New York City is home to the dreamers, the doers, the never-settlers: they all come to New York City in search of the same intangible thing, says the official guide NYCGO. No wonder so many makers dream of New York City. I moved here in January 2016 to pursue my graduate degree in Tourism Management at New York University. When new to the city, the startup industry feels overwhelming.

Yes, you will cross paths with the some very interesting people, brush shoulders with other founders, but, the truth is it is a lonely place. You may not ever see again half of the people you meet. People come and go; it is difficult to maintain relationships.

How to build connections in New York City

In the first couple of months living in New York City, I prioritized building my connections. You have to be proactive. Try different kinds of meetup groups, professional events, volunteering, even strike a conversation when you are waiting in line at a supermarket. You need to invest at least three months in building your support group. Trust me; it’s worth it.

Startups in New York City hold regular, sometimes free events. Here are some resources to meet other makers, or to find friends with similar interests.

  • Makers Meetups – Good old way of finding events to attend.
  • Airbnb Meetups – Community events by the Airbnb team.
  • Shapr App – Similar to a dating app, but for business networking. Instead of swiping up your next date, you will swipe inspiring people to meet.
  • CreativeMornings – The concept is simple: breakfast and a short talk one Friday morning a month. Every event is free of charge and open to anyone.
  • Linkedin Local – Meet your Linkedin connections IRL.
  • Hoppin: The world’s first job shadowing marketplace
  • Gary’s Guide – Resource for NYC Tech

New York City’s Professional Landscape

I dived into New York’s professional landscape early because building a relationship takes time, especially if you want to convince strangers to hire you — and you’re not alone. Although there’s no blueprint for launching your startup, there are things you can do to set yourself better in front of potential future clients, partners, and maybe even investors. Here are some resources that hopefully will help makers to thrive in New York City.

Coworking spaces

Before committing to one co-working space, enjoy months of free trials for the likes of Deskpass, Spacious, Croissant App, and KettleSpace before you commit to paying for one, writes Bilyana Freye, the founder of Hoppin. I’m currently using the Croissant App to try new co-working spaces or drop by my comfortable favorites.

  • WeWork – By now everybody knows this global billion dollars company, headquartered in New York, which now consists of WeLive, WeGrow, RiseByWe, and Flatiron School.
  • The Wing – The Wing is a network of work and community spaces designed for women. No men allowed!
  • Company.co – Great space, and their venture development resource is amazing.
  • Galvanize – Each week Galvanize hosts dozens of events from meetups to hackathons everything in between.
  • Alley – Co-working space to give entrepreneurs both the tech and mentorship support to build a successful venture.
  • NomadWorks – Nice space, but premium.
  • A/D/O Creative space – A creative hub that is built for designers but open for all.
  • Voyager HQ – Coworking space for travel startups. They hold their regular travel founders breakfast event and corporate travel pitch night.

Female-focused networking

I found joining these groups are essential in growing my projects. Here are online and IRL high impact communities I recommend for women makers to join.

  • Dreamers and Doers – Membership community for trailblazing women. Their resource, community, and monthly events are valuable for women who are starting their business and would like to find valuable feedback.
  • Ladies Get Paid – Tools, resources, and a community to help women negotiate for equal pay, and power in the workplace. The community has more than 30,000 women worldwide.
  • Girls In Tech – A global non-profit that works to put an end to gender inequality in high-tech industries and startups.
  • The Upside – Focus on supporting high level independent contractors with community and growth tools, and also provide a steady flow of vetted, high caliber client opportunities.
  • Werk – One should never have to choose for being a mom or have a career. Werk is a place dedicated to giving women more workplace flexibility without compromising career goals.
  • The Luminary – A collaboration hub for women-identified who are passionate about professional development and expanding their networks.

Budgeting your life in New York City

Okay, so you have decided that you are moving to NYC. Congratulations! It’s a fun city with unlimited things to do and you’re going to absolutely love it. Unfortunately, living in the city can be pretty expensive. Most entry-level positions don’t pay very well, so you most likely won’t be able to afford to go out every single night. Therefore, it’s normal to hold more than one job, often locals have side gigs to compensate the high living cost. The Penny Hoarder website is essential for me to find side gigs, deals, or tips on how to manage credit card debts.

Accommodation

Unless you have unlimited cash, finding a roommate is how everybody lives here. For digital nomads who do not want to commit to 6 months or 1-year lease, there is co-living space to try. They are at the higher price range though. Moreover, you can check Brick Underground, a real estate media company for a taste of real living in NYC.

Facebook Groups

Co-Living Space

Work visa

Before we dive in, I’ve only undergone O1 process visa. Do your own homework and take your own legal advice!

In today’s unpredictable political landscape, it is getting harder to get a work visa. With rules that keep on changing, you might want to explore other work permits. “There really is no “easy” way to work in the United States. Some people I speak with regarding obtaining a nonimmigrant work visa are already in the United States working on OPT (Optional Practical Training), which is issued following attending an educational institution in the United States. In this situation, graduates can receive one year of work authorization to pursue career opportunities and real-world experience in their field in the United States. Once that year is up though, they must apply for a different status to continue working in the United States,” said James Frankie, the founder of James J Frankie Attorney.

