Learning to Network in a New City

The last time I had a sales job, I had regular nightmares about failing at achieving ‘targets’. That was almost nine years ago but I still remember the exhausting feeling. I hated networking. I hated going to work and trying to sell insurance to customers. But it was my first job after college while I tried to figure out which career to pursue and the job paid handsomely. Thankfully, I had a good boss who helped me realize that sales was not my calling. So after six grueling months of meeting clients and growing a sales network, I decided that the stress was not worth the money and quit.

After quitting I did some freelance work and then started my professional journey with IJM. In my Business Admin and Human Resources role, most of my responsibilities were office internal. When I was assigned the responsibility of being a recruiter, I enjoyed networking with organization leaders, colleges and individuals. This networking often took less selling skills because most people wanted to work at IJM.

I was getting quite comfortable in my role when one year our Director assigned an additional networking responsibility to me. I was to serve as a liaison to the German Consulate in Kolkata. This would involve staying in touch with some officials and attending social events hosted by the German Consulate. It wasn’t complicated really but I tried to wiggle out of it and failed.

The first social event I went to alone, I felt out of place and awkward at the beginning but I ended up meeting some cool people. Over time I learned to attend social events on my own, which meant that I actually had to meet strangers, start conversations, eliminate awkward silences and get to know people that I had no real interest in getting to know. The exposure was amazing! I grew more confident, comfortable and appeared more extroverted. My favorite part of the events remained unchanged – I loved when it was time to leave 🙂 But I became less apprehensive about intentional networking.

Learning to network is a key skill that leads to opportunities. Networking doesn’t have to be phony and selfish. It can be a great tool in building connections, advancing knowledge and greater success.

When I moved to Atlanta these networking lessons were put to good use. We knew only a couple of people here. While I waited for my US work authorization, I was able to use that tiny Atlanta network to connect with several business leaders. These leaders then introduced me to other business leaders in the city. Not all of them led to substantial outcomes but the city began to feel more familiar as my professional network grew.

Read related: Living Overseas: Community

You need to be proactive in making these meetings happen. Don’t hesitate to follow up with your contacts when you are waiting to hear about potential networking opportunities – reminders work wonders. But there is fine line between being proactive and being annoying and that line depends on the kind of contacts that you have. Use the appropriate time of day to reach out, always give people a lot of time to respond and don’t hold grudges when they don’t respond. 

Most of the time people were more available to speak over the phone instead of meeting in person. Either way the conversations included introductions, ideas about top things to do in Atlanta and some career advice. I had prepared a brief about myself and a list of questions about the person’s career choices and I would try to keep the pace and sequence as natural as possible. I didn’t ask any of them for a job but simply shared what I was looking for and sought their advice about next steps.

The other networking tool that I used was LinkedIn. I first spent a few hours creating a strong LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn allowed me to find and reach out to company leaders and recruiters in Atlanta. About 75% of those I contacted responded back kindly. The rest didn’t respond at all. I would find the people listed on job boards or leaders listed on company websites and simply reach out via email. It was awkward at first but with every positive response I received, the more natural the approach became.

Read related: What do people who thrive overseas have in common?

Of course not all of the 75% who responded led to substantial outcomes in terms of job searches but each of those conversations helped me improve the next email and conversation. I also enjoyed the exposure that I got to company processes and cultures and that was just priceless. When I emailed someone, irrespective of whether I knew them or not, I would ask them for one favor and that was to allow me to learn about their career trajectory, choices and lessons they had learned along the way as it would help me maneuver my new career path in Atlanta. I am very grateful to those who responded and shared invaluable lessons with me.

The key to this approach was not to get too attached to the opportunities and networks that I was pursuing. This attitude eliminated any feeling of insult when people didn’t respond because quite practically, not everyone has the time or interest to respond to strangers. However, if someone didn’t respond at first, I would send them a follow up email and keep it brief. Most leaders responded to the second email and agreed to schedule a time to connect over the phone and some of them even invited me to meet them at their offices and explore career opportunities with their companies.

