, find something there, and keep saving so that when the pandemic is no longer an issue, you can move again and give it a real shot in the new city in your industry. Staying now will deplete your funds and, unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like there is an end in sight.

    I’m sorry your plans were thwarted.

    1. OP*

      There is a financial aspect which would make it difficult to move back without a job offer. I would have to find someone to replace my lease (which has since become overpriced considering COVID-19 has led to a lower cost of renting and my roommate doesn’t seem very into the idea), and ship my belongings back home (the cost isn’t prohibitive, but I’d like to avoid it if it’s not necessary). My parents also no longer live in my hometown (they moved to another country so living with them isn’t an option) and although I would move in with my brother for a bit, I would still need to pay rent and he is not an easy person to live with and it would potentially ruin our relationship.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Oh, what a tough situation. It doesn’t sound like you have any obvious options.

        The only other suggestion I can think of is to join a Facebook group or subreddit for your new city and see if you can make some connections that way. Can’t really do much but at least you’ll know people.

      2. Nanani*

        In that case you might want to take your time with the moving back plans.
        Maybe spend X amount of time per week working on the logistics – finding a place to live that isn’t with your brother, finding work, finding a lower cost solution to moving your stuff and so on.
        Work on it slowly until the natural end of your lease?

        My thinking is that working on the logistics will help the urge to DO SOMETHING without necessarily upheaving your life where you are now.

      3. my dog is snoring*

        Well, in that case…are you sure moving back would be better? With folks social distancing, etc., would being back really give you the support you’re looking for? If it were me, I’d 1) take any job, even if it wasn’t one you’d move for, 2) commit to staying through the end of your lease (that seems like a natural time to reevaluate), 3) in the interim, consider alternatives outside of staying or returning home–are there other places you’d be interested in living?–and expand your search accordingly.

        1. Annony*

          I think it is a good idea to think about whether that support system will really be there is the way you are imagining. It won’t be like before. Can you set up some online game nights or remote streaming parties to hang out with friends and family? You may not be able to see your friends in person even if you are in the same city.

          If you stay where you are, you are well positioned for when your industry starts rehiring. Meanwhile you can look into any type of networking available to help you when you get your foot in the door.

          If you want to move back, you absolutely should. Just make sure it is actually what you want and that you aren’t trying to return to pre-COVID city. Unfortunately, pre-COVID city isn’t there anymore.

          1. OP*

            I didn’t mention this on the post for anonymity, but I don’t live in the US and my country has done well to flatten the curve, so it is possible to see friends and have small gatherings. My hometown has actually done well to flatten the curve to the point it is possible to contact trace, and is doing a lot better than New City in terms of COVID so it is a lot more open than here.

            1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

              I’m in Germany, same here fortunately. The job hunting process is still slowed though.

            2. JSPA*

              This is only the first of what will almost certainly be multiple waves. Disregard if you’re in NZ (and thank your lucky stars that you’re there, if so), but “doing well so far” and “being able to count on that continuing” are different things. Call it impatience or attention fatigue, nobody’s completely immune to incrementally letting down their guard, and redefining “what we seem to have gotten away with, two weeks ago” as “therefore pretty safe.”

              1. Bertha*

                I am going to second the comment from JSPA – maybe states/countries/cities that did well at first are now.. not doing as well. Honestly my friends back in my home area are doing all sorts of things that we are not doing in my current Big City because they have fewer restrictions, but now the numbers are ticking up again, and already some restrictions were put in place again.

      4. JSPA*

        That’s a bit more “you can’t go home again” than I’d envisioned. Given that you can’t move back in time (but the urge to do so is naturally strong!) start with this:

        1. list out your actual support network (pros and cons) as if you were a new transplant to your old city. Explicitly include the differences that Covid has made and will continue to make to the sort of relaxation, enjoyment and level of support that your old haunts and support network can offer. Your favorite places to hang out–would they even be open? Safe? Would it feel better to know that the friends you’re only able to meet with on skype are in the same city, or would it be more alienating, or really, not so different from now?

        2. Examine your reactions and resiliency to change: how long would you have to be gone from there for it to not feel like a new pain, to move back and find things changed? (Things changing when you’ve been gone for a few years can be easier to process than things changing when you’ve been gone for a few weeks or months).

        3. Are there parts of your support network that you’ve cut off not because you’re in different places, but because you’re in a mindset of, “all in for the launch, no second thoughts, no distractions, no looking back”? You don’t have to do that to yourself. You will be just as qualified for a job in New City, even if you’re also still chatting with friends, cultivating contacts and applying for jobs in Old City.

        4. Is your current living setup telework friendly? Of all the things nobody will bat an eyelash over in years to come (and they are legion), “I took a low-paid boring job that I could do via telework during the first Covid wave” has got to be high on the list. Or, if you’re someone who’s naturally methodical and careful and excellent navigating risk, “I took a lower skilled but higher risk job that desperately needed someone to do it” makes you something of a hero, if you can do it safely.

        The BBC had an article on young women who’d never been near a farm, signing up to pick crops that would otherwise have rotted in the field, much as their foremothers did during the world wars. Which isn’t to say, “pick crops.” Rather, that you’re allowed to make choices that would not have made sense six months ago, that are “good now, and good for now.” And as a corollary of sorts, you’re allowed to not know where that’s likely to lead you in another six months, nor what life will look like for anyone, in six months.

  4. Rose*

    You’re no more naive and foolish than the people who planned to get married in July. You made plans living in one world, and now we’re in another. All you can really do is adapt and count yourself among the millions of people who’s careers, relationships, hobbies, and plans have been paused, ended, or screwed over by Covid. You’re not alone, it’s not your fault, but it still sucks.

    I’d give myself a strict time limit and then head back home. This probably isn’t the right time to make a career transition work, unless you’re transitioning into something like healthcare. That has nothing to do with you or your choices. Let yourself feel sad while also reminding yourself of all the things you are so lucky to have (financial security, close friends back home, etc.).

