Seven Ways to Build Community After College
By Carmine Di Maro, Detroit Fellow ’16
Every year in the United States, nearly two million bright-eyed students leave college and go in search of their place in the mysterious world of post-graduation.
Moving to a new city and adapting to a new way of life is heavy weight for anyone to carry. Sometimes it might seem like just managing your job, feeding yourself, and the occasional trip to the gym are as much as you can handle.
What if there were a way for you to meet friends, build your network, and contribute to your new community all in one fell swoop?
In fact there is… Community Building!
The broadness of this term is really where the beauty is.
There are infinite ways to add value to a new community and they lie at the intersection of the community’s needs and your passions.
Do you love prix-fixe meals and know that local chefs are looking for opportunities to showcase their experimental wares? All you need is a venue, a date, a chef, hungry people and you are in business my friend. Keep reading for Seven Ways to Build Community After College.
One. Host Dinners.
People love to connect over food and shared interests. Whether it’s an informal “family dinner” held every Sunday (a big one in VFA circles) or bringing people together to learn from an expert, dinners are an easy and fun way to build community. Some ways to take this to the next level are finding sponsors to pay for food (usually in exchange for being present at the event or other exchange of value), and finding one-of-a-kind venues like the time I had dinner in a 1920s-era safe under the city of Detroit.
Two. Host Meetups.
If you’re looking to get a bit more done than a dinner, meetups are great. In Detroit, Jon Schwartz (VFA ’17) and I ran an event called “How to Start a Startup” that brought people together from the local startup community to work on pitches, marketing and other problems that founders face. We invested a lot of time upfront to talk to other startup organizers in the community, secure sponsors, and lockdown a reliable venue. It wasn’t easy in addition to our day jobs, but the golden rule we kept in mind is that if you’re asking for people’s in-person time, then you owe it to them to make it worth it.
Three. Create Content.
Yes, it does seem like everyone you’ve talked to in the last month is starting a podcast. That being said, identifying a topic that will resonate with a certain group and adding value to them regularly still works wonders. Lauren Hoffman (VFA ’16 – Detroit) had barely landed in Detroit before launching her newsletter, Detropolitan, showcasing the best things to do, see, and eat in her new city. The important thing here is optimizing for your strengths and having a plan. If you’re a fantastic writer, but uncomfortable on video, invest in writing on Medium, LinkedIn, or local outlets. For a great start on making a content plan that actually adds value to people: click here.
Four. Make Introductions.
This one is predicated on the critical skill of listening. If you take the time to listen deeply to everyone you interact with in a day, you’ll be amazed how many times you pick up on people who should be talking to each other. I’m convinced that a tiny fraction of people take the time to make these introductions, and the world is a less connected place for it.
Five. Volunteer at events.
I still talk to people from years ago that I met while handing out name tags at an event. If you’re trying to work your way into the local startup scene, demo day events for accelerators are always looking for volunteers and you’ll meet lots of investors and founders. This approach is also great for expensive events for fancy business people. $1K price tag for the big conference? Adhere that name tag and put your college shoes back on, because you’re running the door.
Six. Informational Interviews.
One of the true great secrets in life, the informational interview will open your eyes to the world beyond your day-to-day. Popular in college, but seemingly forgotten in post-grad, these low-stakes meetings are a way for you to network and learn about new things and opportunities. Use LinkedIn (or Instagram) to find people you want to learn from, work with, etc. and reach out. You’ll be surprised how many times you have a 2nd-degree connection on LinkedIn or a mutual friend. Just make sure you’re always respecting their time and finding ways to add value to them in the process of meeting.
Seven. Work on Side Projects.
Stay in a constant state of exploration. I bet you’re filled with ideas. The first step in making an idea real is to go out and talk to people about it. If you’re really into film and want to make a documentary in your spare time, you can totally find the right people to talk to. And the right people will likely share your enthusiasm for making documentaries, maybe even become connections or… *gasp* friends.
So fight that urge to go home and crash every day after work! Community building is a muscle that gets stronger with time and will imbue you with much more energy, connections, and fulfillment than one more season of Rick and Morty ever could.
Carmine is a 2016 Venture for America Fellow who lived in Detroit for three years before joining the VFA Accelerator to work on problems at the intersection of entertainment and wellness. You can reach him at email@example.com