When I first moved to London for grad school, I didn’t know a soul in the entire 8-million-person city. But in under a year, I went from being completely alone to having a large network of professional contacts and friends, an internship under my belt, and a couple of pretty interesting job offers.
How? I made it my personal mission to take risks and network like crazy.
Moving can be intimidating, but, it’s also a great opportunity to start over, meet new people, and find an exciting new direction. Whether you’re looking for new friends or a new job, here are my tips on how to build your network in a new city. If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere!
1. Try Something Ridiculous
You know those things you briefly consider doing, before that “sensible” voice in your head talks you out of them? Well, this time, ignore that voice. Audition for an a capella group. Try out for a fencing team. Steel your nerves and walk into a room full of new people, or go for that part you’ve always wanted to play. It sounds crazy, but you never know what will happen—or who you’ll meet—when you step outside of your comfort zone.
2. Go on Dates
If you’re single, going on dates is a great way to meet new people—even if you don’t hit it off romantically, you could strike up a friendship. If you want to try something new, but don’t have someone to go with, suggest an outing on HowAboutWe, a dating site that matches people based on common interests and date ideas.
And if you’re seeing someone, get creative: Branching out from the neighborhood bar and movie theater will introduce the two of you to new and unexpected things and force you to get to know a new place.
3. Start a Project
If you’re working full-time, volunteer for an organization that does something you’re passionate about. If you’re not working full-time, make it a priority to get an internship, whether it’s paid or not, in a field you’re interested in. Both will lead you to like-minded people, new connections, and potential job opportunities, too.
4. Be Fearlessly Friendly
I don’t just mean smiling and saying hello to the barista every morning. If you move to a new place, you need to accept that your network won’t just be comprised of close friends and co-workers anymore. So if you have a friend of a friend of a friend in the same city, reach out to her. Does the family you used to babysit for know someone who you might be able to meet for coffee in your new locale? Great—bring it on. Go to an alumni networking event, even if you don’t know a single person there. Ask your next-door neighbor for restaurant recommendations, or, better yet, invite her over for a drink.
5. Say Yes
If you get invited to things, make it your policy to just say yes! Even if seeing a play or going to a concert isn’t your idea of fun, just the act of exploring new bus routes and streets and venues will give you more confidence and something new to talk about. You may also meet someone who ends up being a great friend, or a great career resource.
6. Read Up and Sign Up
There’s a wealth of information out there. Search Twitter, Google, and blogs in your industry or interest area, and you’ll easily be able to find a whole host of great events, classes, forums, and conferences in your new city. And not yet having weekends that are jam-packed with outings with friends is the perfect opportunity to learn something new. So check out that art exhibit, listen to a speaker series, and sign up for a class or two—you’ll have a packed schedule in no time.
What advice do you have for making new friends and connections in a new city?