Some of these networking sessions led to job opportunities in Atlanta. Some of them led to new friends. I almost enjoy networking meetings now.

You can learn more about networking through these articles:


You can share your professional lessons with readers. Email your stories to editor@theoverseasmagazine.com

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What do people who thrive overseas have in common?

My father says you remember the smell of your country no matter where you are but only recognize it when you’re far away.

― Aglaja Veteranyi, Warum das Kind in der Polenta kocht

I am putting this book in my to-read list because my dad often quotes a similar phrase in Bengali.

Homesickness has ruined several overseas experiences. If you have friends or family who live away from home, you must have seen their social media posts describing their homesickness. Different people deal with homesickness and unfamiliarity quite differently. Over the last few months I have been making notes about a few habits that help people thrive overseas despite their homesickness and circumstances.

Firstly I observed that you don’t need to be an extrovert in order to thrive overseas. So this post is applicable for both extroverts and introverts.

A determination to thrive

People who thrive seem to relentlessly pursue the best life they can have irrespective of where they live. People leave home for so many reasons – the adventure of trying something new, to be with family, for work, to answer a calling. The people we spoke to and read about, described times of overwhelming challenges or incidents of extreme homesickness but their determination to thrive carried them through.

They practice contentment

They are able and willing to maintain a positive attitude when dealing with the uncertain and the unfamiliar. They view the unfamiliar as fun instead of as intimidating. Fear is replaced by excitement. They also embrace their limitations, whether it’s their personality, illness, slow learning, they remain patient.

Read related: My struggles with depression while living overseas

They enjoy new food options

It’s not so hard to try new food options but when that new food becomes the regular option, it not always easy to thrive. Numerous struggles stem from the inability to adapt to new food habits. Finding food options that are close to comfort food have helped many adjust to the new tastes and textures quicker.

An open mind and desire to learn

Learn new cultures, language, lifestyle and habits without passing judgement all the time. A desire to learn and eagerness for exposure to new things is pretty vital to embracing the new experiences that life throws our way. An intentional appreciation for the new community and culture and not being a loner makes them thrive.

Read related: Tips for Overseas Living – Be a Learner

Not losing sight of the purpose for moving

Those who thrive overseas stay motivated by not losing sight of the purpose for moving. They avoid getting distracted with random incidents and emotions, episodes of homesickness, complicated relationships or small setbacks.

The more I think about these the more I realize that some of these habits are good to practice no matter where you live but they come in a lot more handy when you’re away from home.


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Author: The Overseas Magazine Editor

 

 

 

We would love to hear your travel and living overseas stories. Learn more bout writing for TOM here.

My struggles with depression while living overseas

It has been a few months since we moved back home and I wanted to share this for the benefit of those who might have similar struggles.

My husband and I were married for a few months when we decided to live overseas. It was a decision motivated by the charm of adventure. When the opportunity for my husband to teach overseas presented itself, we were super excited! Saying goodbye to family and friends was hard considering we had spent our entire lives living just five minutes away from our loved ones. But we knew that we would be back in a couple of years, which made moving overseas really seem like an adventure.

We arrived in our new home city in the middle of summer. Temperatures were not too bad and we loved the feel of the city. During the first few weeks, we tried to get connected with a church and a community around us.

It’s strange trying to establish relationships from scratch.

Since we had pretty much lived in our old home city all our lives, friendships and communities had developed organically over time.

In our new home city, we had to ask intentional questions about how involved we wanted to be and we had to seek people out to meet for coffee or meals.

I plugged into my “get things done” mode right from the start. Finding a local grocery store, learning about the city, working out our apartment lease, and registrations were all completed within the first few weeks. These chores kept me busy while my husband tried to figure out his work. We spent weekends exploring the city and trying out new places to eat. The first month went by in a flash and we felt pretty settled there.

Read related: Living Overseas: The First Two Weeks

Over the next few weeks I had very little left to do after my husband left for work. I tried volunteering but was limited by my language skills. I tried learning the language online and I spent a lot of time reading and trying to write. But boredom and loneliness would take over. 

