As a professional settlement consultant for employers moving talent to London, my mission is to provide the best relocation experience possible and to ensure employees build a rewarding new life in London. From finding the perfect neighbourhood and home to assisting with all of the details that come with relocating to a new city or new country, CityMatch is focused providing a soft-landing to our clients and this often includes helping them make “connections” in their new city.
I have seen how making personal and professional connections in London can make the difference between a new employee treating the city as a short career pit stop, or seeing London as a long-term home to build a rewarding career and life (emphasis on the 'life' part). Many people choose to relocate for a great job, promotion, increased income etc., but will often choose to stay because they have made an emotional connection to their new city.
I also know that while moving to a new city can be both overwhelming and intimidating, it can also be a great opportunity to start fresh, meet new people and explore new things. If you are new to London, or any city for that matter, here are some helpful tips and ideas for ways to build your personal and professional network.
Get Social(lly Networked)
Before or immediately after you move, check out your LinkedIn and Facebook connections by location to see who you may know in the city. No direct connections? Don’t give up quite yet. Your social media network can be a great conduit to connections to your new city. Consider sharing a post on all of your social networks along the lines of, “Excited about moving to London, Ontario this September! Who should I meet? Looking to meet a few local guides!” You may be surprised that someone you know also knows someone in London and they maybe be willing to make an introduction for you. London’s Twitter community is particularly active and welcoming so be sure to add the #ldnont to that post and stand back and watch how many are willing to make connections for you.
Monitor EventBrite and Meetup – the London Edition
EventBrite and Meetup are great resources to find events and groups that can help build your personal and professional networks in any city. Conducting a search using the London location search feature will showcase local groups and events and help you know about opportunities to network and meet others (professional or personal). If you find a group that peaks your interest, connect with the organizers and ask if someone from the group would be willing to introduce you around at the next meeting or event. As the former Director of a tech association, I gladly served as ambassador and connector to newcomers in this regard.
Try something new – like crazy new!
We all have things we have always wanted to try, but never followed through for some reason or another. Moving to a new city may be a perfect time for you to follow through on that “thing” you always wanted to try. Consider auditioning for that community play, joining the Forest City Sport & Social Club and signing up for that intramural volleyball team, or taking a belly dancing, fitness or cooking class (London’s Spectrum is a great resource for many introductory classes). Perhaps sign up for that meet-up group that regularly introduces their members to new London experiences. London offers up a cornucopia of opportunities to try something new and exciting and help you check off that bucket list of yours.
Find your tribe by volunteering
One of the best ways to make connections with people who share your interests and passions is to volunteer for an organization that does something that you’re passionate about. London has a vibrant volunteer community and your starting point really must be Pillar NonProfit Network. From their volunteer posting page, you will find plenty of organizations that are looking for people. Perhaps you are looking to share your talents at the Board Level? Pillar also provides listings for organizations that are actively recruiting board members too.
Get on the list!
There’s a wealth of information out there about living in London, Ontario that can help you fill easily fill your social calendar while enabling you to sample all of the great things this city offers. In a recent newsletter, I shared a few great electronic newsletters that beg repeating here. Tourism London ; London is on!; Downtown London; City of London Newsletter; London Fuse and the newest addition Living LdnOnt. All offer up regular updates of local events and things you should know about.
Looking to be in the know about what’s happening on the business front? Be sure to sign up to receive updates and e-newsletters from the London Economic Development Corporation, TechAlliance of Southwestern Ontario, London Chamber of Commerce and London Bridge Network. All of them are a great starting point to other groups and associations that you may want to connect with. Looking to join a smaller or perhaps a women’s only business-networking group? London has plenty of groups that range from free to membership based groups.
Say yes and repeat (often)
If you are new to the city, be sure to say yes to invitations and do it often! While seeing a basketball game, attending a lecture or art exhibit may not be your typical cup of tea, if you start to say yes, you will be able to explore and discover the city. This means, exploring the neighbourhoods, streets and venues and this will only expand your knowledge of the city, which is always a good thing. And who knows? You might discover that a night out watching the London Lightning is a great way to connect with new friends! I can personally attest to this truth. I was surprised to find myself “struck” after my first time watching the London Lightning.
A great way to make connections can often be found next-door - literally. London is a friendly city; so don’t be afraid to introduce yourselves to your neighbours. A friend of mine told me how he met his neighbours quickly by providing a mailbox handout, and introducing himself and noting that he also had a 20-foot ladder if anyone needed to borrow it. It was a great icebreaker and today he annually hosts a popular Canada Day party on his street.
London also has many neighbourhood associations that meet regularly and host popular events throughout the year. Consider getting involved and be sure to check the Urban League of London to learn about Neighbourhood Associations in your area and check out the City Of London Neighbourhood resource page for help getting connected to your hood!
Remember it takes time
Making new friends and professional connections in a new city takes time. For some it takes weeks; but more often, it takes months. The important thing to remember is that if you keep at it, you will find your people. You’ll connect with friends and professional colleagues that make our city so much more than just a city — you will make it a home.
Now get out there and good luck!