Five years ago, I moved to the Western Massachusetts community (aka the Pioneer Valley) to fulfill a new role in the Career Development Center at Mount Holyoke College. I did not know anyone. Was I nervous about this fact? Sure. Did I let it stop me, no. Why? because I was up for an adventure. I wanted to live in a different state, expand my knowledge of myself and the demographics of the U.S. and figured I could take it year-by-year. It was an experiment.
Fast forward to today…and I am back in a “new” community. Why “new” in quotes? Well, even though I graduated from high school in the Lehigh Valley where I now reside, spent time after college working in the area and attended graduate school nearby, so much has changed here and so have I.
I know I can succeed building both a professional and personal community here because I did it in Massachusetts so, as I embark on a new adventure here, I wanted to share the strategies I’ve employed with you so you, too, can build a new community or dig deeper into the one in which you’ve landed.
1. Give yourself time to adjust. Being new to a place can be overwhelming. In Massachusetts, I focused first on finding a place to live (Craigslist was clutch there), second on my job (the reason I moved there), and third on learning about the community. I wanted to understand its personality, learn where young people hung out so I could make friends, and see where I might be able to make an impact as a volunteer and professional. I didn’t hit my stride in all of these areas until October, which was almost 4 months after I arrived. When I arrived in Pennsylvania, I hung out with the friends I already knew in the area because I needed time and space to bounced back my transition home. This was right for me in May when I returned and now that it is September, I am actively pursuing opportunities to engage in the community. This tiered approach worked for me, it can also work for you. Feel free to experiment with the formula.
2. Volunteer. Young professionals’ groups in your area and your alma mater(s) can be uplifting. The events they holds put you in front of like-minded professionals, locals with community history and perspective and opportunities to plan events, lead initiatives and grow professionally in ways that your full-time position may not. I’ve been serving on the Alumni Association Board of Franklin and Marshall College since the fall 2013 and led the Northampton Area Young Professionals’ Group between January 2012-July 2015. I continue with both strategic and boots on the group volunteer work in the Lehigh Valley as a community member and professional.
3. Subscribe to local organization emails. Consider your interests. In Massachusetts, I followed regional business and non-profit organizations, local entrepreneurs, and lifestyle brands. I do the same in the Lehigh Valley such as InStyle, Discover Lehigh Valley, the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, and my favorite restaurants because they often have events that allow me to more fully experience the people and the treasures of the area.
4. Explore your community alone. Although it is not ideal, it can be freeing. Pursue a hobby as I have, taking pictures around the Valley (IG: #walkphotography) and allowing the day to take you where it might. I discovered nuances of the area that I had never seen before and met new people as a result. Go to meet ups, festivals, dinners at the bar by yourself. You’ll learn a lot about yourself and be applauded for your courage. That in itself is encouraging!Like this article? Share it!