In a few weeks, this loneliness started effecting my sleep schedules. I would stay awake at night often crying softly into my pillow so that my husband wouldn’t find out. I didn’t want him to think I was struggling because he seemed to be living his dream. I wanted to support him well. Waking up in the morning was another story! Some days I would wake up early and some days, it would be noon before I could drag myself out of bed. And even then I would just sulk around the house. I tried to reignite motivation and make the most of my time there but it was a fight I was losing everyday.

Since I am a Christian, I would pray, read my Bible and journal. But I couldn’t shake that heavy depressed feeling weighing me down. 

We kept in regular touch with family and friends back home. It was great but I couldn’t tell them about my struggles. I did not want them to worry about us.

In fact everyone who met me considered me a great example for expats because I seemed to be fitting in!

After the first year, my depression seemed to hit me in waves. There were still nights and days when I would sob uncontrollably with a sense of complete helplessness. It was almost as though this sobbing had become a ritual that needed to be done to get on with my life. I felt useless even though I knew I was valued and all that. The fear of being alone would ruin social events and I stopped enjoying adventures with my husband.

At the beginning of our second year, I finally decided to share my struggles with my husband. He listened intently and shared about his struggles with me, which to be honest, really surprised me. I was under the impression that he was doing better than that. The conversation did nothing to alleviate my struggles but it made me realize that I didn’t have to fight those feelings alone. 

It finally hit me – I was struggling with depression and allowing it to slowly win over me. It wasn’t just feeling lonely and homesick anymore. This had grown into something more powerful. I needed to make some significant changes and give myself a chance to enjoy my time overseas. Here are a few things I did. 

  • I realized that sobbing every other night for no apparent reason was not “normal”.
  • I also realized that the sobbing was worse when I was exhausted so I started going to sleep by 10 pm. It improved my ability to sleep through the night and wake up refreshed in the morning. I had more energy throughout the day.
  • I started praying with my husband and we started sharing and supporting each other more.
  • I started working out everyday – nothing elaborate but consistent workout with some goals.
  • I started reading purposefully.
  • I started eating better and learned to cook a few dishes that were our favorites.
  • I made the time to attend social events and plan adventures with my husband. No, I didn’t always want to but I needed to do them and so I did. And they usually turned out fun.
  • When I didn’t feel like talking about myself and answering questions during social events, I learned to redirect the conversation towards the other person and make them feel like the center of the conversation. It usually worked.
  • I started dressing sharper and I already had the clothes and accessories to do that. Dressing up prevented me from feeling like a slob. It’s amazing how clothing can influence how we feel and behave.

These small changes made a big difference to the rest of my time overseas. I still struggled sometimes but my mostly stable emotional state rubbed off on my husband and we made some crazy awesome memories!

My husband was offered an extension because he is amazing! We accepted the extension and spent three years overseas before returning home! During that extended time, the homesickness didn’t disappear but it no longer hindered us from having the best time there! 

If you need support during your time overseas, please don’t hesitate to seek the help of a counselor or mentor. With just a little help, your time overseas can be amazingly life-changing!


The author of this post has requested to remain anonymous.

You can write for The Overseas Magazine too!  Check out these suggested topics and email editor@theoverseasmagazine.com

Questions you should be asking during your first overseas “check-out” trip

Visiting a place before moving there for long term is a great idea because it can prepare your mind and help you make moving decisions. Setting some strategies can help you make this “check-out” trip more worthwhile.

Whether you are someone, who enjoys just going with the flow or someone who needs it all chalked out – here are some guiding questions.

Of primary importance:

  • What kind of visa will you need to get?
  • What are some non-negotiable conditions for you to thrive in this new place? Think of food allergies, other allergies, medical attention.
  • What are some compromises that you are willing to make?
    • In several instances, the compromising attitude disappears when the going gets tough at the end of the glorious honeymoon phase. Giving this question some thought beforehand could help you push through challenges later on.