  5. Stephen!*

    So, so much sympathy. I moved cities just before the Recession and all the jobs and prospects I had shriveled up and blew away like tumbleweeds. I ended up moving back to old city, stagnated in the job I was trying to leave, and eventually worked up escape velocity once more. It sucked! And it wasn’t an easy choice, but it was very likely the correct one in the long run. It’s easy to feel like you failed, but sometimes life just doesn’t work the way you hope and you have to change course. Be kind to yourself!

  6. juliebulie*

    Go back if you want to go back, but don’t go back just because you think you “should.”

    1. OP*

      I think this is a response I needed to hear. Part of me feels like I “should” because it’s what my parents keep saying (especially my dad who was never a fan of the move in the first place) but part of me knows I left for a reason, but I also know my heart is slightly torn and tired of feeling lonely in my new city.

      1. juliebulie*

        Your parents can’t help worrying about you. But if you go back there, they’ll find new reasons to worry about you!

        I think you should (“should,” lol) keep trying (where you are) until you’re satisfied that you’ve done all you could AND you want to go back.

        (I relocated in 1989 and went back in 2002 because I thought I “should” – and I’ve regretted it ever since.)

      2. Cee Cee Dee*

        I’ve been there OP! I moved to a big city to get into the work force a year after graduating. While I had work, I had no support system. When it came down to it, the support system mattered more, and I was able to land on my feet in my industry back home and this was during the recession. I had the feeling of failure initially, but it went away once I settled and had my support unit. It takes guts to make the move in the first place, and with the current environment I can’t see how people can fault you for coming home! When things get better, you can always go for this move again. It is NOT the end of the world.

      3. JSPA*

        Feeling lonely in a your city is possibly easier on the psyche than feeling lonely in your old city (which can also happen). A lot of people are lonely these days… Your move overlapped a tectonic shift in how society works; it’s hard to disentangle those things.

      4. Catosaur*

        It might help you weigh the loneliness by knowing that tons of folks are lonely in places they’ve been for years right now, just because the pandemic has caused so many small changes to our lives. My running group entirely shut down, no happy hours after work, no weekend movies, no plans for vacation, you name it. You may still feel sad and nostalgic even if you could completely turn back time and be home with your whole family again.

      5. Hapax Legomenon*

        When I decided to explore the option of moving far away, I got a lot of negative responses from people I thought would be supportive. A friend’s immediate response: “It won’t change anything.” (He was COMPLETELY wrong and that’s one of many reasons I’m glad we’re no longer friends.) My mother also disapproved, and that was difficult for me to get over. Eventually she came around, and acknowledged that her reasons for disapproving were unfounded. If you are not convinced it’s time to move back yet, don’t do it just because your parents say you should–if they care about your happiness, well, generally you know better than they do what will make you happy.
        That said, it’s also not failure to decide New City isn’t right for you. I only worked up the nerve to move to another country when I gave myself permission to change my mind. If I decided to move back after two weeks or six months or a year, the time spent here was a learning experience, not a task I failed at. Even if you move back tomorrow, you have learned new things about who you are and what you want/need and being back in your hometown doesn’t take that away. To quote my favorite author, “Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”

      6. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Do your parents know how you feel about living with your brother? It’s easy for them, thinking their two kids are together and therefore safe somehow, yet if you fall out because of forced intimacy, they won’t like it when you start arguing over plans that involve both of you at Christmas or whatever.

  7. CatCat*

    My heart goes out to you OP. I hope you’ll give yourself some grace at this frustrating, plan thwarting unexpected turn of world events. This is about circumstances out of your control, not about any sort of failing on your part.

    This whole thing reminds me of what happened during my graduate school in the Great Recession to the graduating class after the sh*t hit the fan. They made sensible and reasonable life plans based on prospects and jobs that evaporated. Great prospects went away and job offers were revoked. It suuuucked. I was in the next year’s class and even though that was awful too, we at least knew the reality of the situation by graduation and had more time to prepare than those caught right when it was first happening.

    There’s a graphic that has provided me a lot of comfort over the years in topsy turvy, uncertain times. I’ll see if I can find a link and share it.

    1. CatCat*

      This is it: https://i.redd.it/hftf2bv0gt8y.jpg

      Those rough valleys are real and exhausting, and the course shifts and the goals sometimes have to shift. It was comforting to me during some rough times to think it may suck now, but there’s more to life than right now.

        1. OwlEditor*

          CatCat, that graphic made me laugh so loud and now my cat is glaring at me because I woke him up. Thank you!
          I also agree about the piranhas!

          OP, think carefully about it, but don’t just do it because your parents said you should. Things change! I moved to a different state for a temp job six years ago and that eventually led (with a lot of heartache) to my dream job that I now have, but moving puts me 200 miles from family and when I moved closer to current job, I lost my support systems. Then we got sent to work from home and I am struggling. Plus, my department head just announced our roles are changing and it’s vague and upsetting and the stress is through the roof!
          Which is to say, we’re all with you! Stay if you feel better about it. Get a temp job to make ends meet if you have to. No reason to put it on a resume. Because I do understand moving for work and I think it will work out. Once the world’s done ending. :)

  8. jules*

    I appreciate the compassion in this response.

    LW, I encourage you to prioritize your health now; that’s much easier with a local support network. If you have an opportunity to return to a place where that is available to you, thats an important factor to take into consideration. Could you perhaps start putting in applications in both areas and see how it goes?

    1. OP*

      I think this is the approach I’m going to take. At the end of the day, what I need is a job and since many companies are hiring through video calls, it’s easier to secure a job in a city I’m not currently in.

  9. EA*

    Oh I’m in SUCH a similar situation – several years into my career, moved to the other side of the world two weeks before lockdown, I had backup plans to find a part-time job in case it took a while to find a ‘career’ job. I actually got a really good job offer in April but it fell through due to Covid. All my plans to make new friends, get involved in local groups, etc completely out the window. I would say that in contrast to the OP, my heart has been so light to be here, even with everything turned upside down, and I don’t regret moving (like OP, I saved enough of a cushion that’s not a worry – yet).

