I’m new here, now what? Meaningful Networking in a New City

Elizabeth Bounds, Gray Line Tennessee

As Product Manager for Gray Line Tennessee and the company’s only office employee in Chattanooga, I’m a familiar face at networking events around town. For about a year, Gray Line Tennessee has hosted the Chattanooga Hop On/Off sightseeing Trolley Tours. In fact, you’ve probably seen our large red and green trolleys around downtown — they’re kind of hard to miss.

But before all that, when I moved to Chattanooga in the fall of 2016, I knew two people. I had left my job, family and friends in Mississippi for a fresh start and new career. The thought of embarking on a journey to uncharted territory thrilled me. 

As exhilarating as the move was, the sparkle faded quickly as I realized that the race was on for me to rebuild a genuine community and most importantly, find a job.

Be Intentional with Connections

It’s true what they say — job hunting can be a full-time job, both physically and emotionally. Regardless, I needed to start meeting new people, and fast. 

Luckily, I arrived in Chattanooga right before Startup Week. I couldn’t believe we have an entire week built around networking and entrepreneurship, with a wealth of information and opportunity available mostly for free. I combed through the online schedule of more than 100 events and showed up to as many as possible.

Volunteering for Causeway’s Cause Mob turned out to be my favorite event. A Cause Mob is a spin-off of a dance mob; instead of breaking out in random dance, we broke out in acts of service for the city. I was happy to give back so soon, and I also used it as a networking opportunity.

Through one Startup Week connection, I learned about Creative Mornings, a monthly networking event for all types of creative folk. At a crucial time in my job search, this event helped me delve into a group I wanted to be involved with. I even met one of my best friends and current housemate there.

Throwing myself into new networking situations got me in the habit of being intentional with the people I met — if you’re not going to ask for contact information or follow through to meet up for coffee, why even go? Your time and how you spend it is vital when trying to feel at home in a new place, especially when you’re also searching for a job.

Be Open to New Experiences

Moving presents a huge opportunity for personal growth and learning about yourself. My new career didn’t come to fruition as quickly as I'd hoped, but that allowed me to be receptive of opportunities I might not have pursued otherwise. Between moving and finally landing my full-time job, I shelved books for just over minimum wage, freelanced as a graphic designer and nannied a middle and high schooler.

You never know who you’re going to interact with by stepping into work that’s different from your norm; plus, more skills to add to your resume. Not to mention the frustrations – and thrills – associated with all the different jobs out there. Now I have more respect for teachers and some of the challenges they face (pre-teens can be sassy), expanded my digital design abilities, and always reshelve books with precision at libraries and bookstores.

Fast Forward to Now

After four months of diligent job searching, I finally accepted a position with sightseeing company Gray Line Tennessee, based in Nashville and launching a new business in Chattanooga. Gray Line hired me to help with their Chattanooga launch and serve as Product Manager. My position has helped me get to know my new city even better, and the same great Chattanooga events that helped me get established now help me stay connected.    

Pictured above: ChattaNewbies is a free monthly meetup to help get city newcomers and natives acquainted, connected and engaged with Chattanooga.

Gray Line Tennessee serves the Chattanooga area with the Chattanooga Hop On/Off Trolley Tour, charter bus rentals and trolley transportation for events like weddings, conventions and more. Find more information here, or contact Elizabeth Bounds at [email protected].

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