3 things to consider when deciding where to launch your career

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One of the most daunting choices you’ll have to make in your young adult life is not always what you want to do, but where you want to do it.

Bankrate recently helped college grads narrow down the best cities to launch a career, ranking the 50 largest U.S. metro areas on a slew of factors. Inland cities — like Houston and Minneapolis-St. Paul — clutched the top spots, shedding some light on the locations that are actually sizzling for recent grads.

Still, no list, ranking or Buzzfeed quiz can determine where you should start your career. Only you can decide that.

However, there are universal factors you should you keep in mind when casting your job-search net! Here’s what you should keep in mind when sending out those resumes and working that LinkedIn profile.

1. Is there career mobility?

You got a job! Great! But before you head to a town where job prospects—in general—are slim, you might want to re-consider.

A lot can happen during your first year at your first job. You might figure out that particular job just isn’t for you, or even that your degree is kind of a dud. You’re totally allowed to change your mind. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Your degree shouldn’t dictate what you do.

If things don’t work out, you’ll want to have options without having to uproot your whole life. Bankrate’s analysis included employment stats on people ages 22 to 26, as well as career potential (by looking at each city’s economic growth rate and economic growth per capita).

Before you move, think about what life will look like in that city if you wanted to switch career paths, or if you just want to try a different job. Do you have options? Or are you moving to a ghost town with only one “Hiring” sign posted up on a window?

The job might be worth the move to you, regardless of limited career mobility. Or it might not. Still, it’s definitely something worth mulling over.

2. What’s the lifestyle like?

My favorite part about Bankrate’s analysis of best cities to launch a career is that it includes a lifestyle factor, because (shocking!) we aren’t robots whose sole purpose is to churn out work. Achieving a healthy work-life balance is essential to being a productive employee — and a happy human.

Since there’s only so much Netflix a person can take, Bankrate’s lifestyle factor considered each city’s bars per 1,000 residents, arts/entertainment/recreation establishments per 1,000 residents, the share of 22-26 year-olds in the population (FRIENDS!) and its Gallup-Sharecare community well-being score.

Think about what your life would look like after work or on the weekends if you moved there. Would you be bored and miserable? Your job isn’t who you are, it’s what you do. Even when you’re paying your dues as an entry-level employee, you deserve to be happy.

3. Is it affordable?

Okay, so this is a no-brainer. You need to be able to actually afford the city you’re living in if you want to be happy. Bankrate’s analysis took affordability into account when ranking its cities, and you should too!

Your job offer should be enough to live comfortably, and in general, you shouldn’t be paying more than 50 percent of your take-home pay on fixed expenses (like rent and utilities). And don’t forget about your student loans! Those costs can be crippling. Can you really be happy if you can’t afford happy hour, like, ever?

Your employer can’t expect you to excel at your new position if you’re sleeping in your car or eating off the McDonald’s dollar menu every night. Sites like PayScale and Glassdoor will help you figure out what you should be making, based on things like experience and location. If you think your salary offer isn’t fair when compared to the city’s cost of living, negotiate! Or cast your job net wider to include more affordable locations (hello, Houston!).

Now, go forth and job hunt! If you want more career tips, follow me on Facebook.

Sarah Berger

I am a journalist and penny-pinching millennial living in New York City on a budget.