Know your limits

Everyday living:

  • What will housing look like?
    • Conduct a brief scan of the housing scenario and budgets
  • If you have kids, will you consider a local school or an alternative?
  • If your spouse will join you, what are things they could be involved in?
    • Include them in all these decisions.
  • Assess the public transportation system. Will you need a car? What kind of driver’s license will be required?
  • Will you be able to learn the language?
    • Learning the local language can help you feel more connected and confident.
  • Could you thrive as an outsider?
    • If you look significantly different than the local people, you will most likely get stared at a lot. Be aware of the attention you are getting and decide if you can handle the staring for the rest of your stay there. The staring doesn’t really go away although you might learn to live with it.
  • Do you like the food, culture, lifestyle?
    • Try the local food and decide from a daily meal perspective if that is something that you will be able to enjoy. Observe people and lifestyles. 
  • Will you do well with the weather conditions?
    • Weather often plays a big role in how productive and healthy we can be,
  • Will you be required to change the way you dress? Is that something you wouldn’t mind doing?
  • Will you have a local community that can help support you? If not, what are ways in which you can make your stay in a foreign land seem more like home?
  • Can you afford the cost of living?

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Work related:

  • Where do you fit in and how you can best support the role?

Staying in touch with family and your community at home:

  • Will staying in touch with family and friends back home be easily possible?
    • Whether you are close to your family or not, having a familiar community support your time overseas, even sporadically, can offer a great boost to your time overseas. 

Getting back home:

  • How can the role help your plans for the futures?
    • This brings perspective and focus so that you can make the most of your time overseas.
  • Throughout your overview trip, ask yourself if this will be worth the move – Is the work you are going to get involved in be meaningful enough?

getting back home

Exit strategy:

  • If your health or some situation demands an early departure, could you leave without any hassle?
    • Even though sometimes having restrictions on moving can be helpful in being tough through overseas challenges, it is good to have an exit budget and a plan in place in case you need to leave earlier than anticipated.

obstacles cartoon

Read related: Tips for Overseas Living – Inside Considerations for Housing | Tips for Overseas Living—Outside Considerations For Housing


Do you have other recommendations? Email them to the editor@theoverseasmagazine.com

 

Apps that make staying connected between countries easier

It has never been easier to stay in touch with people in different countries. Messaging apps have made it possible for us to stay in constant contact, not just through texts but videos and voice messages. Here are some of the most reliable messaging apps.

whatsapp-promo
whatsapp.com

Whatsapp is currently the leading messaging app in the world for android phones. It is perfect for texting, sharing images, voice messages.and most recently video calling! We tried the video calling function and the quality of the call was very impressive! Our favorite feature about the app is it’s affordable storage needs and minimal use of internet data.

kakaotalk
kakao.com

Kakaotalk is dominant mostly in South Korea but we use it as a family group chat in the US. It offers fun emojis and is easy to use. The service works a little better on iPhones than on androids.

skype
Skype.com

Skype was a leader in video calling across media and still rocks in many ways. But it’s significant need for phone memory and bulky updates make it a better option for iPads, netbooks and laptops and perhaps phones with remarkable memory capacity. Skype emojis are the best and it offers more than just emojis – the video clips and awesome GIFs make it one of the most entertaining ways to chat!

appear-in
appear.in

Appear.in needs no downloads or installations and it’s an efficient group video calling option. All you need to go is create a room, send the room link to your contacts and you can invite upto 8 people to join the conversation. The video and audio quality are great too.

groupme
groupme.com

GroupMe is another pretty low maintenance group messaging app. It offers free images and GIFs that are free for sharing and expressing yourself beyond emojis. You could also just ‘heart’ a message, when words are not needed. You can create a new event for your email calendar and send invites to your group.

We used Viber for a while but struggled with privacy issues. We would receive calls and friends requests from strangers so we uninstalled it. Facebook messenger is great too but battery and storage usage is a real strain on the phone, and we use messenger only on laptops. Tell us about your favorite messenger apps in the comments below.


 

What to expect during a career change

Sometimes moving overseas is accompanied by a shift in career paths. Are you ready for a career change? This article is not meant to discourage you but presents the harsher side of career changes so that you can prepare and persevere through them.