    Neither of us made a mistake – we just made big, brave decisions and couldn’t have known that everything was going to change. Sending you good vibes and lots of luck as you make your decision.

    1. Colette*

      Agreed – things not working out as you hoped doesn’t mean you made a mistake. It means you don’t control the world. It’s OK to try things and have them not work out; that’s the only way you get to the things that do work out.

    2. OP*

      With the exception of years of experience, everything virtually sounds the same! I had sent out resumes to a bunch of stores and restaurants and was close to getting hired for part time jobs before all this happened and I had signed up for a bunch of networking events in hopes of making friends (LOL, I know it’s sneaky but friends are just a different kind of network).

      Thank you for the good vibes, they mean a lot and you are right, we are brave for doing this and I’m sending positive thoughts and light your way too.

  10. Leigh*

    i’ve been waiting for my exact life situation to come up on this blog…thank you. did you move to DC after going to school for international development? that’s what i did.

    i was finally offered a job after a while in DC (where i didn’t go to grad school – i was in NYC) with a place that strung me along, during the beginning of the pandemic, for months, before telling me they weren’t going to hire me after all. when that happened at the end of May, i suddenly got three interviews, and then the industry started shutting down again. i will have to move back to New York, now. for the meantime, i’m going to continue doing my internship that i am wildly overqualified for in terms of education level, education pedigree, work experience, and expertise, and will keep applying to things in DC while.

    you’re not alone. this sucks. moving home and trying to keep making moves is the best option, i think.

    things will get better though – they HAVE to. keep on pushing – i’m rooting for you, too.

    1. OP*

      Nope, different city and different industry, but similar situation! I’ve been strung along and ghosted by my fair share of companies in this job search though (one even had the interviewer miss the interview which was a massive trek to get to and then after she realized she missed it, she got in touch to reschedule and had the gall to say “you didn’t come here for the original interview right??” Oh, and the position never materialized).

      I also seem to be getting turned down from internships I’m overqualified for though. I do have a part-time freelance job which I do love and the team I work with are all amazing people I feel valued, but it’s definitely not enough income in the long run. It’s just discouraging applying and applying and applying from things I’m qualified or overqualified for and just be getting radio silence.

      But thank you for commenting, because I do feel less alone and hearing that you moved back makes me feel better if that’s the path I end up deciding to take, and there’s always the option of moving back to the new city later on.

      I’m rooting for you too, by the way :)

  11. 867-5309*

    I’d offer one modification since you are still open and seem to desire living in this new area, it’s just that circumstances beyond your control won’t allow you to do so comfortably and successfully.

    “I moved to X right before COVID-19 hit. The pandemic made my job search there a lot harder, and also made me realize I want to be near family.” This works for jobs in your hometown but obviously when the time comes that you need to answer questions about taking a position outside the industry, I would say, “I moved to X right before COVID-19 hit and the pandemic made my job search there a lot harder. I opted to return closer to family as an interim solution to find work, unless I was able to resume my search here.”

    1. Hillary*

      This worries me – with my hiring manager hat on I hear they’re going to leave again in a year. Alison’s script implies that they now know they want to stay (whether or not that’s true).

      1. Annony*

        I agree. If you move back, don’t make it sound like you will leave again for the other city. Maybe that is your plan, but it will not help the job search.

      2. 867-5309*

        To clarify, I meant use that for jobs back home but don’t use it if looking back in the new city later.

  12. cmcinnyc*

    OP, I don’t know where you are from–but is it really better there? Would you have any desire to move back if it weren’t for this lousy turn of events, which is affecting us all? It does not sound to me like your *heart* is telling you to move back–I think it’s your *fear.* And it’s a totally legitimate fear. What if this goes on another year in New City and you can’t break in? What if you end up taking a stop-gap job and that turns into a career detour that derails your plans? What if you can’t make friends or network or get connected in this new place post-COVID for a significant amount of time? Will you lose your mind? I like the advice to set yourself a deadline–not to leave, but to make a firm decision. Nobody knows what’s next. Nobody will judge you for moving to New City with expectations that didn’t pan out. That doesn’t make you foolish. I had plans in January, too.

    1. OP*

      I think you’re right when it comes to fear. To be honest, I also left because I wanted a fresh start and just felt like I outgrew my hometown (it’s a lovely place, but has a bit of a small town mentality for a city that’s so liberal). I have all the fears that you listed, but I also started feeling the weight of the loneliness that comes in living in a city where I don’t have a support group. What I think I’m going to do is apply to jobs in both cities. If I am for some miraculous reason able to get a job in my industry here in my new city, I’ll take that, but otherwise, I think I would be happy moving back until this passes.

      1. Sarah*

        Is there an option to get a job in your old industry but in your new city? That would make it easy for you to pivot either way depending on how things go. I’d assume the pandemic could go on for years but will eventually end. When that happens, will you want to be in your new city? If so, see if there is a way you can stay. If not, you can feel like you got a lucky break in a way and move back to your old city. Ultimately, I suspect job searching will be hard in either city.

  13. Colette*

    If moving back is the right thing for you – and it sounds like it might be – then there is no shame in doing so. But in the meantime, can you lean on your remote support system a little more than you have been? Do some video calls, play some board games online, or otherwise get some social contact.

  14. Cordoba*

    “I tried a thing, it didn’t work (for whatever reason), and then I did something else” is not an indication of failure – it’s an indication of growth.

    If it helps, there are a few concrete positives from the LW’s experience in the new city:
    1) They have a better general understanding of the labor market in this field, and the competition that they’re facing. This is valuable knowledge.
    2) It sounds like they got a ton of experience interviewing. That experience is very useful, both in this specific industry and generally.
    3) Ten years from now, LW won’t have to ask themselves “If only I had taken that chance to move to {New City} back in 2020, who knows what could have happened?” They answered that question by trying it, and can now make a decision about their next move knowing the *reality* of this experience rather than a perhaps-idealized mental picture of it. People tend to regret chances they don’t take rather than the ones they do take, provided that the outcome from taking the chance isn’t an actual permanent-type disaster.

