Moving to a foreign country is a deep change of life; not only because you’re leaving your relatives and friends (skype and social media are good tools to maintain such relationships) but also because you have planned to set your entire social and professional life in an “unknown” environment where you don’t know people and people don’t know you. As in any situation where you’re going to reinvent yourself, you have to analyze you starting point and, hereby, to develop your “strategy”.
When I moved to Turkey, I had no real job opportunity or contracts. Also, in the private sphere, I had just few connections with just a couple of my wife’s friends.
Here there are some lessons I learned from my experience
Attend a language school
To know the language of the country where you live, obviously, It’s the first step to improve the possibility to establish personal and professional relations. Attending a language school (even if you already know the language, it wasn’t my situation :)) is for sure the first step to do.
Going to the school language was my first opportunity to start to networking.
The main advantage is that many foreign people like you don’t know the language, so if you know at least English (that is the most common language worldwide) you can start to make your connections.
During the four months I attended at the school I met a lot of persons, even others Italian that temporary or permanently moved to Turkey. I met my firends “Paolos” (yes, it was the most common name among Italians :)) and German, American, English, and other persons from different nationalities.
In the very first month I got a network of 20-30 local connections composed by foreign people living in Izmir. Most of them were married with turkish people so, my “second degree” connection reached about 40-60 people.
How to get value from these connections?
People moving abroad have almost the same problems: how to get resident permit and how to find a job are the most popular and urgent questions. So, if you are able to help them they will help you.
Try to be valuable in giving the information they need. Be open and listen to their problem and always try to help to solve. When you’ll need, they will help you back.
Connect with institutions of your Country
If you live in a main city, probably there is at least a Consulate. Usually Consulate’s employees are both “diplomatic” (sent to the country from the Foreign Ministry) and “administrative”, usually local people employed. So Consulate has a deep knowledge of the local environment and can help you in understanding how to approach a business or to find a Job. Sure, this is not properly their duty but they can give you some suggestions.
Another place you should join is the your country’s Institute of Culture. The aim of Institute of Culture is to promote your origin country culture to local people. Usually they have strong connections with local institutions, they know businessmen and entrepreneurs. They can refer you.
Anyway, keep in mind that probably you are one of many compatriots entering their door. So It’s fundamental that you build personal connection with one or two of them. It means that you must be visible and trustful. Attend at events they organize and step forward to help them.In order to be trusted it’s better you offer what you really can do, so you can show also your attitudes and they will know your skills.
Use social media to focus your networking
If you attended the language school, you already have a network but, probably, it is a casual one. It’s time to focus on the people you really want to reach. In this case, social media are great instruments.
- Start searching Facebook and LinkedIN for groups talking about the country or the city where you are. Usually, especially on LinkedIN, people writes in English so you shouldn’t have any barrier.
- Join them and start to contribute to discussions: participate, comment and propose your topics, ask and give suggestions.
- Target people are interacting with you and try to connect directly adding them as friend or professional connection.
More, if the group organize meetings, it’s mandatory to attend at them. No one wants to have an avatar as Friend and … don’t you want to understand if they or the group can really help you?
Create your own networking group
Now you should have a core group composed by your schoolmate, some fellow country persons and online contacts. The best way to build your reputation is promoting your own networking activities. In these months you’ve been meeting people and you probably got some information about what they need. Use these “data” to create your own networking group.
- Use the most common social media among your contacts to aggregate them
- Share the information they need
- Organize regular live meetings around this need
- Keep monitoring the “change” in group needs
- Engage them in the organization
Benefits I got
Acting like that, I found some opportunities in social media marketing education for students and professionals, I got some consultancy from abroad and I developed my project “Il Nuovo Levantino“, building the first magazine for Italians living in Izmir.
In a time where the moving abroad is more and more frequent and to find a job through the usual channels is more and more difficult. Did you experience other approaches? Did networking help you in your career and social life as an expat? Let me know your experience.