If you are even contemplating the hiccup of an idea of moving to New York, my advice is to do it. It will be hard. It will test you. It will absolutely never be the right time to go. But you should go. It will push you to grow. To see a different side of life, and I promise, you’ll come out the other end a better person.
To survive all of this major life change, you will need a job, or 5. I spent 3 years living in New York. For the most part, I was always fully employed with little to no gaps in employment. I left New York on my own terms and not because my bank account was empty. How did I do it? I put a lot of trust in the city. That beautiful city where you can literally find a job handing out fliers in the dead of winter if you have to. New York provided some of the most interesting jobs and stories that I’ve ever had. So let’s jump right in. These are all of the jobs I had living in New York. I didn’t have all of these jobs at the same time, but I usually balanced about 3 jobs at once.
This was my very first job in New York. I was insanely proud of this one. I had interviewed for this while visiting New York a month before I moved and got it. It allowed me to arrive in the city with a job. Although, the pay was terrible. The biggest perk of the job was that I got to hawk T-shirts at Broadway theaters. And if you’re a theater person, being paid anything to be in a Broadway Theater is a treat. I used to see the shows for free and I worked a total of about 40 min. of the entire shift. My first show I worked was “Golden Boy,” AND it was the first Broadway show I saw as a resident of New York.
I recommend if you go for a gig like this, research research RESEARCH the merch companies in advance. There are a ton of them. Some of them are fantastic, and others not so much. Take the time to research.
I worked at a LuLu Lemon equivalent on the Upper East Side. I should’ve given up on this one before even walking into my interview (to which I was 45 minutes late due to getting insanely lost. Yes, I got lost on a grid. It happens). I somehow got hired. Maybe they were desperate. I’m not athletic. I’m not good at being patient with very needy people with lots of money. I don’t know how this job happened for me. But it did. The perk, was I was surrounded by seriously some of the best merchandise.
I was obsessed with their shiny leggings and got to wear them to work and dream about the day I could afford $80 leggings. I really and truly believed in the product. It was very well made, flattering, with beautiful vibrant colors. But the people who enjoy this type of clothing were some of the most terrible people on the planet….except for Julianne Hough. She came into the store one day and I helped her shop and she was lovely and appreciative and it made me realize, why am I dealing with Upper East Side folks who treat me like trash, when they all have the option of acting like a goddess like Julianne Hough?? I quit shortly after. You can only be Prince Charming to the evil step sisters so many times (I fetched–their word not mine–more pairs of Newtons and tried them on UWS feet more times than I care to admit) before you have to throw in the expensive workout towel.
People always giggle when I tell them that I did this for a living, and those people have usually never resided in New York, therefore, don’t understand how much this position is really and truly needed in a big city and also, how you can actually make a living doing this job. I made more dog walking in New York than I ever made at any job I ever had in California. I was a full-time dog walker starting shortly after I moved to New York, which means I started this job in the dead of winter. Being a dog walker was a great job for me for a lot of reasons. 1) I was brand new to town and desperate to learn how to navigate the streets as quickly as possible. Nothing will ever teach you how to navigate better than speed-walking with 3 dogs through the flatiron district in 30 degree weather without being able to cheat and look at google maps. Guys, I was stealth. Pretty soon, I could glide through any packed street with ease. I knew different neighborhoods without hesitation. Best of all, I got to work with dogs all day.
AND I was in the absolute best shape of my life. The job came with some cool perks. I got to occasionally dog sit. One of my favorite gigs was dog sitting for a month in SoHo. I got to live in a SoHo loft for a month. It was a dream. But hands down, the coolest gig I had was dogsitting for Barry Manilow when he was in town doing a concert series on Broadway. I literally got paid to watch movies in the living room with his pups while he was performing, then I would be on my merry way. It was the absolute best. If you go for a job like this, research the dog walking companies in advance. They are all very different and will have different expectations of you. There is a lot of responsibility in a job like this. Probably more than any job I’ve had. You are responsible for the keys to a TON of people’s apartments AND their fur babies. Be honest with yourself if you can handle the physical side of the job. While there’s some dog walkers who hang out at parks on their phone all day sitting with 3 dogs hooked up to their belt, the great dog walkers who are working for successful companies are hustling and you will walk a lot.