    1. OP*

      Thank you so much for this. The last one really hit me because I’m deathly afraid of failure and taking risks. Like you said, it isn’t “failure” in the typical sense, but I do think I’ve grown in some ways because of it.

      1. JSPA*

        life’s not a video game with set tasks that have a right and wrong answer. There’s no guarantee of there even being an answer that will feel totally right.

        You’re an organism on the face of a planet, you have some resources, you have some skills. Success really can’t be defined much beyond, “stay alive while finding something to do with your time that provides a tolerable level of resources in exchange for the exercise of one or another of your skills, and continues to make you feel like being alive is a good thing.”

        Guidance counselors and self-help books and affirmation fans are big on the idea of having a plan, and living in furtherance of that plan. All that “have a plan” talk is fine, as far as giving people a context to figure out what they’re good at, what they enjoy doing, what sorts of people they’d like to be around, and what sorts of places they’d like to exist in. But if you do something else–if you veer from that course–so what? That course is a figment of your (directed) imagination. It’s based on a projection you made, X number of years ago, of how the world works, what you’ll be like as you mature, what it’s like to be in a certain field or to play a certain role in the world.

        If you have to divert from the plan anyway, pay attention to off-plan things (jobs, people, places, situations) that make you unexpectedly happy. Maybe your backup plan becomes your main plan, and your main plan becomes your backup plan. Maybe you literally end up training llamas (or painting teapots), and feeling deep enjoyment when you wake up to greet the day, all the same. That’s not a failure.

  15. Elizabeth West*

    UGH
    This is kinda my situation. I’d outgrown the market where I was, moved, and then *poof!* pandemic. I want to move to a city almost exactly like the one you’re describing. I can’t get into its main industry either so I’ve been hitting what I can do and stressing the remote angle. But thanks to a patchy reopening and some people being peopley (ignorant a-holes), it’s shutting down again, which means hiring will grind to a halt.

    If it weren’t for the virus, I’d say stay where you are and keep trying. But if there are few jobs there currently, it might be better to move back, because it’s not going to get better for a while. It might be possible to go back later. If you’re lucky enough to land something soon, then you could stay; an interim job means you’ll be working, which is better than not working at all and facing potential unemployment prejudice. And if you’re working, that will help you make local connections even if they’re not in the industry, because you never know who you’ll meet (even if it’s virtual).

    It’s not anybody’s fault, and it’s not a reflection on you. It’s just a really bad overall situation.

  16. Ping*

    Sometimes it’s about the timing. Everything can be done right. But the timing is wrong and it fails.

    Maybe later the timing will be right. And it will be wonderful.

    This is more of a setback than a failure.

  17. mindovermoneychick*

    This one actually seems like a no-brainer to me. Go back! The things that made the new city worth moving to aren’t available any more. The reasons to live in old city are still there. You did nothing wrong to end up in this situation anymore then the hotel-employee from yesterday’s letter, by choosing to work in hospitality. None of us optimized our January decision-making for this crazy new 2020 new world we are living in.

    Also it sounds like you are young enough that you weren’t working through the 2008 recessions. My friends in industry who were hard hit buy had employment problems for year. This might not be something we can just wait out a few more months. Nod to Captain Awkward – how long would you stay if you knew nothing was going to change. 6 months, 1 years, 3 years? Because those are all possibilities.

  18. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    I could have written this letter! 18 months unemployed and no option to move back home (I’m overseas now with my husband), and just feeling so down that I haven’t found a job. I also ran from two incredibly unprofessional interviews and though I can rationalize not working for some of that time due to finishing my MBA, the pandemic really screwed me for job opportunities. It’s absolutely depressing. But it’s opened my eyes to investigating new fields. You’re not alone!!!

  19. MissDisplaced*

    “I recently interviewed for a company in my exact field for which I had all the qualifications and significant experience in, but the person hired had less experience than me, but all her experience was local.”

    Ouch! I’m so sorry, because facing that kind of thing is so, so hard.
    I don’t think any of your choices were bad, foolish or naive either. You seem to have quite a bit of experience and there was every reason to think you would have been able to set up and find a job in NewCity. Who could’ve foreseen COVID last year?

    On moving back. Do you really think your prospects will be any better in HomeTown? I know there are other reasons to move home, but strictly from a career standpoint you did leave for a reason. Is your field any better off there? Can you do something there you cannot do in NewCity? Can you explore other career options in NewCity until your industry picks up again? Ultimately though, if your gut says move home to be closer to friends and family, that is a thing that takes precedent in many people’s lives and there is no shame in it.

    Sometimes when I’m faced with these hard decisions, I make a divided list of Reasons to Stay and Reasons to Go, and then rate them on a scale of say, 1-10 of how important they are to me. I know it’s kind of unscientific, but it can help you really layout things objectively.

  20. curious*

    OP is there a way you could search for any job to keep yourself afloat while you try to break into your dream job? I mean maybe part time in an office, a barrista, retail….they might not be long term positions that you are looking for but it might help you get through a few months while things return to a new normal.

    1. OP*

      It’s a tricky one because most of those kinds of places aren’t hiring (I live in a country where COVID is being taken very seriously and there are strict social distancing rules in retail and F&B establishments. I do have a part-time job related to my field (adjacent I would say) so that helps me take a minimal dip into my savings, but it’s not ideal as my only source of income.

      1. curious*

        This might be far fetched and might take a few weeks to set things up but can you suppliment your income maybe with babysitting, selling online, helping someone run errands, baking… just something to get a few extra dollars sent your way? Again I don’t know where you are geographically but I hope there someways to get a few more dollars squeezed out of your budget. As everyone has told you this is an amazing adventure. Sometimes the path you take isn’t the direct route but you will accomplish your dreams.

