Success Story: Meeting New People

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Shorter Version


Est. Reading Time: 1 Minute

My name is Eric Slaugh. After I graduated from college, I took a job in a city where I knew no one. I was forced to go outside my comfort zone to meet new people and make new memories. After three years, I picked-up and moved to another city where I knew very few people.

Yeah, meeting new people is scary.

Moving to a new city where you know few people, if any, can be scary. However, I think it is something that everyone needs to do at least once. I wrote this article to provide people with some tips on meeting new people and making new friends and memories in a totally new place. As you go through this yourself, remember that…

  • Making friendships can feel like dating
  • It’s important to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations
  • It helps to be open to anything and everything

Skip to Actionable Steps




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Longer Version


Est. Reading Time: 5 Minutes

During my senior year of college, I was faced with a decision…

  • Take a job in Lancaster, PA, where I had grown up.
  • Take a job in Buffalo, New York, where I knew no one and would live in an apartment with two guys I had just met via Craigslist.

I decided to take the job in Buffalo because it would force me to grow as an individual and interact with an entirely new community.

Upon moving to Buffalo…

I quickly became extremely excited about the all the opportunities and avenues available to me as a single guy in a new city. So the first thing I did was make a list of the activities and hobbies that I loved to do. Being a huge sports and outdoor recreation guy, the list centered on these types of activities (ultimate frisbee, running, volleyball, trail running/hiking). While I didn’t know where my best friends, or any friend really, would come from, I knew that my best chance for friendships would be the result of me surrounding myself with people who enjoyed similar activities as me.

Thank you, internet

Like any good millennial, I used the internet to help me out. The first social club I found while rummaging through the internet was a running group. It seems like every sort of social group these days, whether it be a book club or a rock climbing club, has a Facebook group or website. So I grabbed my running shoes and attended a Wednesday running group at the local running store.

I did not know what I was getting myself into and did not know a single person that would be there. I showed up and immediately felt overwhelmed. There were 70-80 people all over the store talking. I felt like the only person who did not seem to know anyone. Near the end of the run, one guy (who later became one of my best friends in Buffalo) started running with me and asking about my life story. We chatted for the remainder of the run until he proceeded to introduce me to a whole horde of folks that made up Gordon’s Running Club. They invited me to the bar across the street, which was having trivia that night, and to their Tuesday running group as well. Sometimes meeting new people requires you to just make that one important connection.

Before I knew it, I was running with these folks three times a week and making lifelong friendships.

League after league

I also used the internet to explore the other activities that I was looking to play. After finding an ultimate Frisbee league, I began playing in the league every Wednesday. Then I dug around on the inter-web and located a volleyball league. I asked/begged all the people that I knew to play on a team and was able to organize a team. After playing in the league over time, I met other people who had played volleyball previously like me and joined up with them to play in more competitive leagues. Whether it be running, ultimate Frisbee, or volleyball, I can point to each of the conscious decisions I made to “put myself out there” as the foundation for the many of the great friendships that I made.

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The move continued

After living in Buffalo for three years, I moved to Seattle. In Seattle, I took many of the lessons I learned in Buffalo and used them to help me quickly integrate into the local community. For instance, I dug around on the internet and located a volleyball league that catered towards individuals. I went into the first night of that league not knowing a single person, just like when I had attended the running club in Buffalo for the first time. By the end of the second night at this volleyball league, I was hanging out at a bar with a group of people who were asking me about my life story.

They have become my best friends in Seattle.

Just recently, I moved into a new apartment with one of the friends I made from that volleyball league. Like in the several cases I described in Buffalo, I can point toward my conscious decision to put myself in a situation where I knew no one as the foundation for many of the great friendships I have made here in Seattle.

Consider this

I bring up each of these experiences not to brag about meeting new people or my ability to make new friends or to integrate into a community of people, but to give a foundation for discussing the lessons that I have learned.

