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How to Build a Network in a New City Before You Move

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Whether you’re chasing your dream job, moving closer to family, or following sector growth, moving to a new place is both thrilling and daunting. If you’ve decided to make the jump, it’s essential to start building your new network before you move. Any introduction can be incredibly helpful; you can get advice on your sector’s local who’s-who, company connections, or just suggestions on the best bookstores in town. Professionally, you’ll have far less stress and more opportunity when you arrive, and may be able to line up a job before you land! Here are a few ideas on how to network from afar.

Leverage social media and your current network

While this might seem obvious, it never hurts to tap your current network for introductions and ideas. Start making a list of anyone you know who has lived or worked in the area. If the off-the-top of your head list is short, search among your connections on LinkedIn and Facebook by location. Both of these platforms have powerful search features that can help you uncover friends and colleagues in the area. On Facebook, for example, try searching “Friends who went to [local university]” to see who in your network might have gone to school in your new city.

Also consider posting a direct ask to your personal social networks, letting people know the move date and that you would appreciate any connections, not just career ones. If people see “Getting pumped for my move to Austin in September, anyone I should meet? I’d appreciate having a few local guides!” They’ll jump onto the comments. People may know you’re moving, but not know you’re welcoming suggestions and want the help.

Finally, refocus your professional online networking on your new city. For example, on LinkedIn, update your profile location to show up on target area searches, and add the move date and details in your summary. Join relevant LinkedIn groups where you can both ask questions and learn more about the city and community you are about to join. One great aspect of LinkedIn groups is that when you join a group, you can email other people in the group, opening your network up to new connections.

Identify interesting organizations and start connecting

Search Idealist, sector publications, Linkedin Groups, and blogs, and compile a list of organizations and people that you’re especially intrigued by.

Once you have a few to start with, ask for introductions from any mutual connections. If you have none, don’t be shy about virtual cold calls. These days, it’s totally appropriate and even recommended to use social media to make first contact. When reaching out, try something along these lines:

  • How you came across the person and their organization
  • What interests you in their organization or approach (maybe a way they tackle an industry problem)
  • A brief intro to what you do (include something similar you’ve done professionally)
  • Where and when you’re moving
  • A specific question about the org you’d love to explore (How does it fit in and differentiate in the local sector?) and a request to chat
  • Thank for the time and looking forward to further conversation

If you do get an opportunity to chat on the phone or schedule an in-person convo for your arrival, be sure to end the conversation by asking for recommendations for other people and organizations you should you connect with and events you should attend.

Research the area and fill up your calendar

Getting plugged into a new city before you move will help you discover events to attend when you arrive. Find out if there are local chapters of organizations you already belong to, including any professional networks, nonprofits, and alumni groups. Subscribe to their bulletins and keep track of any events that are coming up during your move or visit. You already have an “in” as a member.

Create a list of professional resources in the area as well. College career centers often have directories of local job search aggregators, news, and networks to get you started. Coworking spaces often have online groups, and will give you a place to work, network, and establish some routine once you arrive. Look for upcoming conferences, along with Meetups of activities you enjoy, and volunteer groups.

To stay on top of meetings and events, make a separate calendar (Or at least a color code) for your move-related activities. Whenever you schedule coffee or a Skype session with someone, add an event. If using Google Calendar or another service that allows, invite them to it, with a message to remind who you are and what you talked about.

Plan a visit

If possible, set a few days (or a week or two) to stay in the area. Being able to meet people in person ahead of time can make a huge difference. If able to visit, let anyone you get in touch with know when and how long you’ll be there, and arrange for coffee or even request a couple of informational interviews.

Get to know your new city (and limit burnout) by quickly getting into some routine. Grab your laptop and do your cover letters at a coworking space or cafe on a regular schedule, and consistently go to one or two activities that you’ve found.

By putting some work in early, you’ll be meeting new people and making the most of your new home as soon as the landing gears are down. Here are a few other resources to help you with networking and moving:

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by Andy Sherman

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