        1. curious*

          OP it sounds like most of your support system is remote. Your current city is where you would have better resources to accomplish your dreams. Regardless you are still going to have rent and bills. While moving is always an option, so is finding a way to stay. Neither way is wrong just a different way to look at things.

      2. Dagny*

        You can search for “remote” or “telework” jobs to supplement your income. There is everything from medical transcription and virtual executive assistants to General Counsel. Find whatever skill level you are at and apply.

  21. Yvette*

    You are being way to hard on yourself. “…because pandemic…” is entirely valid and not just a handy excuse. You did something that would scare the hell out of a lot of people. You tried something big. I can’t even imagine myself doing what you did. I think you are very brave. Do what you feel is right for you, and if that is moving back then do it. No regrets.

  22. But There is a Me in Team*

    No advice, just sending out love and good wishes to everyone who has posted and is dealing with this. Is the field one where there is any way to volunteer a few hours a week either in it, or proximate? That could be tough when looking for other pay-the-bills work, but I did volunteer my way into both my careers, and it made me feel better when things were down. OK so a little advice. Good luck!

    1. anon for this*

      I thought of this possibility as well. I came this close to doing an unpaid internship in publishing on the West Coast back in the day when I was trying to get into that (before realizing I really didn’t want to have to move to New York City at any point in my career, and so either had to go international or find something else to do with my life).

    2. OP*

      I’ve been looking into unpaid internships, but due to rules and regulations in my country/city, employers tend to be very strict about giving those to people past the “recent grad” phase, but at this point, I’m looking for experience.

  23. Chronic Overthinker*

    You went to this new city in good faith, with the knowledge that you had potential for a new job. Then the pandemic happened, changing EVERYTHING. It would be one thing if you could network and socialize and drum up potential opportunities, but with our current situation, it may just be best to come home. Just make sure to quarantine for two weeks to ensure you don’t accidentally bring anything back with you. Then, reach out to family and your support group and maybe you’ll find exactly what you need! Good luck OP.

    1. brightbetween*

      As John Green said in one of his Crash Course US History videos: “stupid disease, always changing the course of human history”

  24. Half April Ludgate, Half Leslie Knope*

    OP, I did this last year – moved cross-country to job hunt because I was getting lots of interest from that area, spent three months trying and suddenly experiencing interview drought when I arrived (so fun), then eventually settling for a job back home. It SUCKED, but I’ve chosen to focus on the positives – I’m proud of myself for taking a leap and doing something – anything – rather than taking the easy road. I truly enjoyed my time in my temporary city and met great people there. I have a fantastic boss and team in my current job, even though it’s not a dream gig – ultimately, no job is ACTUALLY, realistically a dream gig.

    Focus on the positives, and explain your move to future interviewers as a positive – you are someone who’s willing to take a bold risk to drive change, who won’t shy away from a challenging situation. You’ve got this!

  25. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

    So much sympathy for you! I was in a temp to perm position and quit on February 14th because they weren’t following through with making me permanent and the environment was borderline toxic. I figured my temp agency could get me a new position easily and then whammo, Covid hit and I’ve been unemployed except for a part-time side hustle ever since.

    I absolutely understand the feeling of being foolish for quitting that job, but like Alison says, you have to realize that a decision made with the information available at the time isn’t a dumb one, it’s just really terrible timing. Be kind to yourself!

  26. Betsy S*

    It sounds really tough, but COVID is a completely unanticipated solution, and it does sound as though the job market in your field in New City is going to be very tough to crack for a while.

    With your network of support in your original town, might someone be able to hook you up with something part-time or hourly, something to make the move easier and give you a bit of a cushion? And can you also look for housesitting or sublet possibilities? Crashing with your brother sounds like it adds a layer of stress. If he had moved, where would you stay?

    Old City doesn’t have to be a dead end – it sounds as though you’ve been able to get some experience there and make some contacts. And, moving back doesn’t have to be forever. People in the future will understand that a very great many young people had problems getting hired during the 2020 crash.

    Good luck, and remember this won’t last forever!

  27. Nanani*

    OP, is there a third option?
    Is it really “go home” (to where your parents aren’t anymore, but you difficult brother is?) or “stay here”?

    Can you think of another place to go? Perhaps another city that has a mid-size market for your industry and isn’t the big one that everyone is trying to get into. Perhaps a city where some of your friends live, that isn’t your hometown.
    Even if there isn’t, it can be good to break your mind of the false dichotomy that is stay here vs move back.

    1. OP*

      I thought I replied to this but it replied as it’s own post!

      It’s a bit tricky because I live in a country with 3-ish primary cities. The first is hometown, the second is new city, the third speaks a different language and typically (but not always) requires you to be bilingual (I think you can guess the country haha). My industry does require me to live in one of these cities and I also don’t do well living in towns or small cities, so I do have to pick between one of the two.

      I do want to say, my brother is a lovely person, but my parents and I all agree that we feel uncomfortable and unwelcome whenever we have stayed at his place in the past. Whenever we stay with my parents, he’s usually quite lovely, but it’s just when it comes to his space that he’s like this.

      1. Nanani*

        Yep, I think I can guess! If the bilingual city also has extra rules on when and how one can move, then I know exactly where you mean ;)

        Anyway, no one can tell you the correct answer. Just, try to make sure you’re not limiting your options more than necessary. Take your time. This is an exceptional situation for a lot of people. You’ll weather it.

      2. JSPA*

        I can think of at least four, depending how strict the definition of “3-ish” and whether there are two, three, or 4 languages (with the 4th split into mutually incomprehensible dialects).

        My default choice (based on which city is more forgiving and flexible, and also easier to navigate by bike/on foot throughout the year) would differ significantly.

        One easy suggestion is to use the time to really nail down that second language, and to be as fully bilingual as humanly possible. That’s just never a bad thing or wasted effort.