Making friendships can feel like dating…

I am not sure if there is any research behind this one, but I have had several people agree with me. You are trying to determine if you are compatible with the other person, just on a friendship level instead of a romantic level. When meeting new people, you ask many of the same questions as you would ask on your first couple dates. You have to nurture friendships in a very similar way to dating, which is to say that they take a lot of effort. You have to show the other person that you can be a good friend to them if you expect them to value your friendship the same way. I would argue that in some ways finding best friends can be more challenging than finding a significant other.

Learn to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations…

Considering that moving by its definition gets you out of your comfort zone, you have to embrace the uncomfortable situations because they will be very common during your first few months. This takes a good deal of confidence, but just remember to smile! And laugh!

If you are making this leap to a new city, then you are an awesome person! I truly believe that most people love meeting new people and making new friendships and are open to that option. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Not every club/event will be a success, but I can guarantee you will be successful if you keep surrounding yourself with people like yourself.

Be open to anything and everything…

One night around Halloween, I was invited to bar hop with one of my former roommates in Seattle and his friends. I did not have a lot in common with this former roommate and nearly did not go because I expected his friends to be similar to him. Last minute, I decided to go and I met two of my best friends in Seattle that night. Point from this story is that you never know where and when you will find friendships (yet again, similar to dating). The only thing you can guarantee is that you give yourself the opportunity for meeting new people.

Actionable Steps


1

Be bold and pick some cities

I get this question all the time from my friends who are looking to make a change… “How do I know what city / region to try?” The key is to determine what constitutes an awesome place to live by your standards. Does it need to be along the ocean? Lots of live music? Access to surfing? Proximity to mountains?

In my situation, I knew I wanted/needed to be in a city that was in close proximity to mountains and outdoor recreation and had a culture that valued these things (sorry Buffalo). Therefore, I went to look up where my company was located and picked the cities (ended up being about 8 or so) that meet these criteria. After discussion with my company, we agreed on Seattle.

I would highly recommend picking a handful of locations and then trim the list as you understand the job outlook for you in each of those cities.

2

Prioritize your time

After you have moved to the new location, the next step is to determine how you want to spend your time. You can do this in a number of ways, but I am a huge fan of lists so I would recommend that. Determine what things would provide you the most happiness. Do you enjoy reading (book club)? Do you enjoy cooking (culinary classes)? Do you love hockey (intramural hockey team)?

Write them down and determine how much you value each thing. How much free time do you have and how much can you reasonably spend doing these activities?

3

Research and game plan!

USE THE INTERNET TO YOUR ADVANTAGE! I cannot stress this point enough. Search for “Rowing Clubs in Seattle” and see what comes up. Look through Facebook groups and websites to see what each group is all about. Reach out to the team captain/president/organizer and ask questions! Show you are interested.

Teams and clubs are always looking for new members, especially new members who show they are interested and will be active. If it will make you feel more comfortable, see if you can meet the captain/president one-on-one first before meeting new people all at once. Go get coffee with that person. That way you can feel like you know one person prior to going to the whole group event.

4

Attend, become a regular, and HAVE FUN!

The fourth step is certainly the hardest and most intimidating to people. It is the one that involves you putting yourself in a situation where you are the “new guy” and don’t know anyone. One of the things I always tell people is to go to the club/class a couple times before moving on. This is why I included the term “become a regular” in the heading. By going a couple times, you show the members that you are invested and therefore they should invest the time to get to know you. It’s hard to go to something once and walk out with best friends.

My recommendation is to go to a club three times prior to making a determination on whether you want to continue to go in the future. Last, I know it goes without saying, but HAVE FUN! Moving can be scary, but it also presents unlimited opportunities to meet new people and try out new things. Embrace these new opportunities and you will grow as a person in ways you never thought were possible.

About the Author


Eric Slaugh

Eric Slaugh

Associate Environmental Engineer

I am an associate environmental engineer for Ecology and Environment, Inc. in Seattle, Washington. My work focuses on soil remediation of hazardous and non-hazardous waste sites, erosion and sediment controls design, and coastal engineering. In my free time, I love running, hiking, rock climbing, biking, volleyball, ultimate Frisbee, and pretty much everything else that a stereotypical Seattleite loves.


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