3 Ways to Start Building Your Community Today
Let’s face it, community is everything. We all need to feel a sense of belonging. Interacting with others is the best way to grow and to be happy. Having a place where people will help mold us, leads us to be the best version of ourselves. Sometimes, we even need that extra push to take a leap of faith. And, once we do, we rely on a safety-net of people to support us on our journey.
Community is built around common interests and passions. It’s the collaborative environment that nourishes our deepest passions, but it also represents the webbed network of our collective relationships.
If you’ve ever found yourself in a new city, like I found myself once in Boston, you know how daunting it can be to think about how you’ll make this new place feel like home. I’m talking beyond the brick façade and interior design. It’s the relationships – connections, friends, colleagues, and mentors – you need in order to feel like you belong in your new city.
For starters, the community you build has to be relevant to you. However, you also want to think about engaging in dynamic communities that can serve your long-term needs. Like Keith Ferrazzi says, “you have to build it before you need it.” But the most important prerequisite to assimilating with or building a community is your belief and appreciation for what you can accomplish with a particular group of people.
Here are 3 ways to start shaping a lasting community from scratch:
- Start with what you know and enjoy.
- Think about your preexisting affiliations. Your Alma matter likely has an alumni group in your city. You can go in knowing you automatically have one thing in common – you share experience of attending the same university.
- Perhaps you have access to Professional/Industry Associations through your work. These groups are great place to be visible among your peers in a professional setting. Not to mention, they’ll offer you development opportunities as you advance your career long-term. In Boston, a few come to mind: The Ad Club, The Greater Boston Chamber, MassTLC, MassBio, MITX, and New England Venture Capital Association. The best way to leverage these groups, to build community, is to consistently participate in at least one of their regular program series.
- Show your civic side. Did you know one-third of Boston’s population is between the ages of 21-34? If you’re part of Boston’s largest demographic and want to shape the future of Boston through civic engagement, ONEin3 Boston, is your place.
- Don’t forget your hobbies. Despite people’s initial reaction – and giggles – I’m a big fan of flying kites. Over the summer, I shared the magical experience – controlling an object in flight – with people in my various networks. Not only do these people have a new found appreciation for flying different types of kites, but I built a small community to share my passion with.
- Think outside of the “networking box”.
- Connections can be made anywhere. Think about the regular BRIDJ passengers you share a ride with. They live in your neighborhood, so introduce yourself, strike up a conversation, and see where it goes. What’s the worst thing that could happen? They don’t talk back. Yes, that’s one moment of awkwardness, but it isn’t human nature to ignore people talking to you. Plus, you’re going to keep sharing that ride, so you might as well go for it.
- Expand your knowledge or indulge in a cultural series.
- Check out what General Assembly and intelligent.ly classes they are offering in Boston, or enjoy cultural programs through the Institute of Contemporary Art, Museum of Fine Arts or Berkley College of Music. You’re guaranteed to find people with similar interests and passions in these venues. You both signed up for the same session or series for some reason, right. So find out.
As you start to build multiple communities, you’ll have the serendipitous opportunity to bridge your connections. You’ll be able to bring a dynamic and inspiring group of people together and create ties between your communities. Not to mention, you’ll foster opportunities for future collaboration.
No matter where you start – or if you’re focused on expanding your communities – find out what people are excited about, and share your enthusiasm for your passions. Do this and you’ll realize the power, and fulfillment, that comes with authentically connecting through shared experiences in the community.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: MICHELLE RAYBURN
After graduating the University of Cincinnati in 2010, I gathered my things and left my Ohio roots to realize my Boston dream. As a transplant, I learned life in a new city can be a little challenging to navigate from a civic, social, and professional perspective. However, I have a passion for building – and participating in – inclusive communities that empower and encourage women to aspire to achieve greatness. In my day job, I work for a membership organization and help companies utilize their people to strategically engage in the Boston business community. In my free time, I’m committed to developing student leaders in the Eta Theta chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma at Harvard, serving as their coach, mentor, and Chapter Council Adviser. Today, I hope to make it easier for you to get connected to Boston, network, and navigate the City through my Women’s iLab column: The Aspiring Woman’s Guide to Networking in Boston.