How To Make New Friends Anywhere

Whether you’ve been promoted, taken a new job, or just needed to make a change — moving to a new city can sometimes become a scary endeavor unless you have the proper qualities to make new friends and establish stable connections in between. A good network of friends is inevitably necessary for personal support and professional development regardless of any circumstances.

For working adults, to make new friends can be tough. Many of us built our networks organically over time: we met people at school or work, through shared activities, and through friends of friends. We didn’t have to put much effort into collecting contacts. In a new city, though, we have to be intentional about it.

While it does take work, there’s no reason it has to take a long time. By teaching ourselves to understand how networks function, most of us can build, at least, a basic new network much faster than we built our old one.

Here are some few suggestions to get you started;

Rediscover weak or dormant ties

As we go through life, relationships fade in and out of view. You may have stayed in the same city up until now, but your friends and former colleagues may have not. As you look toward your new destination, consider the weak ties (acquaintances) and the dormant ties (old friends or colleagues) in your existing social circle. Check your social media channels and alumni databases from school or past employers. You may find that you already know someone who lives in your new city. With this knowledge, you’ll have the opportunity to reach out to them before you move, and set a date to reconnect once you arrive.

Ask existing friends and colleagues for help

This one may sound obvious, but many of us only reach out to our closest friends when we need help to make new friends and connections. To get the most out of your current network, make sure you cast a wide net. One of the most powerful questions you can ask is, “Who do you know in ______?” In this case, the blank space is your new city, but it can also be an industry, a company, or anything you’re looking to explore. Before you move, take the time to ask many friends and colleagues if they know anyone worth meeting in your new city. Most people will be able to think of a few names. Even if each person can only think of one, you’ll still walk away with a good list of potential contacts.

Seek out shared activities

Once you land in your new city, it may be tempting to seek out meetups, networking events, and the like. But research shows that events structured around meeting new people often fail. Attendees generally spend time conversing with people they already know, or with people who are similar to themselves. A better option is to participate in a “shared activity,” an event where there is a bigger objective at hand and achieving that objective requires interdependence. You’re much more likely to make new friends through diverse connections at events that give you a reason to get to know the person next to you. So, how do you find a shared event? They come in all shapes and sizes, from community service to classes to amateur sports leagues. Choose what you’re most comfortable with.

Don’t stop connecting

As you start to make contacts in your new city, don’t neglect to connect others as well.  Too often when we meet new people in a professional context, both parties struggle to find a way to help each other in the moment. But if you step back and consider the collection of contacts you already have (even a weak or dormant tie from back home), you will often be able to identify someone who will be a valuable connection for your new acquaintance to make — or vice versa. So when meeting new people, stop thinking about what you can do for each other, and start wondering who you can introduce to each other. You never know when you have a connection that someone else will benefit from.

Get to know the whole person

If you practice the above, you’ll likely be meeting a lot of new people. When you do, resist the urge to keep the conversation focused solely on one element. Don’t only talk about your jobs, your families, or your hobbies. Instead, look for commonalities in multiple different spheres of your lives. Doing so will help you build what network scientists call a “multiplex” tie — a connection with multiple contexts. Not only does this kind of connection help you get to know the other person on a more intimate level, it also gives you more reasons to stay in touch.

These are just a few steps you can take to build a network in your new city, and they’re certainly not the only thing you’ll be doing when you land. But if you put them to practice and stay consistent, you might build a roster of connections that rivals your former network — and do it in much shorter amount of time.

A version of this article appears on Harvard Business Review. | Author: David Burkus (@davidburkus)

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