9 Things No One Will Tell You About Working in New York City (Because You Learn Them Anyway)

It’s summertime according to the calendar, and according to the humidity that I can’t seem to escape every morning, but this summer hasn’t felt like a vacation at all – in a good way! For the last 21 years of my life, summer has meant working part time jobs, sleeping in until noon, and swimming until my skin was wrinkled. For the very first time, I am not having a summer like this. In fact, this is my first summer away from home altogether. (Miss you mom & dad!)

So where am I, you may ask?

I can hardly believe I’m saying this, but…


(dying inside for the rest of my life)

New York has always represented the ultimate dream, at least to me. The bustle of city life, the way the whole place never really sleeps, and the absolutely incredible music market here is what makes New York the holy grail in terms of places I want to work. Somehow, with the support of my amazing family and friends, I managed to land myself an internship in the city this summer – an internship in music publicity, the field I absolutely love. I work with clients whose music I have adored for years, who are always finding ways into the media (both good & bad!) and clients who I am motivated to do my absolute best work for. It truly has been the dream internship, and an unbelievable summer so far.

However, I am learning a few important real world lessons that I would love to share with you here. And Because I know there are countless other current (and future) Owls with internships in the Big Apple, I think it’s time we lay out the ground rules for working in NYC. Are you ready?

9 Things No One Will Tell You About Working in New York City (Because You Learn Them Anyway)

1. You Won’t Make it Without Coffee

Take this one from me. I love coffee, I drink it a lot…but NEVER as much as I have this summer. Part of me thinks it’s just because I’m subliminally motivated by seeing literally everyone else with a cup of joe in their hands (no matter what time of day, but especially on the morning commute).

Either way, I couldn’t keep up with the NY pace without my coffee. Heck, I’m even writing this in a Starbucks as we speak. Coffee is the lifeblood of the workforce. Simple as that. And if you’re in NYC, you will be happy to know there are Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, independent coffee shops, and even just classic food carts LITERALLY every two feet. No excuse not to join the trend and grab some caffiene. You’ll need it.


2. No Matter How Cool Your Work Outfit Seems, New Yorkers’ Style Is Even Cooler

Just face facts. New Yorkers are so trendy. It is bound to rub off on you if you work anywhere in Manhattan – even I am learning this! There is just something so effortless about how everyone manages to stay classy, professional, casual, comfortable, and most importantly COOLED OFF during the summer months. New York subways are hot places – and everyone seems to find a way to stay chic even through the sweat. If anything, you learn that individuality reigns supreme. It’s all about what makes you feel the best and what works for your employer and you. I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that I’ve picked up a few style ideas from the girls that ride the 1 train with me to and from the city!

3. On the same lines.. Your Shoes are Supreme. 

You may not realize it on your first day, if you’re like me, but the chances are no matter where you’re working or interning, you’re going to have to do some walking. Maybe to the post office or the office supply store on an errand, or maybe a few blocks down the road to the closest lunch spot near your office – no matter what the reason, expect to be on your feet. I made the mistake of taking style over comfort on my first day and wound up running errand after errand with massive blisters from my brand new shoes. Not a good look! If you’re working in New York, or any other city, just know that people plan around their commute by foot. Be smart – stick with something flat, comfortable, and practical. Your boss will thank you.

4. New Yorkers Say Funny Things, and You Might Not Understand Them

New York and Philly may both be an east coast city, but that doesn’t stop the lingo from drastically changing! It might take a little bit of adjusting to, but you’ll soon get the hang of it. Pair this with the occasional heavy New York accent, and you’ve got a recipe for confusion.  They’re just small adjustments, but it’ll really trick  you if you can’t get the hang of it! Want to know what little lingo change was the hardest for me to pick up on?

It was this:

If you’re waiting to check out, or to hop on a bus, or really anywhere that requires being in a line to wait, expect to hear people ask if you are “on” line, not “in” line. This one STILL blows my mind – how can you be ON line?!? What do I look like, a Macbook!?

