Interviewer: “Are you willing to relocate?”
You [with sweaty palms and a forced smile] : “Sure, for the right opportunity!”
Does this scenario sound familiar? I know it all too well! First off, congratulations! You just got a new job! You’re super excited and you are looking forward to learning and growing…and having an income. But wait! This job is halfway across the country in a place you’ve never lived and where you don’t know anyone! You’re probably freaking out and wondering how you’ll survive, but rest assured, this is normal. If you ever have to relocate for a job, just know that it’s normal to be nervous and downright afraid. But we’d we’ve been there and here are some ways to cope.
I start this post with the caveat that I great up with a father who’s military job meant that I moved around a little bit, but I’ve still learned quite a few things about starting over. Immediately after graduate school, I got recruited for an amazing job, but the only problem was that that job was in Louisville, KY. I had to pull out a map to see where that was. I remember standing on a rooftop at a new associate’s mixer over looking the Ohio river and thinking to myself if I could see myself living here. My family would be 10 hours away by car, while I wasn’t the only new associate recruited, I didn’t know anyone in the area, and my friends and boyfriend were still in Atlanta. I was terrified to take the chance, but I knew that it was the right decision for my career. So I signed on the dotted lines, bought a winter coat (because man, it’s cold there!), bought a car that could withstand snow and packed it with all of my belongings.
I wanted to dive into my job, and I did, but I also wanted to make Louisville feel like home. I identified the things that I would have been doing back at home, and intentionally sought out those things in a new space. Making friends as an adult is far more difficult than playground antics and you have to be intentional about making it happen.
One of the first things I did when I moved was found a gym. I loved working out and it was something that I felt comfortable doing by myself but around people. Over time, I started meeting people at my gym who would introduce me to their friends and shortly thereafter, I found a community of likeminded people who would workout together. I took workout classes and dance classes and eventually, I had afterwork activities with non-work people. I also joined a soccer league, I found a community orchestra that I could play for, I started auditioning for musicals because I knew that I could get casted and meet new people that way. I basically followed my interests and found a way to pursue in a different location.
Another way to jump start meeting people if you move for a job is through young professional networks. Most cities have them, and they generally are a good way to meet people from different academic and professional backgrounds. Sometimes they come off as “network-y” but if you can endure small talk enough to get to the core of people, this is a good way to make a name for yourself in a new community. Also, be sure to pursue alumni networks that may exist in multiple cities. This will give you a sense of the familiar even though everything else around you is new.
Volunteering is also a way to get involved. I have been on the committee for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life in two different cities, so I cold called the Lousiville chapter and just simply asked if they needed any help. Most organizations won’t turn down help! I ended up ebing a committee chair in a new city, meeting new people who are passionate about serving their community in the same way that I am and met some great friends that way as well.
Finally, don’t be afraid to be alone for a bit. Spend time reading in a coffee shop or taking yourself to brunch. This is hard for a lot of women, but I can’t tell you how many people have just walked up to me in a coffee shop and started a conversation. Enjoy the time of discovery, both in your new city and in your new job but also in yourself. You will grow and learn so much about yourself when you are forced outside of your comfort zone. I won’t say that the moving as an adult is always going to go smoothly. There were times when I was super lonely, but the most important thing I learned to do was to put myself out there. Say yes to happy hours, say yes to book clubs, say yes to the casual “we should grab coffee some time.” But also, say yes to discomfort because through it, you create space, and from it you have no choice but to grow.