From an introvert who’s moved 10 times.
Moving to a new city is often a fact of life for any adult trying to advance their career, either if that’s vertical promotion or moving on to a new company. The first time many experience this is the first post-college position, and it can be a scary proposition. For most of our lives up until that point, we had the social safety net of lunch tables, classrooms, and extracurricular activities to provide a reliable way to meet new friends. After you graduate, however, you’re shoved into the desolate post-college social tundra… if you aren’t proactive, deliberate, and open-minded. So for those of you who care to keep growing their social circle post-education, follow along!
My situation is actually a bit different than most’s, however. Because I am a participant in the Praxis program and working remotely, not only do I not have the four-year “buffer” to build connections in college (and get into serious debt, but that’s for another article) but I also don’t have the pseudo-social environment of the traditional American office to assist me in my friend-finding.
So why am I qualified to talk about making friends? For starters, I’ve moved ten times in my life through five different states, and I’m about to embark on my eleventh (Denver, CO) so I’m truly putting the concepts I mention in this article into practice. I was also a freelance photographer for a few years and when you’ve only met clients once (at most) before being only a few feet away from them for hours, it’s imperative to drop any inhibitions and create new connections… fast.
I foresee this list being helpful for post-college graduates, adults moving to new cities, remote workers, and just anyone who might have a tinge of introversion but still wants to get out of their comfort zone here and there. And while looking for places to find new friends, don’t be afraid to get outside of your industry. Hobbies are great ways to connect with new people as well! So let’s get into this; here’s how to make friends in a new city.
Leverage Existing Connections
This is my favorite way of finding new friends in cities. If you graduated college, why not leverage the years of networking you just completed? It’s not rude to send out a Tweet or Facebook post asking if anyone knows anyone in City? Chances are one or two people will come forward and offer to give an intro and more often than not you might have even had classmates who you hadn't realized moved send a PM saying “Hey - I actually just moved to City and would love to meet up! Let me know once you’re moved out!”
Leveraging existing connections is a great way to get integrated quickly because the first stage of introduction is already done (or done for you by an existing connection).
… They’re not just for internal chats. I’ve found that in most industries there is a Slack group for it floating around somewhere. If the group is active or not is hard telling, but, for instance, I recently joined the Denver Developers Slack group. It’s at 6,339 members at the time of writing and I see dozens joining every day.
While it’s anything but an exhaustive list, you can start your search for Slack groups on Slofile which is a database of user-submitted communities. You can usually also just Google “[industry] slack” and the most established communities have websites where you can read more and request an invite.
Quite an obvious way to meet new people. Finding communities that you gel with is as easy as going on meetup.com and starting to search for events in your city. On top of the usual meetups there’s also quite an exhaustive list of smaller niche groups. For example, while Denver LGBTQ in Tech might sound pretty quaint, the group currently boasts over 700 members, so you never know!
Don’t be afraid to organize your own meetup, either! That’s one of the first things I did when I moved to Lincoln, NE and it was extremely valuable for getting my name out there, meeting new friends (that I still have to this day), and helping others connect as well! Just find something you’re passionate about and start spreading the word.
It’s also important here once you meet some people to ask to hang out with them for specifics. Without anything to discuss over coffee, the fledgling relationship can putter out rather quickly. Ask them to get coffee to talk about their new startup, best practices, etc!
This tip comes from a fellow Praxis participant, but it definitely makes intuitive sense in hindsight. If you have some photography chops, try heading out to local businesses and posting about them/tagging them on your social media channels. In my experience, about 50% of businesses with either repost you or put you on their story.
The benefit of them being local shops is that locals follow those accounts, so you might be able to garner a new friend or two just through them finding you this way!
Be a Barista
Depending on how much free time you have after you move, apply to a few local coffee shops to see if they need a barista — it’s a great way to connect directly with locals and though it’s critical to definitely not overstep your boundary, the more talkative regular customers will become your friend with zero effort. Some of my best friends I met through coffee shops.
If you don’t have time to be the barista, be the kind regular! It takes two to tango and there’s a chance the person behind the counter is just as eager to meet new people as you are.
Leverage Your Work
Depending on the size and culture of your company, this might be the first place you make friends in your new city. Of course, for those of us who work remotely we don’t have this luxury, however, it’s still definitely worth bringing up. Often times companies will organize happy hours or team events to bring everyone together. Also with the rise of the open floorplan and shared spaces like kitchens, you’re likely to spark conversation!
If you’re not operating out of a bricks-and-mortar building, perhaps think about joining a coworking space. Though it can be quite a hefty investment, remote companies are often willing to cover the cost if you think it will help you be more productive. Coworking spaces, like offices, foster connection building and are a great way to meet people in your industry.
These places are some of the oldest, most time-tested ways of making connections in human history. No matter what you choose to call them — saloons, taverns, bars, clubs, etc — they all share the same purpose: to bring a lot of people together. With that said, this is at the bottom of the list for a reason. With the exception of some music venues, this crowd at these places can be very ambiguous and that makes it hard to connect with people on something deeper than a superficial level. There are lots of instances when you could make life long friends through places like these, but I would not bank your social life on it.
Though I didn’t include every way of meetings new folk in the book, I think these are the methods that have worked best for me or seem the most promising. Don’t go into a new city expecting to make ride-or-die friends overnight, however. Be ok with being alone for a bit as you meet new people and naturally and organically build your network. As with most things, it’s about the journey, not the destination. Nobody is just “not a friend” and then “a friend”… there’s an invisible path between the two, but I hope through these methods you might have an idea where to start your own journey.