Additionally, “There’s no real blanket one size fits visa, it depends on your education and experience and the type of work you’ll be doing in the US,” writes Shivani Honwad, the founder of Shivani Honwad Law Firm.

“The nonimmigrant work visas are pretty rigid, and will have very specific requirements for obtaining them,” told James Frankie the founder of James J Frankie Attorney. The visa listed most of them below, along with some very basic information for each from James Frankie.

  • E-1 -Treaty Trader Visa – For people coming into the United States, from one of the treaty countries for the purposes of substantial trade;
  • E-2 – Investor Visa – This is where you are from one of the treaty countries and entering the US to invest in a business (usually at least $50,000 at risk is required to be considered for this, and should actually be more);
  • H-1B – Specialized Skills Worker – This is the standard employment visa and is almost always going to require you to have at least a bachelors degree. You will also need an offer for a full-time job and you will need to meet a salary requirement that is different for every occupation and skill level. The USCIS only accepts 65,000 applications a year, and approximately 230,000 applied last year, so you generally have a little better than a 1 in 4 chance of getting the visa. You must apply on April 1, and then cannot begin working on the visa until October 1 of that same year. The H-1B is a particularly daunting, ever-changing, and difficult visa that remains the best option for most people.
  • H-2B – Temporary Non-Agricultural Worker – You don’t see these too often, and the particulars for them vary, but ultimately the employer must show there aren’t enough US workers to fill their business’ needs and they therefore must hire workers abroad.
  • L-1 – Interoffice Transfer Employee – This is only available for people who are working in a foreign branch of a company for at least one year whom the company then wants to transfer to a US office.
  • O-1 – Extraordinary Ability – This is your best option, if you can meet the extraordinary ability standard. The O-1B is for artists and creatives; and the O-1A is for nonartists, which can include scientists, business professionals, athletes, etc. You need at least 3 of the criteria (for the O-1B there are 7 and for the O-1A there are 10 possible criteria). It is an extremely high standard, but often much more attainable than people think. In addition, the O-1 is considered by many to be a “freelance” visa. It isn’t, and there isn’t a nonimmigrant visa that allows freelancing. You can work, however, with multiple parties on the O-1 visa, and if you have a sponsor who is serving as your designated agent, and it is a person or company with whom you are close and have a really good relationship with, you can get pretty close to freelancing. I always make sure its clear to clients though that pure freelancing is not an option.
  • P – Athlete/Artist Exchange Visa – The P is a bit nuanced and has a few possibilities but it can broken down as follows:
    • P-1 applies to individual or team athletes, or members of an entertainment group (P-1B) that are internationally recognized. 
    • P-2 applies to artists or entertainers who will perform under a reciprocal exchange program.
    • P-3 applies to artists or entertainers who perform under a program that is culturally unique.
  • R-1 – Religious Workers – There is actually a relatively easy route to a work visa if you are a religious worker. I say easy in comparison to most other work visas, and its still quite a procedure to get one, but specific considerations are made for anyone entering to work in a religious capacity.

“My advice is to HUSTLE! None of these visas are easy to obtain, and all will generally require you to apply yourself to the fullest. Some people are humble and don’t go for the press or publicity. You have to! Particularly for the O-1 visa, if you can get about 8 pieces of news about you and your work, for example, you are in great shape towards qualifying for the permit. With these visas, you are essentially making a case for yourself as a superstar to the US federal government. You have to convince the USCIS that you are one of a kind, and the best way to get them is to believe yourself and push the limits of what you think you are capable of professionally,” writes James Frankie.

Find companies that will hire internationals

There are plenty of companies in the United States that assist international-born employees with sponsorship and don’t mind paying the necessary fees. It will be easier to get a visa, however, if you find a job first before moving to the city. “Having lived across Europe, the UK and Asia, I decided it was time to take a bite out of the Big Apple. I was living in London at the time and thought it would be easier to arrive in New York with a job, than look for one on the spot. Therefore, I started researching and networking with British companies who had presence in New York. I ended up getting an offer from a technology education start up, which was also willing to support me through the visa process,” writes Bilyana Freye.

Some companies may offer a relocation package to help support new employees who’re looking to start their careers in the United States. You can find out by asking their plan of opening up new offices outside the US or set up an informational interview with the current employees.

My Visa Jobs is a great resource, where you can search for companies and see how many employees they have sponsored and their acceptance rates. When you are searching for companies that are willing to provide sponsorship, make sure to consider the following:

  • Has the company provided a decent number of visa sponsorships over the past 5 years?
  • What is the approval rate for their job candidates at the company? (in other words, you want the smallest possible denial rate)

New York City can be a wonderful city for makers. There is even a WIP.chat group for New Yorkers you can join. Just make sure to master the art of mingling. Small talk is big in New York and throughout the country. You want to be open but not too pushy; authentic and not fake; persistent but not demanding, and the list goes on. My aha moment came when I read The Art of Mingling by Jeanne Martinet. That’s how I learned the intricacies of US small talk.

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