A major life change can be one of the most challenging ventures you’ll ever tackle. Are you the new kid at school, new executive in the boardroom, or new mom in the neighborhood? As the new guy you have two choices. Crawl into a hermit shell or take the necessary steps to enrich your life. Funk or Felicity. Which will you choose?
I’m not new to being new. I’ve lived in 10 different cities over the course of 37 years. I went to college 3,000 miles away from home. And I’ve had 10 different employers and 3 unique careers. But I still struggle with being the new girl.
Last summer we moved our family from Northern California to Central Texas. It’s been a wild ride riddled with pot holes. We lived in a teeny-tiny apartment for five months with two dogs, two small children, and the ugliest fake plant known to man. Then, our new house flooded the day we got the keys and our dog Bailey died the next night. Back in California I learned to relinquish control and wash down Tums with red wine. So I got to know the sommelier at our new grocery store pretty well.
After getting the house remodeled and the kids settled into their new schools, I woke up one day and realized: I have no friends. No sense of community. And nobody really knows me. (Well, except our painter and hardwood floor guy. They know my life story.) Instead of sitting around feeling sorry for myself, I did something about it.
Here are several effective ways to ease the transition when you’re new:
- Introduce yourself. Be intentional about meeting people. Look for opportunities at the water cooler, your mailbox, or the carpool line. Don’t be afraid to march right up to someone and say, “Hi, I’m So ‘n So, the new IT manager. It’s so nice to meet you! Tell me about your role.” The more often you tell people you’re new, the more likely you are to find those awesome few who enjoy making the new guy feel welcome and included. I’ve been blessed with some amazing new friends by having the guts to introduce myself.
- Invite people to lunch. Reach out to someone you’ve recently met and schedule a lunch date. Tell them you’d like to get to know them better, and don’t just talk about the weather. Be authentic and be yourself.
- Find familiar activities. Sign up for things that you enjoyed doing in your former city, job, or school. One of the first things I did when we arrived was find a new martial arts school for my son. Karate was a huge part of his life back home, and the continued training has helped him maintain confidence amidst all the change.
- Throw a party. This is my favorite thing on the list! Host a creative gathering at your house. Invite anyone and everyone off the street. Last January I threw a “post holiday blues” tea party and invited over 5o women. Some I hardly knew and some I had never met in person. We did a re-gifting exchange and laughed over the gaudy things people brought. My favorite was the mounted singing fish that belts out “take me to the river.”
- Volunteer. One of the best ways to get involved in your new community and meet new people is to give your skills and time. At first I hesitated when asked to take on a position with the booster club next year. Then I realized I’d be crazy to say no. So what if I end up doing most of the laundry at midnight. (I already do that anyway). I’ll just teach the kids how to get their own socks out of the dryer. Giving my time to their school is more important.
Whether you’re at a new job, new school, or living in a new city, I hope these ideas will encourage you. And remember, developing new relationships that reach beyond the surface takes time and effort. Be bold and take risks! I think you’ll be surprised how well your efforts are received.
What other strategies are effective when you’re new?