9/11 Memorial is a not-for-profit organization that supports the memorial and museum in Manhattan. During the time I worked for the Memorial, the museum was still under construction, and there was construction everywhere around me. My work station was well outside the memorial, and I worked under a small tent at a card table in the middle of winter. This meant standing still without heat lamps in 10 degrees for entire shifts. It was freezing. My job was to solicit donations from every person who was in line to see the memorial. A lot of times when you visit museums in New York, there’s no admission, but there’s a suggested donation, and at the time, that’s kind of how the memorial worked. People didn’t have to donate to see the memorial, but most people still donated. Nowadays, its so different over there. The museum opened after I quit, the scaffolding came down, and people can free-roam the memorial. No lines. No donations. They can just go. The time that I worked for the memorial was a unique time. It was weird seeing the memorial as a location that people had to wait in line to see. And we were so far outside of the memorial that people often got caught up in their vacation and forgot where they were (people were smiling in line, taking selfies, etc). At the time I took this job, it was a side hustle (I was between jobs), but I’m so grateful that I worked at the memorial during this transitioning period. A lot of the job positions have changed since I quit. If you’re considering looking into the memorial for work, they hire for the museum and offices.
This was hands down my favorite side hustle while living in New York. This was a job that I literally had no clue existed until I moved to town. If you go to a Broadway Show, there’s a tiny black booth somewhere in the lobby that is stocked full of headsets for the hearing impaired. These headsets are mandated by law. In every Broadway theater, the sound system is hooked up to a frequency that the headsets can pickup. If you have a hard time hearing, you can check out a pair of headsets (for free) by leaving your ID with the rep, and you wear the headset during the show, and the sound system is delivered to the tiny speakers in your ears. These devices are especially wonderful for plays, which can be a heck of lot quieter than musicals. Anyway, for most of the time I was living in New York, the headset rep was me. And I loved it. It was a perfect side hustle for a lot of reasons. I could work my full-time gigs during the day and change clothes at the Marriott in Times Square before racing off to work a show for headsets. My schedules never conflicted. It didn’t matter how exhausted I felt, I could get through a headset shift with ease. Some of the perks were the following:
Short shifts–You only had to arrive an hour before house opens. You only distributed headsets during walk in and intermission and you put away headsets during walk out and you could take a break during the run of the show if you wanted.
Free Broadway–The house managers not only let you watch the shows for free, but they were usually amazing at making sure the ushers found you a seat or hidden nook for you to sit in to enjoy the show. I saw SO many shows through this job.
I saw Hedwig with Andrew Rannels and Darren Criss. I saw James Franco star in Of Mice and Men. I watched Daniel Radcliffe do vocal warmups for The Cripple of Inishmaan. I saw Michael Cera prep for his role in This is Our Youth. I also got to see Rock of Ages like 15 times. Maybe more. When I was new to this gig, they would always put the new kid at this show because it was loud, rowdy, etc, but I loved it. This silly musical ended up being one of my favorites for a lot of reasons. I worked there so often that the house staff knew me. I could let my hair down and sing along after a long day and end my day with a Broadway Show that delivered jello shots to its audiences. It was a good time.
Pay, etc: At the time, I got paid $50 per show to work. I know that that doesn’t seem like a lot, but you’re only at the theater for 3 hours, and you’re only working 30 minutes of that time and you’re seeing theater for free. On top of that, if you didn’t distribute a single headset by the end of intermission, you could pack up and go home and still make the same amount of money.
I loved doing this gig. I worked as an independent contractor for a lot of different types of shows. Whether it was off-off-broadway theatre, a zombie cabaret show or a reading, I was stage managing it. There is so much theatre in New York. A lot of people tend to only think about the theatre that makes it Broadway, but there’s theatre dripping out of literally everywhere. And people creating theatre need help, which is where a stage manager steps in. As a stage manager, I scheduled rehearsals, budgeted rehearsal time and created tracking sheets for props and blocking. It’s a lot of work, and I usually had one of these gigs while balancing my regular jobs. If you’re a person who is very organized and likes managing things, this might be right up your alley. There’s a lot of opportunities, and most of them will come from people you meet. If you get onto a paid contract (I was on an equity contract for a gig and the pay was amazing), you get a flat fee for each performance and an hourly rate for rehearsal…and that adds up quickly. Playbill.com has a lot of stage manager postings, but honestly, word of mouth is how I found most of mine.
