Question: How can I quickly establish professional connections abroad? My family is relocating to another country and I am uncertain about how to quickly network into my new community.
This is a good question that many individuals have when relocating abroad. One thing which struck me is the use of the word “quick.” In general, making
connections is a process and one which will be developed over time. I often ask individuals if this is their first international move or if they have
done similar moves in the past. This will sometimes determine how realistic their expectations are in terms of the process. Setting realistic expectations
can help you feel good about your progress as you build connections in your new community.
As a general rule, the first two to three months are a period of settling in and getting oriented. In that period, individuals can start to meet people
and those meetings may develop into more meaningful relationships in the weeks and months to follow.
One of the things which can help accelerate the process is the timing of the actual move. When moving overseas, families travel with their own suitcases,
sometimes an air shipment arrives a few weeks later, and the bulk of their belongings are shipped in a container which can take up to two months to
travel and clear customs. Some people choose to go into temporary housing in their origin location (in other words, to move out of their home a month
or more before their move) so that the shipment is sent earlier and received faster in their new country.
Being in your eventual home earlier will accelerate the process of setting in and thus make it easier to be available to make connections. On the other
hand, if you have to look for a house or apartment when you arrive and choose to stay in temporary housing while you search, having that extra two
months while you wait for your belongings to arrive can be very helpful.
I encourage you to take the time needed to settle in and get yourself and your family oriented. Being grounded will make you more confident when you go
out to meet new people.
Once you are ready to build a network, here are a few ideas for getting started:
- Accept every invitation (party, get together, school social, etc.) that you receive because, even though it can feel overwhelming at times, those early
meetings are good starting points for future connections.
- Reach out to neighbours, office mates, and fellow parents with a quick hello, handshake, and introduction the first time you cross paths. This feels
most natural when done in the first weeks or months.
- Be an information gatherer. When you are new to an area, you have lots of questions and need to find new places to visit, shop, and explore. Use these
questions as ice-breakers to both get to know your new acquaintances and learn about your new area in the process. For example, if you love to
hike and camp, ask a colleague or neighbour if they can recommend places nearby.
- Take time to connect with others over a shared interest, activity, or role. Expat and international groups can be excellent ways to connect with others
who may be new to the area. Other good avenues can be found through Meetup groups as well as sports, language, school, and faith-based groups.
- Explore a few organisations and groups to join. Sometimes the hardest step is finding out where the groups meet and getting yourself to the first meeting.
Pushing through that and getting out to meet new people can be one of the best ways to build connections.
- Visit the local Chamber of Commerce and ask if they have any upcoming events. They often organise non-member networking events. The Meetup website
also lists professional networking groups which may meet locally.
Be patient with yourself and the process. Building connections in a new area takes time. Stay in touch with friends and relatives back home, reach out
and accept new opportunities to expand your network in your new community, and take time for enjoyable activities on your own and with your family
as you move forward in your new home!