Faces of AWNY: Hannah Collins

Hannah Collins shares her experiences of living and working and New York. She is currently working as a Marketing and Communications Associate at Community Resource Exchange, non profit consulting firm that helps build sustainable organizations and drive social change in urban communities.

Tell us why you moved to NYC?

I came to New York for a month long holiday in October / November in 2015. I loved it so much that by the start of December I had booked my ticket back here and started planning a move for April. My friends will tell you that I’ve always talked about moving to New York, but I am not sure if that’s true. My favorite shows growing up were Friends, Sex and The City, and Seinfeld, so maybe they influenced me more than I know!

Where in Australia are you from?

I’ve lived the last 11 years in Adelaide, but before that grew up on a farm outside of a tiny town of 3,000 people that was eight hours drive from Adelaide … a far cry from the cramped apartments and people filled streets of NYC!

Favorite NYC brunch spot

Juliette’s in Williamsburg or Jane on West Houston both have great food at affordable prices in nice settings. If you are looking for a great value bottomless brunch (and don’t mind if the food is a little basic) then Williams and Bailey in Williamsburg has $15 bottomless mimosas and bloody mary’s between 12 and 4 every Saturday.

Favorite NYC cocktail spot & cocktail of choice

I can’t go past Night of Joy for delish and cheap ($6 between 4 and 8) and the rooftop is really cute. A new bar opened up in Battery Park near where I work, a cuban inspired prohibition-era themed cocktail space upstairs at Pier A and their stuff is amazing. Plus they mail a postcard anywhere in the world for you as part of the experience. I tend to go for anything light and citrusy as a cocktail of choice.

How did you get into your job in NYC?

I work in a communications role for a nonprofit consulting firm in FiDi, Community Resource Exchange, or CRE. I worked in the nonprofit sector in Australia, so a lot of the communication roles I was applying for were in the nonprofit sector here, which I think helped to get me a job really quickly. I hit the ground running and started applying for jobs literally less than 24 hours after landing, which I also think helped. And I paid a designer friend to make me a custom resume template, which I think was the kicker to helping me find a job! I wasn’t one of the lucky ones who had a job before I came over, but just figured I’d be able to get one. That blind stubbornness has seen me through.

What do you like about being part of AWNY?

I love the events they hold – they aren’t repetitive or your normal networking experience – and you always meet someone new. I like the online community it fosters; you can always find an answer or learn something new from their social media.

What was your biggest win this week?

My freelance work back in Australia has picked back up and I’ve looked into doing a course at NYU. New York may be “go go go” but unless I’m actually using and stretching my brain on a regular basis I start to feel restless. Plus my new pants from J Crew turned up – and that makes me very happy!

What’s the biggest challenge or road block you’ve been faced with since being in NYC and how do you overcome it?

For me, working in a communications and PR role with absolutely no networks or little black book here has been, and still is, the biggest challenge! For instance, we are hosting a rooftop party fundraiser soon and knowing who to invite and how has been like starting from scratch! I’m getting there though, and there’s only way to build these networks – first ask questions and ask people for help, and then go out and do it!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given about living/working in NYC?

For working in NYC, it was definitely to have a custom designed resume. Employers see so many resumes every day here, you need a way to stand out visually if you want someone to spend even 10 or 20 seconds more on yours. In terms of living here, it’s just to say yes to everything for a while – even if you feel weird or scared about turning up somewhere where you don’t know anyone or to an event you wouldn’t normally go to, you’ve got to get out of your comfort zone if you want to “make it” here. Also, check out all the free things to do during the week and weekend helps your $$ stretch further!

Who are some Aussie ladies doing awesome things in NYC who are currently on your radar?

I had two friends of friends who were great to me when I first arrived. They have both been here for a few years and are making their mark: both are architects and one has branched out on her own and the other is working on crazy big international contracts. But they’ve kept their Australian hospitality and that’s something to look up to. Otherwise, all my friends who I see hustling every day to learn how to cope with the New York work, dating, and rental scenes! Pretty amazing.

Where do you live? Why did you choose that area?

I live in South Williamsburg, and I can’t even remember why anymore, just that I love it. I stayed in an AirBnB in the same area for ten days when I was here in October and felt really safe and really at home and in a real community. So there was only one choice for me when I decided to move here. For some reason tonnes of other Aussies live there too, so there must be something about the area.

What do you like/dislike about living in NY?

I like that there is always something to do, and it’s a chance to throw yourself into so many cultures – different art, food, and music, it’s all here. I like my Puerto Rican neighborhood and all the kids running around the streets. I like the lights in the building starting to appear as the sun goes down. I dislike the smell of rubbish on the streets on bin day (or any day) but I’m learning to live with it.

What’s your ‘only in New York’ moment/s?

Dating a jazz musician who plays at Sleep No More and has played on two of Beyonce’s albums – that just never would have happened in Australia! Also, just walking the streets, especially as the sun is going down and people are busy going about their evenings. I can never get enough of it.

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As a professional working in NYC what are the differences to working in Australia?

People like to have lots of meetings to prepare for meetings! But the flip side of that is people here always seem to keep to a time limit with meetings and lots gets done! They also say “sync up” and “reach out” and don’t know what “can we chat this arvo” means which has been fun to play around with!

Any advice for other professionals working in NYC?

Everyone tells you that you have to be confident and to some extent pushy to get where you want here.  Of course you’ve got to believe in yourself, but Australians have a magical knack for being humbly confident and we’ve got realize that’s what sets us apart. As well as this, you can have worked in your field for years and years but that won’t change the fact that some things are different here; the media landscape, distance and weather measurements, lingo, laws and rules, work hours … you’ve got to be able to let go some of the ego related to being sure you know your job. Being in a new country and city means there is lots to learn.

What’s your favorite New York spot?

Sounds cliché, but my own building’s rooftop. We can see all of midtown and down to the financial district and the top of the Williamsburg Bridge and it’s amazing as the sun is going down. It’s always cooler up there too (which has been great in summer!). Otherwise I always tell people to spend an afternoon in Central Park, just walking and reading, and I love the streets of Nolita, Soho, and the Lower East Side.

Anything you miss about Australia?

Vegemite, my sister, my parents, and my two or three best friends. Hamish and Andy, but I have them on podcast. At this stage, not much else, but I’m yet to do a full winter here, so ask me after that!

What are your top 3 tips for friends visiting NYC?

  1. Get an AirBnB so you feel like you have a nice home to come back to each day
  2. Brunch starts at midday, not 10am, and you gotta get bottomless.
  3. Use Google Maps for subway and walking directions, not Apple maps, not a physical map, not a subway map on your phone. Google Maps wins every time.

What have been the best ‘living in NYC tips’ you have been given/discovered?

  1. Don’t spend above 50% of your wage on rent.
  2. Like I mentioned, sign up for all the community newsletters, you’ll find awesome things to do in your neighborhood and beyond that you wouldn’t normally discover
  3. Get out of the city every couple of months – if you can’t afford an interstate trip, take the Metro North upstate 40 mins for $10 each way and go for a bush walk
  4. Going to IKEA requires the same preparation as going to the arctic. Avoid it if you can.
  5. Get really good winter gear.
  6. The Australian community is here is amazing! But don’t forget to try and make some American or other transplant friends – it’s all part of the experience of moving to a new country.

Anything else you would like to add?
We’d love to have any AWNY members who are interested in learning about, supporting, and growing NYCs nonprofit sector come along to our rooftop fundraiser! If you’re interested, tickets are available here. It’s on a rooftop in the Lower East Side and has an open bar included in your ticket price, so should be fun!

Connect with Hannah