A lot of people might not know this about me, but when I moved to San Diego 7 years ago, I knew absolutely NO ONE in this city, let alone California.
(Before I start this post, I should tell you that this is not a post on “how to be popular” or “how to win friends and influence people” – even though both of those are great for business…this post is going to talk about growing a strong network of friends, acquaintances, and work associates in a new city)
All I knew was that I felt like a Californian born in a Coloradan’s body (technically Pennsylvania, but I grew up in CO) – and knew that life was meant to happen out here.
When I first got out here, it was a bit of a rough start. I didn’t have the normal college experience of living in the dorms, pledging a fraternity, or even living at home with parents while attending school. I moved in with roommates off Craigslist, started working a full-time job while going to school, and trying to build a network out of nothing in a new city.
If anyone out there can identify, making friends in a new city isn’t the easiest thing to do. Sometimes people don’t end up being who you think they are, sometimes you get let down, and sometimes others just can’t keep up. After everything I’ve experienced while living out here, I decided to put together a little ‘helpful’ tip list that I wish I would have had when I first moved.
1. Get a job that entails being social
At a bare-bones approach & not knowing anyone – this is a good starting point. If you’re looking to get to know people & build a network in a new place, having a job where you talk to people on a daily basis is a key ingredient. You spend 20-40 hours a week doing this, so it might as well be beneficial to your social life too, right?
When I moved out here, I had jobs as a marketing manager for a home remodeling company and an event promoter for nightlife parties on the weekends. This helped me initially get a small group of friends and while they might not have provided me with the most ‘genuine’ connections, at least they were a starting point.
2. Reach out
My friend Masha would actually be better fitted to handle this item number – she has PROPELLED her photography network as a result of reaching out and meeting people and has actually motivated ME to stop neglecting this approach myself! Masha actually got in touch with me following a workshop I had taken last April, and since then – we have shared our network of clientele. Can’t tell you how appreciative I was to find someone as motivated and disciplined as myself that I could refer work to. Over the time that I’ve known her, I’ve seen her get in touch & work with several associate photographers that she might feel her work is similar to, and WOW – she has just hit the ground running. By the way, you think moving from another state is tough? Try moving from another COUNTRY that speaks a different language!
For anyone that is aspiring towards a certain job or position – don’t hold back. Get in touch with the top level peeps, write em an email – and maybe write them a few times if they don’t respond at first. Last winter, while out in Spain – I decided to get in touch with Gary Vaynerchuk (crush it) to see if I could attend his conference in Belgium, and guess what? Within an hour, he got back to me & hooked me up with a ticket. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, so get on it & start making things happen for you. It never hurts to try.
3. Join groups
While it might differ from person-to-person, joining a network or group can be one of the best ways to ‘really’ connect with someone. Make sure it’s something you’re actively interested in. When there’s a real interest that serves as the common bond, there are some pretty good chances that you’ll hit it off with a couple others of that group and want to talk outside the meeting times. These friendships lead the way to new friendships with like minded people, and you’re on your way to finding a solid base group.
For example, I’m currently a member of a few groups down in San Diego that meet up on a regular basis. (I actually didn’t realize that I was doing this until writing this post, but it’s a great way to meet other people!)
San Diego Pictage User Group – I accidentally stumbled upon this group when my buddy Ryan Siu invited to check it out back in 2009, and it has actually been REALLY helpful in regards to getting to know other like-minded wedding photographers in San Diego. They have a monthly meeting with guest speakers discussing certain topics related to improving your business, so it’s a bonus of networking+learning.
Forward Motion - My friend Ryan Lum started this group after our trip to do the running of the bulls this past July, and it’s began to carry by its own momentum. It’s a group based around the idea of living life to the fullest and accomplishing those items you want to ‘do’ in your lifetime before you ‘kick the bucket’.
Football Saturdays/Basketball Tuesdays/Midnight racquetball society – During the warmer months, I like to get a group of guys together on the weekends and play flag football. No league or anything, but just a fun couple of games like you used to play at recess growing up. Makes you feel like Joe Montana or Jerry Rice. Honestly some of the most fun you’ll ever have. Can’t stress the importance of this kind of ‘break’ from everyday life – and it’s a cool group to have that’s outside everything work related. You drop your job title once you step on the field. Wanna make it extra interesting? Invite your boss.
Meetup.com – I just discovered this last week from my roommate Evan. It has a ton of groups organized by interest/hobby/activities and schedules local meetups on a recurring basis. Went to my first event this past Thursday to see what it was all about & it wasn’t that bad. Wasn’t exactly full of people my own age or background, but I always think it’s important to connect to people outside your usual group of friends as well.
4. Be a hub
My friend Irene is an awesome example of this on an international level. The “6 degrees of separation” is more like 3 degrees, and if anyone is looking to do some traveling – I’ll point them towards her to know someone in that town that can give some great advice. One thing I’ve noticed about her that she does in conversation is to be able to strike a bond/common interest with a person, and say, “oh, you should totally meet so & so”. Can’t say how crucial this kind of thing is.
When you introduce people, they start off with you being their common bond & mutual friend. Think that’s the only time they’ll talk about you? No way. After doing this kind of thing time & time again, your name will come up in the future in several conversations and a reputation will begin to proceed you. (I’m sure we can all think of “that” friend that always makes the introductions & connects people)
PS – a great book on this kind of idea is “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell. (Thanks for the suggestion Emily!)
5. Be the planner
I suppose this ties in with the idea of being a “hub”, but by creating events & inviting all your friends it *super-sizes* the effect that simple introductions would normally make. After a few months of doing the things mentioned above, this would be a great way to bring everything full-circle. Not only does it make you the common bond in new connections’ first conversation, but it puts you in the spot as the go-to-guy. People are going to put you in a different light, and odds are – they’re going to be going to you for suggestions on things in the future. (I’d suggest getting to know your own town & the cool places/things to do so that when people *do* start asking, you’ll be prepared. (See step 2)
For example, when I was newly 21 – I started work as an event promoter for different downtown venues. I got to meet a lot of people, and with that – began developing a network within that scene on its own. After a few months, I took it upon myself to throw a charity benefit party & get liquor sponsors, a theme, and a few friends to help promote the event. It was at a private property, so everyone there was in some-way-shape or form part of my network.
My friend & client Seth O’byrne does a great job with this – he hosts client appreciation parties and introduces his friends to new friendships on a consistent basis.
After all my time in school and anytime during a presentation Q&A or whatever involves a group – I’ve always been sure to be vocal in front of the entire group in some way. I know a lot of people aren’t comfortable with this idea, and I’m not saying this is something you ‘have’ to do in order to grow your network – but it definitely helps! Whenever I do this, I always find it more & more common that people will come up afterwards and spark conversation related to my comment. Think of it as “putting out the bait” – and often times they were probably thinking the same thing you said!
I firmly believe that by being the hub & bringing others together is actually the best way for YOU, yourself to strengthen your own network. I hope these tips help you guys, and if you’ve been through/are going through the same experience – I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
7. The Mastermind Group
After establishing yourself in your new town, it’s important to surround yourself with people that are key in helping you move towards your goals in life. While they might not be in the same industry as you or even in the same TOWN – it’s important to surround yourself with like-minded individuals who are going somewhere, and not just going ‘up’ the down-escalator. It’s a tough thing to cut people out of your life that are fun, but just not making things happen, but when it comes down to it – if you’ve got big goals, big things need to happen soon. Opportunity isn’t going to wait around forever. Get about 6 or 7 people you know that are dedicated towards their passion in life and keep each other in check in terms of goals & progress.