Alumni Column: I Love New York Milwaukee

Marianne Crosley '80

Have you paused to consider where you will be after Colgate? As you have probably noticed, the lure of the “big city” is significant. Most of your peers will be consumed with the desire to settle in New York, Washington or Los Angeles to find a job and enjoy the pulse of cutting edge metropolitan life. Unfortunately, thousands of others on college campuses across America feel exactly the same pull to big city living. The competition for jobs and apartments is fierce, and parental pressure to be financially independent often conflicts with the reality of managing finances in expensive metropolitan areas.

The alternative? To look beyond the glamour and allure of these mega-cities to those cities in America where you, a bright, talented and energetic young professionals are actively pursued. Sharing with your friends that you are considering a job offer or summer internship in St. Louis, Cleveland, Milwaukee or Pittsburgh may not have the “wow” factor that you might want, but your quality of life will almost certainly be far superior to that of your peers. The fact is that pay scales are comparable but the cost of living is significantly less in vibrant cities outside the radius of New York, D.C. or L.A.

Consider the experience of Julie Hurwitz ’06 who accepted a position as a pricing analyst with Progressive Insurance in Cleveland. Julie was willing to look at professional opportunities without regard to geographic location. She appreciated that she could have the same challenging professional experience in a larger mid-size city as her friends who sought positions in densely populated, and enormously popular urban areas. What ultimately persuaded her to accept the job offer was the realization that her disposable income would be significantly higher than that of her friends in New York. When she calculated that her entry-level Cleveland salary equated to a $100,000 salary in New York, she immediately accepted the position. And now, while Julie ponders a move to a downtown one-bedroom high rise loft apartment with a lake view and rent under $1,000 per month, she appreciates her good fortune. She points to the stark contrast of her living situation to that of several of her friends sharing a small New York City apartment and watching most of their income be devoured by rent checks.

This experience is not atypical for a talented student willing to explore opportunities in those cities outside the “popularity bubble.” Be it for a summer internship or a permanent job, there are many cities that are working to attract and make transitioning very easy for a college student.

For example, the state of Michigan recently launched its “Cool Cities” initiative. “Cool Cities” is designed to create a rising “TIDE” (Talent, Innovation, Diversity, Environment) in Michigan to bring young, talented college graduates to the Great Lakes State. With the support of Governor Jennifer Granholm, the program provides funds to revitalize or create vibrant cities that will be attractive to young professionals. Their target audience, of course, is you.

Other cities and states are also innovative in their approach. Milwaukee and Cleveland are both working to attract young talent through innovative college internship programs. Young Professionals of Milwaukee seeks to court college interns and develop internships as a strategic resource. The 3,200-member organization shapes and showcases a greater Milwaukee that is attractive to its young prospects. Cleveland offers “Summer on the Cuyahoga” and iCleveland. Both programs boast diverse and abundant internships and offer programming designed to highlight the benefits of life in Cleveland.

Indiana turned to promoting its rich tradition of entrepreneurship and innovation through the creation last fall of “Entrepreneur Week.” The goal of Entrepreneurship Week is to aggressively reach out to young professionals to showcase the opportunities in Indiana. In ongoing recruitment, Governor Daniels and state leaders have prepared videos extolling the entry-level professional opportunities available in cities throughout the state.

These areas, and others like them, appreciate that you hold the key to their success, and they encourage your exploration of the opportunities they offer. Within their city limits, young professional organizations abound, and each seeks to help those newly relocated to connect quickly and seamlessly to the young professional community. These urban centers desperately want to cultivate young leaders, and professionals report that they experience success in their careers and in civic leadership roles much sooner than their colleagues in larger metropolitan areas.

The key to finding out about job opportunities and the quality of life available to you in these cities can be found in Colgate’s alumni network. Real World, the upcoming Women’s Summit (February 24th) and the Career Center’s alumni database all offer opportunities for you to meet alumni and learn about their experiences. It is very true that Colgate alumni want to be of assistance to you. Use alumni contacts to look beyond the mega-city and see what life holds. I guarantee you will be pleasantly surprised. Like Julie Hurwitz, you can be professionally challenged, enjoy a vibrant social life, and smile all the way to the bank.