Last week I met a recently arrived Canadian-Chilean who commented how important building her network is, especially considering that she wanted to explore more effectively the job market and expand her social circle beyond her husband’s family and friends – he is Spaniard. So, what steps would I take if I were in her place?
First and somewhat counterintuitively, I would check where other individuals of my nationality hang around. I know, you are in a different country to get exposed to different people, but in fact the kind of persons you find abroad are already very different to most of those remaining at home. Embassy, consulates, and nationality/country/region associations you can start with aside, friends, family and former colleagues can point you to their connections and network in your new place.
Replicating this process in the Internet and Social Networks sphere, what groups of your nationality are out there? If you went to a big university, it is likely they will have an online alumni directory with contacts in your area.
Continuing with the digital world, exploring Meetup groups related to your hobbies, profession and interests can contribute to your network’s expansion. Some types of them: language learning and exchange, other skills development, outdoor activities, culture, self-improvement, etc. A similar approach can be taken for Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. In the case of Madrid, some examples of communities we find in those online social networks: “Americans in Madrid”, “Auxiliares in Madrid”, or “International Moms in the Suburbs”.
Mil Anuncios, Clasificados, Vibbo, Tablón de Anuncios, Mundoanuncio, Segunda Mano and other online classified advertisement websites are places worth exploring as well, since there are also activities published there.
Coming back to the more physical/analogical perspective, I would look at activities carried out by organisations around me: academies (language, painting, dancing, acting, etc.); gyms and fitness studios; sport, culture, business, municipal or regional festivities (“peñas”), travel associations, NGOs, libraries, Escuela Oficial de Idiomas (Official Language School), departments of culture of the council or district, religious centers, professional networking, business events, job and trade fairs, etc. The key here is to combine an activity you like and to which people in a similar situation to you might go. Also, you can assess the locations and timetables to check if from time to time they might ‘facilitate’ that drinks and food are shared with other participants in a nearby bar or restaurant once the activity is finished.
Following up with bars (primarily Irish pubs) and bookstores with coffee facilities, in centric locations some of them organise language exchanges, quiz nights, and book discussions. Most of those activities are indeed published on Facebook, Meetup and other websites.
If the lady from the start of the story was not married and looking for love or ‘spicing up’ a bit her life, there are many apps and websites out there that can assist you in that purpose. The ‘quality’ of its users will vary from one to another, and from place to place. Nevertheless, in a new environment – particularly when it is large – it is more compelling to try them out.
Another observation can be added for those having children or young close relatives: they will inevitably lead or influence how you to interact with other parents or caregivers. Some of the principles previously exposed are applicable here, starting obviously with what interest your loved ones.
How do you build your network? Any approach you find particularly effective? If you had to start all over again, what would you do in the first place to get a job or meet new people?
Photos: Guadalquivir River, Seville. Velillos, Granada.