As many of you know, I recently moved to Atlanta, Georgia from Portland, Oregon, where I had spent the bulk of my professional career. I am a strong believer that one should build a network before you need one and I did not want to waste time getting to know people in Atlanta. Since moving to Atlanta three months ago, I went from knowing a handful of people to having over 100 LinkedIn contacts and dozens more informal connections. Over time, these will provide mutual value as we refer business, recruit talent, and help each other be successful in Atlanta.
If you find yourself new in a city, or wanting to build a stronger professional network, here are five ways to start that have proven useful for me in these early days in my new city:
1. Start with Who You Know
When I finalized our move plans, I reached out to everyone I knew professionally in Atlanta. These few connections were few, but powerful. That has already lead to a few meet ups and more introductions. Some of these have already proved helpful in our home search and for help recruiting for some new hires in our Atlanta offices.
2. Ask for Introductions
Having spent a lifetime building up relationships in the Oregon business community, I knew I had a base to build from. For instance, some of the local vendor community in Portland also have offices in Atlanta and I am now making those connections. Agencies, management consultants, and even real estate firms with a national or international footprint are a great place to start.
3. Use Your Associations
I leveraged relationships I had with the Technology Association of Oregon (TAO) to get involved with the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG). I reached out to the membership team of Avixa, where I serve on the Leadership Search Committee, to be introduced to local contacts in Atlanta (and we have begun planning a networking event for women in AV in the city). I transferred my involvement with the CMO Club to the new city and have already had some insightful meetings and lots of great advice.
4. Put Yourself Out There
Using the recommendations above, I have invested in some events and used those as a chance to get to know more people and learn more about the community and the various industries that call Atlanta home. These have included events by the Atlanta Business Chronicle (which through the American Business Journals has outlets in 43 US cities), the American Marketing Association’s Atlanta chapter (another association with hundreds of chapters), and a group sponsored by Georgia State Robinson College of Business (find the business schools in your community for connections). This has been a sacrifice of time which has resulted in some wonderful conversations, valuable insights, and new connections in the city.
5. Add Value
In Portland, I tried to give back to the community in big and small ways (and encouraged others to do so). I found it personally and professionally fulfilling to be on the board of a non-profit, Marathon Scholars, and to get involved in local groups as a speaker, mentor, or advisor in the local business community. Although I haven’t done this much in Atlanta yet, it is something I am looking forward to doing over time. To get started, we are getting involved with the parents group at our children’s amazing school, I have taken some meetings with some early career marketing professionals, and we have gotten involved in service projects through church. Giving back not only does good in the community, but helps people get to know you (which is more important than who you know as I have written before). How each person chooses to give back is a highly personal decision, but no matter whether you volunteer for a rescue animal shelter or help build houses or serve on a non-profit board in a governance or fund raising capacity, volunteering is key to truly getting connected in a community.
In my case, my move to Atlanta corresponded to a new role at a new company. The same may be true for you, as well. It has, of course, been my top priority to master the new role and to meet colleagues and customers. If you find yourself too busy to build your external network now, just remember that in the day to day work with your colleagues you are also building a mutually beneficial network of folks who know each other well and can advocate for each other in countless ways while you are building business value.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse.