Relocate to Portland with Gusto and Panache, Like These Folks
Portland’s a small city. Word gets around, and you know what they say–first impressions last a lifetime. If you’re planning to move here, you want to hit the ground with your best foot forward. We asked four creative professionals what they learned from the relocating process, and they offered up the sort of wisdom that, taken to heart, could make you the talk of the town.
Mary Meccage | Graphic Designer | Relocated from Bozeman, Montana
When I relocated, I went to Portland a few months before to interview and check out the vibe of the city. Twitter was a surprisingly helpful tool to keep a pulse on the creative community here; I had a column in Tweetdeck for creative Portland professionals. I used sites like PadMapper, Craigslist, and put the word out to a few connections I already had to find housing. All in all, it’s been the connections I’ve made and had in Portland that have been the best. The creative community in Portland is so well connected.
Richie Robbins | Digital Producer | Relocated from Boulder, Colorado
I have actually relocated twice in my life–once from Chicago to Boulder and then from Boulder to Portland. I cannot stress enough: networking. As crappy as this is to say, it’s all about who you know. The more people you know, the higher the likelihood that someone you know knows someone that can connect you to that perfect job. In the age of the internet, everyone knows everyone, at least virtually. I was able to get freelance work solely based on knowing someone who knew another person who was looking for help. That got my foot in the door, which eventually led to full-time employment. Also, Portland in general has a small creative infrastructure–the odds are high that if you connect with enough of the right people, someone will know another person at the company you want to work for. Don’t be afraid to reach out–ever. Obviously use discretion, but persistence pays off and hiring managers remember that. Even if it’s a quick “wanted to reach out because I saw x company in the news and it’s awesome that you are doing y.” Finally, hand-written thank you notes are the jam. Following up with a thank you e-mail the next day is a must, and then follow that up with a hand-written thank you letter. Buy a nice pack of hand-crafted thank you cards or blank cards and send one out after that interview. You’ll be remembered.
Joanna Papaleo | Interactive Designer | Relocated from Marquette, Michigan
Seriously, be aware of how competitive it is here. You have to be super proactive. Don’t expect things to just fall in your lap. Get involved in an organization (ahem AIGA), network, get involved with creative staffing agencies (yes all of them, not just one), go to events and open houses, look on Craigslist. Internships help if you’re fresh out of school; especially when you’re relocating, because even the a-holes graduating from the Portland design schools are already filling those entry level slots. Finally, do your research–have a game plan! And get ready to work your butt off!
Renee Ferron | Visual Designer | Relocated from Minneapolis, Minnesota
Be open. Be persistent. And talk to everyone. It’s a small community and people seem to love to help each other out. I’ve gotten opportunities in the most unlikely of places: from talking to the person in-line in front of me at the grocery store, to the Craigslist housemate interview that didn’t work out for a place to live, but did work out to become one of my new best friends in Portland, to just talking to other designers at AIGA, Design Week, CreativeMornings, SketchXchange etc. Explore all of the neighborhoods. Eat at the food carts. Visit the coast, the mountains, and hike as often as you can.
Have your own suggestions for the ideal relocating strategy? Spit ’em in the comments!
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Be patient…there are a million creative people here. Get to know as many as you can and just stay true to what you want to do. And that can change, be open to it.
PDX is oversaturated for designers. If you’re able to break the code and convince the right people you’re “it”, hats off to you. I spent over 7 years trying to get somewhere in Portland and I ended up deciding to move because of all the people moving to the city made it impossible to find even a crappy design gig. Not what you want to be faced with when you’re a Oregon-native designer with a baby on the way.
That being said, all the tips in this article are spot on for swooping up a gig in a new city. Best of luck to everyone!
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I second the importance of networking, attending professional events, and taking an overall proactive approach. I moved to Portland in 2012 from Illinois, and these things were crucial to getting integrated.
One piece of non-job-related advice I would add is to be prepared for the increasing cost of living, especially if you’re coming from any non-major cities (e.g., SF, New York, Chicago.) Related to this is the tight and expensive housing market – the apartment vacancy rate has been below 3% for some time, and houses in the center of the city typically sell for above asking price. Most places (including apartments and houses) aren’t on the market for that long before they are snatched up. Be prepared to spend and act quickly.
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