Building Your Network After Relocating

There’s no doubt that relocating can be both stressful and exciting. I recently moved from Philadelphia to Ann Arbor to join Atomic Object as a Delivery Lead. I was attracted by Atomic’s strong values and long-term approach to software development as well as the concept of this blog.

Although I was excited to join Atomic, I was nervous about leaving my native Philadelphia. As I planned my move, I worried that I’d lose some of the benefits of a broad network—strong mentors, sponsors, and easy access to feedback and advice from a diverse group.

Since this was my first professional relocation, I want to share what I’ve learned so far. Before I started writing, I reached out to my network and was surprised to learn that many people had tips to share or were also looking for ways to more effectively build a network in a new place. Although I am still growing my community of professionals in Ann Arbor, I wanted to share some of the lessons I’ve learned.

Reach Out to Your Current and Past Networks

Consider getting in touch with high school, college, or postgraduate alumni networks in-person, through LinkedIn or email. You never know what connections people may have in your future city. A number of people shared that alumni groups tend to have chapters in most major cities, and these groups have provided a starting point for networking in a new location.

A shared experience, like college, provides a strong common ground for a first conversation. Within just a few days of sharing the news that I’d be moving to Ann Arbor, I discovered classmates who had recently moved to the city and were willing to share their experiences and connect me to other locals.

If you’re moving to a smaller city, consider expanding to nearby metro networks. One friend who moved to a small town in Virginia recommended traveling the extra distance to meet up with regional organizations to establish contacts. He joined alumni clubs in two cities that were about an hour from where he lived. By expanding his networking search, he was able to meet people who were willing to make meaningful introductions to people closer to his home.

Join Local ‘Meetups’ and Venture Outside of Your Industry

A number of people mentioned Meetups as a great first resource when relocating. There seems to be a Meetup for just about any industry or activity. If you don’t see one you like, there’s always the option to organize one yourself.

If you work in an organization that is looking to cultivate relationships with new clients, or if you personally have a diverse set of interests, expand your networking opportunities to include industries and topics outside of work. A high school classmate shared that it’s “always nice to combine events in which you are interested, while also checking out ‘random’ ones as well.”

Be open-minded about where you might find meaningful connections. A friend of mine who moved to Los Angeles made some of her best connections while waiting in line at the DMV and having casual conversations with baristas. In addition to Meetups, Twitter is a quick, low-effort way to locate professionals in your region. I’ve used hashtags as a tool to find conversations and events that were relevant to my interests.

Connect with a Local Guide

It is nerve-wracking to be the only person you know at an event, but most people shared that you should embrace the awkwardness and use the experience as an opportunity to be braver than usual. If you’re lucky enough to work with someone who’s knowledgeable about and connected to the city you’re moving to, like Elaine, look for opportunities to “pair network.”

Find a social butterfly at your new company and ask to join him or her in action. This is an opportunity to get introduced and reduce some of your nervousness. As you grow more confident in navigating your new city, be sure to return the favor and introduce your guide to interesting people that you meet.

Set Goals and Write Them Down

Sometimes, being accountable to yourself requires documenting your commitments and setting time frames. If you tend to procrastinate, consider writing down your goals in a visible place–the refrigerator, next to your bed, or a recurring Google calendar reminder.

Ahead of my move to Ann Arbor, I signed up for technology and design Meetups. I got tougher on myself about not chickening out last minute by asking a friend to remind me and going to the events directly after work. Someone in my network shared that what’s most important when moving to a new city is not getting stuck in the “cycle of work, eat, sleep—it’s hard to network in your pajamas.” I couldn’t agree more!

One member of my network shared that when he found himself in a new city looking for a new job, he set an aggressive goal of getting coffee with a new person at least once per week. He admitted that he didn’t achieve this goal, but he felt that being overly-ambitious helped him stay focused on his broader goal of making roots and finding meaningful work.

Quantitative measurements can be helpful for something more challenging to measure like the depth or quality of your network. For example, I have a goal to attend three technology and design Meetups within the first three months of moving to Ann Arbor. If you’re familiar with Agile, consider creating a “relocation backlog” for yourself!

Geography Isn’t Everything

There are several ways to keep in touch with your network from previous places you’ve visited or called home. I met a group of amazing Austin-based software designers at SXSW Interactive more than a year ago, and we have stayed in touch ever since.

One of the ways we’ve managed to stay connected is through monthly Google Hangouts. Given the difficulty of finding women of color in technology, we value our growing friendships and have committed to our goal of staying in touch. Last month, we attended Collision Conference together. With each new conference, we add a new group of women to our circle and share professional development opportunities, as well as advice and guidance. Don’t let geography deter you from building great relationships. It may take some extra time and thought, but it’s not impossible.

There you have it. These tips have been instrumental in growing my network in my new hometown, and I hope they provide a good jumpstart for you as well. If you’ve relocated for work, please share any tips you’ve learned along the way!

Note: This post is biased toward people in the early phases of their careers, but it may still resonate with those who are more advanced in their careers. Stay tuned for a potential future post about relocating in various stages of your career.

  • Nick says:

    I’ve been through this recently too and it’s not easy. Having a couple of “Local Guides” who were willing to give their time to help me find my place was a gift.

    One thing that I found really important was being targeted with your time. I find it more helpful to go to the same event 3 times, then to go to 3 different events.

    I wrote up a few more thoughts on the linked website.

    • Avery Williamson Avery Williamson says:

      Thanks for reading, Nick! That’s a great tip and a really nice article that you put together. It’s thoughtful and honest. Good luck building your network in New Haven. Definitely check out Stowe’s Seafood if you want the best lobster roll in the world!

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