“Riding Solo” is a multimedia guide about how to live fearlessly in your own company. Whether you’re at a small event or traveling the globe, this series shares honest stories from real women learning to explore the world as their own plus-one. Experience the full package here.
You’re in one of the most exciting phases of life — you’ve just found a job as a new grad in a new city with great opportunities, and you’re slowly but surely decorating your new apartment to look like an adult lives there. Congratulations! It’s all super exciting, but if you’re coming from a small college town or the suburbs back home, easing into big-city life can be a challenge and a little bit overwhelming. We totally get it, so we talked to career and life coach Jenn DeWall to get some tips for figuring out how to make new friends, find your way around, and feel like a local in no time.
1. Bend your ties, but don’t cut them. When it comes to integrating into a new city, DeWall says one of the biggest mistakes she sees millennials making is “relying too heavily on friends and family from home. The more you do this, the more dissatisfaction you can have with your new city and slow your chances of not meeting new people.” Instead of staying glued to your phone all weekend keeping up with everyone back home, set up specific phone dates (and weekend trips!) with your close friends and family. Otherwise, try to disconnect from their digital presence when you find yourself with free time.
2. Know thy neighbors. Instant best friends!!! Okay, maybe that’s a little extreme, but we do highly suggest introducing yourself to your neighbors and inviting them to hang out once you get settled in your new place. Living in a big city often translates into transportation woes, and even when you do make new friends, time and distance will prove to be a formidable foe when it comes to making plans. Sure, you may not be besties with your neighbors, but the proximity allows for spontaneous stoop hangs and Bachelorette viewing parties that’ll make you feel that sense of community you’re jonesing for.
3. Stay true to you. “Another mistake I see people making is that they change their attitude or self to fit in,” DeWall says. She reminds us that “you’re not desperate for friends, you just want to make some new ones.” Don’t force relationships that don’t feel genuine or reciprocal — “the friends will come!” Continue to do things you love and explore areas of interest to you on your own — just because you’re alone doesn’t mean you can’t have fun.
4. Blossom into a social butterfly. You’ve got to put yourself out there to meet new people. DeWall suggests planning “at least one social event a week where you’ll have the opportunity to meet new people. She encourages her clients to “try networking groups, meetup groups, volunteering, classes at the gym, rec sport leagues, or any other personal development class you can think of.” She acknowledges that it can feel unnatural and a little intimidating, but reminds us to “step into the discomfort — you never know who you could meet.”
5. Schedule in that self-care. Moving from the suburbs (or country!) to a city can be a jarring, overwhelming experience and leave you feeling exhausted. Even when you’re excited about all the new things there are to do, don’t forget to check in with yourself and give yourself a breather. Schedule an evening in, hit the gym, or find some green space near your apartment to reconnect with nature. As DeWall says, it’s important to “plan a day each week that’s just devoted to the activities that bring you happiness.”
6. Your worth is not your work. When you’re new to a city with no social plans to balance your calendar, it’s super easy to become a workaholic, which is not necessarily the best way to start new habits. To ensure this doesn’t happen, DeWall suggests you “determine what time you want to start and finish work. For example, if you choose to work nine-to-five, hold yourself accountable to that schedule. Plan events that start promptly after work so you are forced to get out the door.” She says she sees this come up as an issue with clients frequently and says, “The biggest cause I see for this is a lack of self-confidence, feeling that if you’re not at work all the time you’re failing or behind.” By committing to social events that bring you happiness and bolster your confidence, you’ll forget those work fears in no time.
7. Get lost. Use your free time to wander away from your immediate neighborhood and learn how to navigate your new city. Figure out the cool coffee shops in other areas of the city and work your way over to one on foot — chances are, you’ll stumble across other spots you’ll want to check out (no one can resist the allure of a surprise farmers’ market!). It’ll make you feel more connected to your new surroundings and more confident in finally feeling like a local.
8. Use your network. Sure, you may not have any close friends in your new city, but we’d wager to bet you’ve got some friends of friends just waiting for a happy hour invitation. Do some Facebook “research” and see if you’ve got any connections in your new city. Your close friends will be more than happy to connect you to their wider circle (plus, it’s already been established they’ve got great taste in friends, right?). Similarly, see if your alumni association has a chapter in your new city — often, they’ll get together for baseball games, drinks, and other after-work events that’ll introduce you to new areas of the city and connect you with people who you instantly have something in common with. Go Eagles (or whatever)!
(Photos via Getty)