  28. Chris too*

    No real advice, but something to think about-if you moved back right now, you might find the great support network from your hometown isn’t the same anyway – people will still love and care about you no matter where you are but as our social lives have shrunk, you may find that whether you’re living in the same city or not doesn’t make any difference to how much you interact with them.

  29. I edit everything*

    Don’t neglect industry-adjacent jobs. In publishing, for example, there’s a good deal of back and forth between literary agencies and publishers. Even a part time job reading slush for an agent is a foot in the door. Perhaps in your industry, there’s a similar sideways approach. Or think about the classic line, “Oh, you’re an actor? What restaurant do you work at?” Is there a job that functions as a “holding pen” for your industry? It might get you some extra income and the first of those local connections you need.

    I’m a terrible introvert, so this is a “take my advice; I’m not using it” kind of post. I suck at networking, personally, but maybe it’s a useful direction for you, or at least food for thought.

  30. Coder von Frankenstein*

    None of this is your fault and you have not failed.

    You know your own situation best, and it doesn’t sound like you’re suffering from the tunnel vision people sometimes get around this kind of thing. You made good decisions based on the information you had. Now, in the immortal words of Jeff Bridges, new s**t has come to light, and the situation has changed, and you’re changing plans accordingly.

    This is a weird and crazy time. Figure out what you need to do in order to get through it okay, and know that nothing you do now is set in stone–if you move back home, which sounds like a sensible idea, nothing prevents you from taking another stab at this in a couple of years.

  31. OP*

    It’s a bit tricky because I live in a country with 3-ish primary cities. The first is hometown, the second is new city, the third speaks a different language and typically (but not always) requires you to be bilingual (I think you can guess the country haha). My industry does require me to live in one of these cities and I also don’t do well living in towns or small cities, so I do have to pick between one of the two.

    I do want to say, my brother is a lovely person, but my parents and I all agree that we feel uncomfortable and unwelcome whenever we have stayed at his place in the past. Whenever we stay with my parents, he’s usually quite lovely, but it’s just when it comes to his space that he’s like this.

    1. Alex*

      In that case, I think maybe if you just wait a tad longer you’ll find things looking up. As long as Canada holds tight on their US border, they’ll probably be getting more back to normal soon! Of course, the economy will probably suck for a while, but that’s going to be true wherever you go.

    2. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

      Ah, ok, your new city is probably my hometown, based on what you’ve described so far. Look, it’s a challenging place both career-wise and socially at the best of times (and in a way that’s very different from your hometown), and I can’t imagine trying to get started out there in the COVID era. Even though it’s where basically everyone goes to get their career started, it is kind of difficult to develop a support network there as an early-20-something if you didn’t go to university/college within a couple hours’ drive. No one will fault you for deciding that your new city isn’t worth the trouble. OTOH, it’s an amazing place once your get your bearings, but you’ll have to decide whether you feel up to dealing with the medium (not short) term discomfort in getting there.

      I also thought that I’d need to stay in your new city to stay in my industry, but I took a serious look at cities that are the size of the largest city in-between the most eastern primary city and the one that speaks a different language. Yeah, that leaves a few large-but-less-fun cities, but they are really rewarding places to live and build a career *if* you can find a job in your industry there.

  32. Oh Fiddlesticks*

    This letter writer sounds like such a kind person. I really feel for her. I hope it all works out!

  33. Cedrus Libani*

    I was in a similar position in 2008, so I get it. I like Alison’s advice, but I’d like to add one thing – the problems you’re having, for the most part, don’t sound like New City problems. If you move back to Old City, there are still going to be lots of newly unemployed people willing to take a lower position for a paycheck, such that people who could’ve been your grand-boss in 2019 are applying for the same handful of job openings that you are. You may have friends in Old City, but let’s face it, you can’t realistically hang out with them in person. It doesn’t sound like you gain much by moving back, and the factors that drove you to move to New City still exist.

    It’s also the case that you can job-hunt in both Old City and New City simultaneously. If you get an offer in Old City, you can evaluate whether it’s worth moving back.

  34. AFellowMover*

    Hey OP, I’m so sorry about what you’re going through. Like other commenters, I think you’re being hard on yourself when you couldn’t have possibly foreseen this situation. A decade ago, early in my career, I made a very similar move across the US with no job lined up, because I also had gotten interest but “only if you’re local.” It was tough but worked out, though I have total confidence I’d be in exactly the same boat as you if something like COVID happened back then. I don’t think you made a naive mistake, but instead took a totally sensible leap of faith for your career. Whatever you end up doing, I hope things work out for you long term!

  35. Lalalalala*

    This doesn’t help re: making money, but is there any chance there’s an organization where you could volunteer (in person or online) in a capacity that makes sense for your industry? For example, if you’re in tech, you could offer to upgrade a website or a database for an organization you respect, if you’re in marketing you could help with their social media, etc.. Obviously this might not be very relevant to you, but it could be a good way of getting more experience in your industry and potentially meet some professional or friendship connections in the meantime. The same could be said for volunteering for a professional association.

    And on the friend front, some commiseration: I live in a newish-to-me city where I theoretically know a lot of people (went to grad school school here), and I have barely seen them at all since the pandemic started. And even when I do see people I still feel pretty lonely knowing so many people are around that I can’t or don’t spent time with. The most comfort I’ve felt is through planning small camping trips with friends in other cities (something to look forward to!), and through talking on the phone with friends from home. But otherwise I’ve just sort of resolved to be happy by myself for this period, and at times it’s really tough but at others it’s nice. This is all to say: I don’t necessarily know if your loneliness is a function of your current city; is it possible it’s more existential loneliness? If that’s the case, I think you should give yourself to permission to stay where you are if you think it’s the right thing to do and know that this too shall pass.

  36. cleo*

    This happened to a work friend of mine, on a much smaller scale. She and her husband moved across the country for a work opportunity. A few months after the move they discovered they were pregnant with their first child. And they moved back. I didn’t judge her when she told me they didn’t want to have a baby 1,000s of miles away from their extended families and with no support network in place – it made sense to me.