I’m still adjusting my phrases!

5. Bagels Taste Better Un-Toasted

You know I can’t make it through a blogpost without mentioning bagels. So as it turns out, New York Bagels truly are some of the best in the world – I would know, based on how many I eat on a daily basis. When you’re new to New York, you quickly learn the best way to eat a fresh bagel is not to toast it! I still feel funny about this one, but there is no denying the tasty treat that is a cold, fresh Egg Everything bagel with a nice layer of butter. If you truly want to feel like a New Yorker, you should try skipping the toaster. 

6. New York Penn Station at Rush Hour is Scarier than a Stephen King Novel

Now this one I have to say I expected. No one explicitly told me how crazy Penn Station would get, but anything you are picturing as far as “mob scene of people and briefcases” is probably right about on the mark – if you multiply the craziness by 10. For those who live in Manhattan, Penn Station is avoidable. For me, because I commute back to both Long Island and Philadelphia depending on the day, and because I work only 7 blocks from Penn Station, it is a neccesary evil. But don’t fear – everything becomes a breeze once you learn how to plan ahead. Little things like buying your tickets in advance, knowing which track your train comes on, and avoiding the main entrance can keep the madness at bay.

7. Uptown and Downtown is Important to Understand

I say this because a) I’m terrible at directions and b) this mistake is constantly costing me Metrocard money! Unlike Philly, where alot of the subway stations have access to both directions in the same subway entrance, New York is very different. If you’re not sure what you’re doing, you’ll definitely swipe into the wrong side of the Subway, have to waste your money, and cross the street to get going the right way. My advice is to do what I did – don’t assume you’re a pro even if you HAVE lived in two major transportation cities (ehem, me) and just look carefully at maps. Understand it before you try to be the pro!

8. Just Get a Raincoat. 

Listen…I had to sacrifice an umbrella or two until I realized this. Umbrellas just don’t survive in the city. Either it will break because of the funny wind that blows every which way down city streets, or you will inevitably forget it on the subway, at work, or somewhere in between. Raincoats that can just fit into your bag with hold up much better than umbrellas do, and they also keep you warm for when the temperature suddenly drops and a storm comes on. Simple as that.

9. You Will Feel Like A Champion. 

Working in New York City – being apart of the hustle and bustle, being “one of the commuters”, just BEING there, that will make you feel something incredible. For every hot subway car, taxi horn, and crowded street you experience, you will also have moments of surreal self pride and accomplishment when you realize that you are working towards a successful college career and professional position in one of the greatest, most sought after cities in the United States. You will realize that even the bad days are good days when you get to look out of your office window and see Freedom Tower, or the Empire State building, and be reminded of exactly where you are and what you’re doing.

It’s worth it – well worth it. And for me it has been a really unbelievable dream come true.

So while I didn’t know these 9 things before I started in NYC, I certainly learned them quickly and I know them now. If you are also interning or working in NYC, let me know! I’d love to grab a coffee sometime soon. If you are considering interning in NYC or another major city any time in the future, I hope this list helps! And if you just read this because you’re my family member/friend and you like listening to me ramble on, I love you a little bit more!

Happy summer. Enjoy the sun and fun!

All the best!



2 thoughts on “9 Things No One Will Tell You About Working in New York City (Because You Learn Them Anyway)

  1. This was so beautifully written and I agree with every single word of it, [as a fellow NYC owl intern]. // The permanent scars on my feet from impractical shoe decisions and my drained metrocard the result of my continuous state of confusion serve as reasons that people need to read your great points of advice. Like you, I feel blessed to have had Philly these last few years as a starter city and friends/family to support me along the way. Let’s plan a meet-up soon. 🙂

    1. Could not agree more – Philly was a wonderful place to start the city life journey that we both seem to be on! Following all that you do with Verizon and as always, so impressed! Coffee soon, of course. Thank you thank you!!!

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