I’ve just moved for the fifth time in 15 years. Each of these moves has included some type of professional change, and each time, I knew no one in my new city. This past move, I was especially apprehensive. People think I’m extroverted, but the truth is that I work hard to be outgoing; I know that I’m happier when I’m social, so I make an effort to be social. But it doesn’t always come naturally.
My dear and talented friend Trish of Silver Lining Design also doesn’t think of herself as an extrovert. But I’d recently spent a rainy Saturday morning in Boston with her, and we had a great time going to one of her favorite yoga classes and a popular café, where I saw a different story. Standing by her side and watching, characters from everywhere gravitated to her with hugs and warm greetings. Everyone knew her name and stopped to acknowledge her. She was old to Boston but new to Brookline, so I knew that these had to be recent acquaintances. It struck me so deeply that when I arrived in Nashville I called her and sheepishly asked, “How did you meet all those people? I want people in the coffee shop to know my name!”
She proceeded to tell me a story that I found equally unbelievable and tears-in-my-eyes hilarious.
A few months ago she was at this café and accidentally cut in line, in front of a giant man. This is how she recalls the spectacle:
Giant: Am I invisible to you?
[Tiny Trish stars at him blankly]
Giant: What? No one’s ever spoken to you like that before?
Tiny Trish: No, not really.
Giant: Well, fuuuuuuuuuck you.
Can you believe it? I’m horrified and laughing all over again!
She was understandably rattled, and while waiting for her order she confided in the barista:
Tiny Trish: Did you see what just happened?
Kind Barista Hero: No?
Trish: Will you sprinkle some bad karma in his drink?
Kind Barista Hero: Of course. And I’ll sprinkle some good karma in yours.
A week later, Trish went back to tell her Barista Hero (whose real name turned out to be Julia) that the good karma had worked. She’d had a great week! Julia confirmed, “I’m not surprised. I’m very powerful.”
So what was the point of Trish’s story? “Just be your weird self, and you’ll definitely meet people.” That, I could do.
My relocation story is of course not unique. According to a survey last year, globally 90% of people are willing to relocate within their own country for career progression. And 37% are willing to relocate anywhere in the world! As you may have guessed, these numbers are very strong for the under-30 workforce.
Depending on where you are, being your "weird self" may need adjustment for your industry or geography (as my Parisian friends recently pointed out to me Friday night). Maybe, we should just say: be yourself and localize for the situation at hand.
So if you’re one of these people changing locales or even jobs within the same city, here are five additional ways to meet new people at work or around your new home:
1. Say yes to everything. This is the mantra of an expat friend in London. A colleague asks you to have a coffee or better yet, come over and meet the family? Say yes! And don’t procrastinate. If (s)he puts it out there, step up to own the idea and make it happen (how many lingering “we should…”s do you have in your history)?
2. Go on friend / colleague blind dates. I am known for asking my network if they have any friends or colleagues I can meet in my new city. Again, take accountability for making the meeting happen. Personally, I am not above sending a friend-of-a-friend an email with the subject line: “Friend Blind Date?”
3. Take one of your personal passions and find an organization. For me, this is (mediocre) running. Running clubs are how I’ve met my best friends in New York, Boston, and London and even bonded with new work teammates. We actually scouted our home location in Nashville to be in close proximity to the East Nasty running club.
This can be professional too; when I moved to Boston, a business partner suggested that I join the Boston Estate Planning Council (BEPC) to earn credibility in the financial community and meet prospect partners for the new distribution network I was there to create.
4. Once you’re in an organization, volunteer to help. Depending on the group (mentioned running club has >100 people; BEPC had >600), it can be huge and overwhelming. You’re likely to get lost in the shuffle unless you make yourself stand out. One of the best pieces of advice I got from a fellow BEPC member eight years ago was to volunteer for a sub-committee. (a) People always like helpful people and (b) being part of a smaller team will immediately help you build deeper relationships.
5. Lastly, while you’re doing all these things, remember people’s names. Lee Warren offers some great advice. My add-on? I keep a physical list of new people’s names whom I’ve recently met – whether it’s a colleague or neighbor.
In the moment you feel like, “of course I’ll remember this person’s name” But you probably won’t. This is my trick to solidifying that I can greet my future friend or colleague by name the next time I see him.
Tell me: what’s worked for you? (Especially if you live outside the US)!
Photo from centophobe.com