Career change is one of those things that could work out great or frustrate you completely. If you are ready to be completely challenged in your new field and start afresh, go for it! If not, then find an industry where you can use the skills you have already acquired over your career. Perhaps you don’t have an option and need to start afresh like I did when I moved across continents. Here are some lessons that I had to learn as I worked through my new career.

career-change-copy-2You will most likely have to start all over again. Depending on how different your new career path is – you might end up starting right at the bottom or at a mid-level position. This might or might not be determined by your skills and years of experience. Starting at a level lower than your current level will include its own set of challenges such as more administrative busy work or having to deal with too many managing levels breathing down your neck. Stay humble and power through it – keeping your end goal in sight at all times.

career-change-copy-3Relearning everything. Your boss will either treat you like a champion or will try to teach you everything – even the basics of Outlook. Be prepared to smile through it all and not let it discourage you.

career-changeReestablish every level of expertise that your industry already has. You will be expected to prove yourself at every step. Even if you are your current industry expert, you might have to climb the career ladder all over again. Keeping your focus fixed on your goal can help you get through this challenge.

career-change-copyFlexibility will be important if you need to take a salary cut to fit into your new industry. When opting for a career change, assessing the company and your new manager are more important than you might think.

During the months when I dealt with all of the above struggles, it really helped to start the day with this question: How am I planning to make this day the best ever? Some days will be harder than others but they will all roll into better days. Many have thrived through career changes – you can too.


 

 

How to bargain when shopping at markets – tips that really work

Shopping at flea markets and wholesale markets require more skills than shopping at malls and ‘fixed price’ stores. These shopping experiences also add to the joy of shopping, especially if you enjoy shopping. I learnt a lot of bargaining tips from my aunt, who is an expert! To make the most of markets around the world, here are some tips to get the best value for your money!

Lesson 1: Don’t reveal a price range right away unless you know exactly the kind of value that range will buy. If you’re unsure about what to expect, some vendors will not hesitate to display items of lesser value and sell them at your estimated higher price. Especially when buying from a flea market or wholesale market, ask the vendor to show some items and tell you the price of those items. Once you have an idea of what to expect, you can narrow your search.

Lesson 2: When browsing through items, don’t reveal your top preferences right away. In addition to your preferred items, bargain for a few other items. Vendors might quote a higher price if you reveal your favorite too soon. Feel free to negotiate prices to drive them down further. Sometimes buying several items from a single vendor can encourage them to provide additional discounts. Once you’re convinced that you are not getting cheated, return the favor and don’t cheat the vendor.

Lesson 3: If you see an item you like right away and don’t have time to browse through a whole section, quote a bargain price at half the quoted price. Then scale upwards slowly based on the vendor’s reaction. Even though this is not a set rule, it gives you a comfortable room for bargain. An exception to the rule: Once my aunt had quoted 1/10th of the price listed for an item when we were out shopping one afternoon. I looked at her trying hard to mask my surprise at what seemed like a outrageous bargain. The vendor protested only a little and then accepted the offer with a smile.

Lesson 4: Don’t be afraid to walk away. Most vendors will want some return on the time invested on the customer and more often than not, they will accept your offer as soon as you begin to walk away. If they don’t, chances are that the market offers other alternatives that you can pursue or you can accept the final price quoted by the vendor (it’s okay to let them smirk a little – getting the product that you wanted should make up for it.)

Lesson 5: During payment, since most of these markets prefer cash over cards, don’t pay in large denominations. If the vendor refuses to return exact change, claiming that they doesn’t have any, you could end up paying more than you bargained for.

Lesson 6: Be polite and respectful. People respond favorably to well behaved customers. Be cautious when your vendor is overly polite and respectful or you will respond favorably even to higher prices 🙂

It’s also important to know the the language of the place or have a trusted translator along. Tourists end up paying a little more during shopping anyway but don’t let that discourage you from enjoying the experience.

Do you have other tips? Please share them in the comments below.