    1. OP*

      I do think part of the reason I’m afraid to move back is the judgement I’m scared of facing. I made a big deal about moving across the country and if I go back, I’m worried about what people will think (which I know is the silliest thing ever since it’s my life and career, and not theirs), but also, I guess it’s to be expected when the world has changed so much in the past few months.

      1. cleo*

        Completely understandable. And some will probably judge you, but that’s probably more about them than about you. Most people care less about what we do than we think.

        Most people will also follow your lead on it – present it matter of factly, as a practical and temporary response to a global crisis rather than something shameful or embarrassing and most will accept that.

      2. JSPA*

        In the unlikely event that you were a total over-the-top jerk about it: tie up your bib and eat crow. It’ll do you good to remember the taste, if you ever again get the urge to make “I’m blowing this town” grand gestures.

        In the likely event that you were a bit self-indulgent at worst, trust me, people have plenty to worry about and think about in their own lives at the moment. Some won’t even remember that you left, others won’t remember why, and plenty of them will also be jobless and stretched thin.

      3. Baked beans for breakfast*

        Fortunately, while there could be a few folks who might feel smug about your return, most will follow your lead. It’s not like you’ve done anything wrong!

        I’ve done some things that were completely contrary to my original and quite ambitious life plans, and I can count on one finger the number of people who bring it up and try to embarrass me.

  37. The Rural Juror*

    OP, I think part of my story may feel relatable to you. Things were rough for a while, but I found real happiness, and I’d like to share with you, so here goes –

    I graduated from college in 2009 after the recession was in full swing. In the summer of 2008 I was required to complete an internship. If I or any of my classmates in my major couldn’t get the internship finished then we basically couldn’t continue in our program (there was zero flexibility). I don’t think any of us got paid internships, and a couple of my classmates weren’t hired as interns anywhere and ended up dropping out of the program. Their mindset was that if there weren’t enough internships to go around, then there definitely weren’t going to be enough jobs to go around after we graduated. The companies in our field were struggling in 2008, and they were right about 2009 – hardly anyone could find a job. We were competing with people with years of experience who had been laid off. It was ROUGH. So I had the bright idea to stay in school and get a masters to get a leg up.

    I had already passed the deadline for applying to the Fall 2009 graduate program at my school of choice (a university in another state), so I had planned to keep working as a bartender for a year and apply in the spring. I traveled to tour the new school, explored the campus, met with head of the program and toured the school where I would be studying, and had an opportunity to really discuss my chances of being accepted with the head of the program. I fell in love! I was passionate about my field and the program sounded perfect to me! I was an above-average student and told that my chances of getting accepted were very high. So I packed up and moved to the city where the university as located. I had a plan to live there for a year and become a resident to get in-state tuition.

    I was in new city where I knew no one, but I had a plan! It took me a bit to find a new job bartending, and my savings unfortunately dwindled in that lull, but I scraped by on ramen noodles and hope. By the time the spring of 2010 rolled around and I was finally able to apply to the program for the Fall of 2010, the program’s budget had been gutted (thanks, recession). In 2009 they had accepted 25 students, but in 2010 they were only able to accept EIGHT. I was not one of the ones accepted and I was utterly devastated. I had moved for the plan, waited patiently for the plan, and then the rug was pulled out from under me and it felt like the plan had gone up in poof of smoke.

    At that point…I just didn’t know what to do. I hated the job I had at this grimy bar, I hated the apartment where I lived but it was all I could afford, and I felt like waiting another year to apply again for the program wasn’t a smart plan. What would happen if I STILL wasn’t accepted?? I seriously considered moving back to my small hometown. My dad was pressuring me to move back, he had never wanted me to move out-of-state in the first place. My mom was the one who told me not to give up on the new city, even if I was giving up on grad school. She was right.

    Luckily I was able to find a job that was kind of sort of adjacent to my field. I started working there full-time and quit the bar (with a huge sigh of relief). I had more time on normal 8-5 hours to find hobbies and activities to enjoy my new city, and I started to feel much happier. My job wasn’t great, and I was constantly on the look out for new opportunities, but the longer I lived in the city the more I realized I loved it. I eventually found a better job actually in my field, which I’ve been at for about 6 years now. I’m coming up on my 11-year anniversary of moving to this city and I have no plans to leave. I love it here!

    I know your situation is a little different because the pandemic is what keeps you from being able to make new friends and enjoy your city, but I don’t think you should give up just yet. I hope you can financially weather the storm a little longer. Apply for jobs that are outside of the field, but will help you have some financial security. Like my plan, your plan is taking a different path, but you may still end up at the destination you had hoped for.

    GOOD LUCK!

  38. Sparkles McFadden*

    I like the idea of a deadline. It will keep you from feeling as if you have to do something right now. In addition, the world is so different everywhere that there are adjustments to be made whether you stay or go.

    You are not a failure. You had a plan and you made your move based on the facts you had at the time. If you hadn’t made this change, you would have always wondered. The things we don’t do are far more regrettable than the things we try. When we try, we learn and we adjust. Nothing ever turns out exactly as anyone expects. No experience is wasted, and life is not at all as linear as we would like it to be.

    If you do, indeed, want to move home after your deadline, do it! I know it’s easy to say “You don’t have to care what people think” but it really is true. I always like to remind myself that most things in the world have absolutely nothing to do with me, personally. When someone in your personal life says like “Hey, you moved back. What happened?” it’s just conversation, not condemnation. Just tell it like it is and say “What’s new with you?” You just don’t have to care. Professionally: “Covid-19 disrupted my school program so I had to make a new plan.” This works professionally and personally…and this is a universal story.

    Different paths are just different paths. There’s no right or wrong choice. Your instincts seem good (dodging a red flag workplace) so trust yourself. Best of luck!

