The summer after college, I was living the new-grad dream. I had secured a job at a nonprofit in Dallas and was spending my summer living in Pennsylvania with my sister, traveling to see friends, and gearing up for my new adventure. The best part? My new company hired 10 or so recent grads each year, so my usual nerves about having to make new friends were alleviated, as there was a built-in way to meet others through our group orientation and ongoing training.
The dream all came crashing down when, the day before I was scheduled to leave for Texas, I got a call that the nonprofit had lost the funding for my position. My sister didn’t live where we had grown up, so suddenly I found myself without a job, without a long-term housing plan, and in an area where I knew nobody but my sister.
While I was fortunate enough to find a new job and apartment of my own within a month, building a new social circle felt like it took forever. If you find yourself struggling to meet new people, here are some things I learned while building my tribe in a new place.
Join a networking group
Networking groups can help you make both personal and professional connections. They usually offer a wide range of events, from educational sessions to boost your skills to social activities like intramural kickball and community service projects.
Look online or ask coworkers about groups in your community — maybe a young professionals group for your industry or an alumni group for your alma mater — and reach out to the membership committee. A colleague introduced a few of my coworkers and me to a young professionals group for people living or working in our area. Once a few of us were interested in joining, our company was even willing to cover the cost since they offered training and networking opportunities that could benefit us both personally and professionally.
Think about where your passions lie and research local organizations that address them. Sign up for service projects and don’t worry about flying solo. Volunteer activities will naturally get you talking to others as you work together to finish a project or reach a goal.
While it may seem intimidating to go alone, remember that everyone is there for the same cause and this common interest can help you bond. Not long after relocating, I saw a message on social media about a local youth center — they provided alcohol-free events for teenagers — that needed volunteers. Helping at these events gave me a way to meet others, and I even ended up serving on their board of directors once I got more involved.
Join a gym, sign up for an intramural sports team, or just get outside in your neighborhood. If you stick to a routine, you’ll likely see others who keep a similar schedule. Strike up a casual conversation. I got to know some of my neighbors simply by asking if I could pet their dog after crossing paths several days in a row while I was out walking.
Your fitness community may also have an online counterpart, like a private Facebook group. Take advantage of these for access to information about upcoming events or informal meet-ups.
Check out community activities
You may be surprised at how many different activities are happening in your area, sometimes in the most unexpected places. For instance, many local libraries branch out way beyond book clubs and offer cooking classes, concerts, and even after-hours trivia. If the library’s not your scene, ask businesses you frequent what they may offer. Local breweries near me offer everything from painting events during the week to free yoga before brunch on Sundays.
Find a faith community that fits you
I avoided regularly attending church for a few years after graduation simply because I was overwhelmed. Post-grad life was the first time I truly had a choice about where to attend services and there were so many options. Once I bit the bullet, I found an enriching church community that met both my spiritual and social needs and regretted not jumping in sooner. Two of my now closest friends recognized me as a new attendee at social hour one Sunday and introduced themselves. Then they invited me to other events, everything from Bible study to decorating the sanctuary, so they could introduce me to others, too.
If you’re not sure how to get started, look at different churches online. Research both practical information like service times, but also get a feel for the community. What activities do they highlight on their website or social media? What outreach projects do they run?
Then ease in by going to services and, if you find one you want to return to, branch out by staying for the social hour or volunteering at an event.
If you’ve recently relocated, don’t feel pressured to have a huge new friend group as soon as your boxes are unpacked. While it can be easy to compare your social network to the one you had in college, relocating for a new job is a totally different playing field without dorms, classes, and school-sponsored events making it easy to spend time with those you don’t know. So, be patient with yourself. Allow yourself time to get settled into your new home and job. The more comfortable you become in your new stomping grounds, the more likely you’ll be to find natural ways to meet others.