This was one of my last jobs I had in New York, and I worked there for 2 years. I was a porter at a Broadway theatre. Basically, a porter is responsible for a lot of different things: Locking and unlocking the theatre (which as you can imagine, it is daunting to have the keys to a Broadway theatre sitting casually in your purse), cleaning backstage and front-of-house locations (I’ve cleaned a LOT of toilets professionally for actors, and I’ve also scrubbed puke and poop off of theatre floors), and greeting the hundreds of people who come into our building to see a show.
It was a big job. To date, this is the highest paying job I’ve had, and it literally helped me survive in New York. The insurance benefits were insanely incredible. Also, I got to work in a Broadway Theatre. I got to be the first one in. I got to be the last one out. I got to work performances on opening night. I got to attend opening and closing night parties. I also have a ton of crazy stories. Like the time I was hurriedly putting away a vacuum after cleaning the lobby, and someone behind me was helping me roll the chord..and it was Hugh Jackman. The nicest person on the entire planet. Maybe even in the entire universe. It was an honor to clean his dressing room. He’s a good man.
I met a lot of celebrities in this job, because a lot of them performed on our stage.
But more than that, I got to see how a Broadway theatre really worked, and that was important to me. It was important to me that that was the thing that I took away from the job. It was hard sometimes. Sometimes, a person would get a violent case of food poisoning in the middle of a performance, and I was the person that people turned to to fix it. And in those moments, I had to fixate on one thing. I was working on Broadway. I was learning everything. I know what a Broadway theatre looks like when it wakes up in the morning. I know how hard Local 1 works to get the stage ready for the actors. I know the hours that actors put into each performance both before and after the show. I know how much is required of an entire production team. How every line is scrutinized. How every light bulb is analyzed. How everything really and truly matters. I’ve seen writers nervously pace lobbies before previews, I’ve seen actors take a change in the script like a pro right before curtain. The thing about working in that theatre that I loved most, was that you could have the most controlled environment…a scripted/well-rehearsed show being supported by a machine of a staff…and that because it is theatre, you will still never get the same experience twice…that something could even go wrong and that at the end of the day, the show would go on, and I would lock the theatre and it always works out. It always works out somehow. I will cherish that forever.
And finally, creating online content was probably the most fun I had for a bunch of reasons. I had flexibility in my work, and not even a crazy blizzard could hold me back from making some money. I was a content creator for hellogiggles.com. And this was paid, yay! There’s a LOT of gigs like this out there. Find the website that fits your voice and go for it. I also loved youtubing, and joined the Maker Gen network. Pretty soon, I was receiving residual checks for talking to my camera in my living room. These types of gigs are great no matter where you go, but in a city like New York where everything could change, it was nice to have these as a constant in my life.
NBC Studio Tour
I worked for the NBC Studio Tour for a couple months before it eventually got shut down. The tour, which was hosted by the infamous NBC pages, was operated out of the beautiful 30 Rock building. That was probably hands down the absolute best part of the job. Walking through the 30 Rock building to go into work. Seeing the stuff that brings that building to life like the SNL soundstage, or the beautiful Rockefeller tree and decorations.
I worked at the ticketing desk, which was an insanely busy location (especially around the winter holidays). We were responsible for ringing up ticket sales and pointing out the starting locations of the various NBC tours. The saving grace with this hectic job, was the people. Some of the nicest people I met in town.
Anyway, that’s my list of jobs that I had in New York. When I tell people that I lived in New York, the most popular response is usually, “It’s really expensive, huh?” And yes, it is, but it’s all relative. I never truly struggled in New York the way some people do. I always had a roof over my head (granted I moved 5 times in my first year), I always ate well, and I was always employed. Was it always a comfortable life? Heck no. It was stressful. I busted my ass. I hustled. I did what it took to survive. But the beautiful thing about New York, is that there are jobs to be had and a way to survive. You just have to be creative, and you have to take the leap…and I promise you…you will have a story or two.