  39. Blinded By the Gaslight*

    I had a very similar experience, and it was one of the hardest periods of my life ever. Even “moving home” was hard because although I was back in my country, I was in a much different part, and that had its own culture shock and “starting over” struggles. The Rahe Stress Scale lists unemployment, moving, and changes in family relationships among the top stressors affecting a person’s health. You’ve got all of that happening at once, so don’t forget to take care of yourself while you’re figuring out what to do.

    When I made my big move, I got a lot of “you’re so brave! I could never!” comments; when I was struggling to get my feet under me in my new “exciting! promising!” situation, I didn’t feel brave, I felt foolish. And I did for a long time, even after I returned–especially after I returned. But now, I do feel brave, and I admire that foolhardy spark that drove me to TRY. I took the chance on a different road, with high hopes and no guarantees, and even though I didn’t end up where I thought, I still went SOMEwhere; I learned and experienced things I never would have, and that’s worth something.

    Take care of yourself. Make an action plan for staying. Make an action plan for going. Give yourself a huge break. Your next decision doesn’t have to be the final decision for all time, it’s just the next step on the road. All the luck to you, fellow adventurer and risk-taker!

  40. Manana*

    Though you may feel like you’re back to square one, truly you are making forward momentum in your life.
    Seriously think about all the reasons that made you chose to move away from your hometown separately from the problems you’re facing in your new city. If things like feelings of complacency, mediocre/”fine” social and professional life, easy but stagnant relationships, lack of options and opportunities are on that list, those problems will feel much, much worse if you go back. That’s not to say you should definitely stay in the new city, but if you have already outgrown your previous town it may be worth sticking it out than imagining “what if?”

  41. We Feel Your Pain*

    Wait, so can you have a job lined up before moving to a new city? I know that’s ideal, but I’ve only heard of people with super in-demand jobs like STEM fields able to make that happen. I’ve moved cross-country twice and I couldn’t make anything happen until I was there. It’s like the energy changes when you get there. OP, know that you’re not alone and virtually everyone would make the same decision based on the information that was available at the time.

    Honestly, I may be in a kind-of similar boat. I grew up in a big city with an always booming economy. I live in a small city now (past 20 years) where the economy never recovered from 2008. Now that my wife’s job is going downhill very fast, we’re 70% sure she’ll need to leave for her mental health. Then we’re going to list our house (they’re still selling here at the moment) and just move to my hometown since my elderly parents are there and have no intention of leaving. Fortunately, I’ve worked virtually pre-Covid so while financially we’ll take a huge hit income-wise, there will still be insurance and income. We’re factoring 3-6 months of time for her to find something. It’d be great if she could line something up first, but I just don’t think that is realistic.

    Good luck to you.

  42. Josie*

    Go back home! I stayed in a cool city working a retail job thinking I would eventually get the job in my field. I had years of experience in the field and I have two masters. I figured how can I NOT get hired. Well it never happened. I made too much money to get government assistance and just racked up credit card debt. After 9 months of misery, I sucked it up and went back home. I worked retail for another 6 months, got an entry job in my field, and then quickly moved up to my dream job. There is a clear gap on my resume and nobody has ever asked me what I did for 1+ year.

  43. agnes*

    please don’t be so hard on yourself. The world tilted on its axis so to speak and there was no way people could plan for this. You will take other risks in your life, some will pan out and some won’t. In fact, I think most successful people will tell you that they haven’t always made the perfect choice.

    Go home, get back on your feet , and don’t let this keep you from pursuing your interests and dreams. Timing is often the wild card.

  44. Anon Future OP*

    I wish I had seen this yesterday. OP I am you 10 years from now.

    In my early 20s I moved to the coast to pursue a job in Science. The great recession was terrible from 2009-2011 and there were hiring freezes, layoffs, furloughs, just like now although not as intense.

    I worked in my field, well below my aptitude and making so little in a high COL area that I was going into debt to work.

    Eventually I left that job for a variety of reasons, and I applied to roles both in the industry and related to my math degree. I was unemployed 6 months before the math degree won and I ended up in finance.

    At first I was very guilt ridden. My family was shocked. “But you’ve always wanted to be a scientist?” And similar stinging but not meanly intentioned phrases were common. The reality was 6 year old me had no clue what it meant to be a scientist. I actually disliked every job I had in the field. Even though I liked the intellectual challenge. I was also stuck in the high COL area because we could not afford to move at that point.

    Well 2 years later I got a call from one of those frozen science jobs. They asked if I was still interested, I was but it turned out I would have to take a 50% pay cut so I declined.

    That was the end of my science career. 5 years after the crash I tried to get into the roles more specialized to my math degree but no luck. At that point I got an opportunity to move near family, in an industry “related” to both science and math and we leaped.

    It’s been 10 years since the switch I have done quite well in my “related” field. I own a home, my spouse can stay home, we are growing a family. I make over $75,000 a year in a low cost of living area. We are on track to be debt free, minus the home, in 2 years. It’s feasible that I can retire at 70 even without social security.

    Also like you I went from no support network to having a network. I do regret how much I moved around in my 20s. For me it’s because, ultimately family is #1 in my book. That was true back then but I didn’t realize how big of a rift, and how far behind you get at making friends, when you are moving very 2 years. When I look at some of my peers who stayed home, never got into debt to pursue a fancy career and are doing as well or better then me it can make me feel a bit foolish for even trying.

    But! There are still drawbacks to moving back. There’s that nagging feeling that I wasted my talent in math. The culture of my new industry is not a great fit. I still would like to get a specialized job in math, but despite efforts to keep my skills fresh they are dull. My apps have been rejected, and to have a shot I pretty much have to go back to school to get a MS and even then I would likely have to take a job making less then I do now. So I’m sailing along in my new industry because ultimately for me my family’s financial well being is more important then me getting a math job.

    I don’t know if my story helped you or not. I hope it provides some perspectives. At the end of the day only you can weigh what’s most important to you and make a move. My advice is to give yourself the grace you would extend your friends if they had to switch careers. If you wouldn’t think of them as failure them don’t think of yourself as one.

    Good luck!

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