Strategies & Tactics

A New York Story

April 1, 2019

In this issue, Homa Lily Moheimani writes about her big-life move, a cross-country trek where she left The Walt Disney Co. in Orange County, Calif., for new opportunities in Columbus, Ohio.

As she writes, “I didn’t exactly plan to leave, nor did I know where I was going next. I just knew it was time for a career transition.”

Her words resonated with me, as I made a similar change a little more than 25 years ago when I left behind a job that I loved in Columbus to explore an unknown future in New York City. I didn’t have a résumé, computer or career plan, but I had a couch waiting for me in the East Village. That was something.

(Before going further, I feel as if I need to add a disclaimer: I’m not recommending that you quit your job and move to another city — it just happened to work for me.)

Anyway, I graduated from the Ohio State University in 1989. Two of my best friends left for New York immediately. I stayed in Columbus, and enjoyed a post-collegiate life going to the same campus haunts while starting as a reporter for a suburban newspaper chain.

The publisher later promoted me to staff writer for his city magazine and alternative weekly newspaper, where I was paid to review movies. (At the previous paper, I took it upon myself to contribute film reviews to their arts section.)

Meanwhile, I’d make periodic excursions to New York to visit my friends Marti and Gia, who were off to a good start (administrative assistant at a big ad firm and editorial assistant at New York magazine respectively). I adored my NYC time, though I doubted I could live there.

Eventually, after each trip, it was more difficult to enjoy my daily Ohio life. I yearned for an adventure. I couldn’t replicate the fully alive feeling I had meandering around those NYC streets. And I was tired of driving to work. It didn’t help that I once enjoyed a five-minute walk to the office in downtown Columbus — until the publisher opened a new facility in an outlying area that required a commute.

During a Halloween 1993 visit to NYC, complete with Marti and Gia’s subtle chants of “Move! Move!” at frequent intervals, I decided to do just that. I told my editor Lennie that following Monday. She smiled and said she always knew I’d make it to New York. She and her husband Max, the publisher, lived there for several years after college.

For his part, Max, who was a quintessential newspaperman, smacked his fist into his palm and warned “New York can squash you like a bug!” Suddenly, everyone I knew shared NYC horror stories about a friend of a friend getting mugged in broad daylight.

So I moved to the city on Jan. 14, 1994. It’s funny to think about job searches before such modern conveniences as LinkedIn or Monster.com. On Tuesday nights, I waited outside The Village Voice office for that week’s issue to browse the job classifieds. On Saturday nights, I visited the corner deli to buy the early edition of the Sunday New York Times, where I first spotted an ad from PRSA.

My first day at PRSA was March 28, 1994. There were plenty of angst-filled moments after my NYC arrival when I thought I made a mistake or, more often, wished that I had a bedroom — at least a dresser. Still, it helped that I had such supportive friends in both Columbus and New York, and family, like my sister who sent me care packages.

Space prevents a lessons-learned listicle here, though there were many. No. 1 is: Be patient. You’re not going to replicate your previous situation in a few weeks. It takes time and, at least for me, it was well worth the wait.

John Elsasser

John Elsasser is the editor-in-chief of Strategies & Tactics. He joined PRSA in 1994. Email: john.elsasser@prsa.org

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