What would you do if you picked up an moved across country to a city where you did not know anyone? How you would you start from scratch to build a personal and professional network? Would you even try to make connections with people or assume that relationships will spontaneously occur?
My wife and I moved from California to Austin, Texas over 18 years ago. At first we did not plan to stay for the long-haul, but we have been blessed to have grown up with the city over the past two decades, and have established strong friendships and community ties that make Central Texas our home. We established friendships with several people who are now part of our extended family.
Since we moved here over 600,000 people have come to Austin. That large growth in population has made it easy to make friends, as nearly half of the people in the area transplants in the last twenty years. But even in cities where people are established for generations, you can still make new friends that will help your new area become your home.
I meet people all the time who have moved to a city and struggle to make new friends, so here are six tips for those who are starting fresh in a new place:
1. Join an organization. All cities have civic, cultural, charitable, and business groups that have regular meetings. If you want to make new friends and set up connections in a new place, you need to put yourself where the people are mingling. If you do nothing but go from home to work and hang out alone, you will never create a sense of "home" in your new location. The only people I have ever known who did not like Austin, Texas are the ones who never made any new friends.
2. Find "friends of friends". In our highly mobile society it is inevitable that someone in your network will know someone in your new town (if you are relocating to a major city). Contact all of your contacts and let them know about your move and ask them for introductions to cool people in the area. Once you have been put in touch with locals, make it a priority to meet them for lunch or happy hour in a timely manner. People are usually happy to meet and share their ideas about the city, but if you wait too long you many lose the momentum.
3. Discover your college alumni association. Depending on where you went to school there may be a chapter of your alumni club. Seek out the information and try to attend several of their events. You cannot judge from one event if your alumni group (or any organization) is a good fit for you, so participate regularly and look for people with whom you might have strong connections.
4. Get a hobby. When you move to a new town is a great time to take up a new sport. Many cities have rowing clubs, running clubs, biking clubs, ski clubs, etc.... Your participation in a sport will put you in direct contact with others who share your interests.
5. Learn to cook. Inviting people to your home for dinner is a great way to bond with them. If you take up cooking as an activity you can easily host dinner parties for groups of people whom you are meeting around town. Be a catalyst that takes charge of your weekends by planning gatherings. Make you apartment or home the "place to be" at your regular parties by creating delicious meals and you will find that the people you invite over will often return the favor and invite you to their home for similar parties.
6. Be more outgoing than usual. Even those who are more introverted can push themselves to be more social, especially early on in the new city. If you find yourself turning down invitations from people you meet to get together because you are shy, tired, or otherwise looking to be alone... you will discover that people will stop asking you to participate. To ensure you will be invited in the future, you must say "yes".
7. Have a good attitude about your new town. It is natural to be home-sick for your old location, friends, and family.... but keep it mostly to yourself. Your new friends do not want to hear why you liked your old city better. Sure, the weather might have been more to your liking or a million other things, but people usually have a kinship to their towns, so do not knock the things they love. Find the things you like about your new city and talk about those things!
If you do relocate to a new region, I hope that you are fortunate enough to develop the long-term success that we found when we moved to Austin.
Have A Great Day.