7 ways to make friends when you move for work
December 19, 2016
As a generation, Millennials aren’t quite ready to plant roots. We’re waiting longer to get married, shy away from purchasing houses, and switch jobs every couple years. We’re switching jobs so frequently we’ve been dubbed the “Job Hopping Generation,” moving from company to company at a rate that leaves our grandparents aghast. This movement not only has a profound impact on our careers (whether positive or negative is up for discussion), but “hopping” around also has an impact on our social lives. In some cases, a new job can mean an office less than a mile away, but in others, a career change can mean replanting across the country.
Being somewhere new is exciting—a “fresh start”—but a new place can also lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. Psychology Today author, Hara Marano writes, “Friendship is a lot like food. We need it to survive.” Without it, our health suffers. Psychologist John Cacioppo of the University of Chicago found that a lack of friendship causes increased stress, artery erosion, high blood pressure, poor memory, and a reduction in one’s quality of sleep. The health risks compounded with finding a reasonably priced couch for your shoebox apartment makes for a rough transition into a new city.
Being somewhere new is exciting—a “fresh start”—but a new place can also lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness.
“The upshot is, we function best when this social need is met. It is easier to stay motivated, to meet the varied challenges of life,” writes Marano. If health isn’t enough for you, having friends also has major career benefits. According to the Harvard Business Review, having friends is a predictor for a higher salary, increased job opportunities, and protection against being fired.
Moral of the story? Job hopping is A-OK. But it's easier (and better) when you can quickly hop into a healthy social network.
Ready, set, socialize
Meeting people, and making friends, does take effort and time... Thankfully, a new city and a new job give you many potential connections to explore. Here are some strategies to get you started.
Connect with coworkers. For Millennials, having friends in the office increases both work satisfaction and workplace involvement. Use communal boards or team communication platforms like Slack to stay up-to-date on office happenings. Does your office hold happy hours on Fridays? Stop by for a few minutes. Is ping pong a favorite pastime amongst your colleagues? Consider picking up a paddle. Becoming a player in your office culture will help you make a lot of connections, fast. Even better, you might even find yourself a work spouse.
Look up that one kid from kindergarten. Over the summer I was walking to work and heard someone call my name. I turned around and saw one of my classmates from high school who I hadn’t spoken to in years. Like me, she was in the city for a new job. Since then, we’ve shared lunch and reconnected over our shared past. You never know who may be living right around the block. A quick Facebook search (ie. “San Francisco, CA” in the search bar) can generate a long list of familiar faces in your area, whether you were aware of their current location or not. These people are a great bunch to start with because you don’t have to build the friendship from scratch—there’s already a relationship there. All you have to do is brush off the dust.
Monopolize on friends of friends. If you don’t know anybody in your new city, one of your friends is bound to. Amanda moved across the country for a new job this summer and a faraway friend connected her with a group of local people. Like rekindling old friendships, building a relationship with friends of friends comes easier because the leg work has been done and common ground has been established.
Break a sweat. Getting involved in a sports team is a great way to meet new people in a new city. When Jeff moved from California to the East Coast for an internship, he joined an ultimate frisbee team to fill his free time. The team became his “core group of friends.” When Jeff moved back to California for a full-time job, he expanded his existing social network by joining a climbing gym. By participating in sports, you connect with people who are like-minded and have a lifestyle that is similar to yours. You already have something in common and have an activity that you can do together.
Check out the app store. As with everything in today’s technology-rich world, there are apps for making friends. Meetup is just one of the many location-based apps that connect people with common interests. If you’re a runner who wants to explore your new zip code by hitting the pavement, you can use Meetup to find people in your area who are doing the same thing. Once you’re done running and ready to try the local fare, Meetup can also connect you with people to dine with.
Explore your alumni page on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is not only a great resource for finding a career, but also for discovering fellow college alumni who live in your area. On the website, click on “My Network” and then “Find Alumni.” You can filter by graduation date and geographic area to find people your age who are working nearby. Consider sending them an InMail message and asking them to grab a coffee. We tend to like people more if we have similar backgrounds—a shared college experience is a great conversation starter and a strong place to build from.
Volunteer. Getting involved in an organization you feel passionate about will help you meet people with similar interests and embed you within a community. If you love children, considering working with the local Boys & Girls Club. If animals are your thing, do a quick search on local shelters. You can also get involved by using your expertise. If you’re a marketing wiz, reach out to a local nonprofit and offer assistance with social media. Doing good for the world and your well-being, that’s a win-win.
Nurture. Be patient.
Now that you’ve met people in every corner of the city (and the office), it’s important to follow-up on the connections you’ve made. Meeting for coffee once is not going to ensure that you stay on someone else’s radar. Keith Ferazzi, author of Never Eat Alone, writes, “The fact is, most people don’t follow up very well, if at all. Good follow-up alone elevates you above 95 percent of your peers. The follow-up is the hammer and nails of your networking tool kit.” As Ferazzi makes clear, friendships take time to build, so don’t be frustrated if your social efforts don’t result in a band of best friends immediately. Remember, the effort is worth it—friends do things for you that Netflix can’t. Your job and your health will thank you.
Our Millennial view series is not just for Millennials. Everyone can gain insight on these important workplace and life issues. Topics such as finding a friend in feedback, moving up, while dressing down, and sweatworking impact us all, regardless of generation.
Sara Lighthall is a content marketing intern at Zendesk and a student of life. When she’s not demystifying the Millennial generation on Relate, you can find her with her toes in the sand and a latte in her hand. See what she’s up to on Twitter: @saralighthall.