Gen Y and Relocation: Not a ‘First World Problem’
Gen Y’s relocate. A LOT. We go where the jobs are, we go where the LIFESTYLE we want exists, we go to other countries to experience the world, we go where we can make a difference. Many companies expect relocation as a part of a healthy career path – a way of gaining leadership experience in the many facets of multinational business.
I’ve relocated 4 times in the first 6 years of my career.
I’ve kept the same job, grown my career in a lot of new ways, but building community? That’s a struggle. Could I have had more help? Absolutely. Relocation for me has been a very self-motivated process, a ‘Getting Out There’ mindset driven solely by my proactive, needy, maybe almost obsessive desire to connect to others on a ‘I Trust You with My Life’ level. For those of you who don’t know, I have just moved again from Atlanta, Georgia to a small community in Florida. It’s a mental shift, going from a larger city to a smaller town: it has both its perks and downsides, like everything.
How has relocation as a process changed for this generation around the globe?
The Shift: Social Networking Helps AND Hurts with Relocation Disorientation Syndrome
We live in a world today where the very term community has changed. Your community moves with you. It’s in your pocket, on your smart phone. It’s on your desk when you work, via Facebook, Twitter, email, whatever. And seriously, it’s on your phone.
So when you move, what happens? You still feel connected far stronger than you might have been able to a generation ago. You still know what’s going on in someone’s life, how many times they’ve worked out, awesome meals they’ve had, and the fun they are having hanging out. You’re still virtually in the scene with them. You can reach people in an instant chatting, Skype-ing, hanging out on Google.
Picture a Gen Y, fresh out of college, starting a new chapter in their life: Having a Career. For the first time, has a fairly rigid, all day schedule. Wakes up, works from 9-5, has lunch with co-workers, and maybe tries to make friends at work (Good idea?? Depends. We’ll get to that later). Maybe they have a great manager with a clear work plan, maybe they are figuring out how to fill all the hours of the day. Meanwhile, as they transition from college life to work life, they are still connected to their old scene easily, like they never left. When they go home at the end of the day, it’s very easy to open up the laptop and catch up with everyone you already know or play video games with your best friend in another city.
It definitely helps when you move to be able to still retain your past community at such a high level.
But let’s get it straight. It’s VIRTUAL.
As in NOT PHYSICALLY REAL.
What Can We Do? Do As The Locals Do
In college, if you went out of your hometown, this was relatively easy. There are a billion events posted everywhere, student groups you can join, people around you who are all in the same situation.
As you enter the workforce, this changes. Something we all want when we move is to feel some level of connection, some feeling that ‘This is Home’. No matter how many times you move or even how much you travel for work, the place you return to at the end of the day should feel like a safe, comfortable place that you know and are connected to. Even if it just means knowing the best mechanic to go to in your neighborhood.
So how do you become a local?
- Pick up a Local Magazine (For Gen Z: yeah, the thing with pages you turn). A lot of cities publish magazines that can be found at visitors centers or local chamber of commerce/city hall. These magazines often contain ‘Best of’ and major local events. At the least, Google your city and find their tourism page or look on TripAdvisor for tips.
- Meetup.com – My best friend. I continually am surprised by how often I meet people who have never heard of this site. You type in an interest and your city – it then shows you local groups that you can go hang out with. If there isn’t a group existing with your interest, you can start it (for a fee). I started a Young Professionals social Meetup in a city of 33,000, thinking there’s no young people to hang out with. It grew to 70 people, which isn’t tons, but it’s 70 more people than I started with.
- Get to know your neighbors – Say hi. Take the opportunity to introduce yourself. You don’t have to throw a party if you don’t want to, but at least know if there are emergencies, you have someone close by.
Corporations/Managers of New Hires
There’s a lot companies can do to help all employees when they relocate. This is especially critical for Gen Y new hires – when we feel a sense of community, we have one more reason to stick around and have more positive energy to bring to the workplace. Also, keep in mind, this is help for Gen Y around the globe. It is common for someone in Europe or Asia to work in another country than their home country or event transplant to a new region entirely.
- Encourage and Support Localization – There’s a difference between making friends at work and having friends unrelated to work. People who are experienced tend to have a circle of friends outside of work, know why it is important, and assume everyone would. They don’t. For newcomers, the first place to make friends is at work, where you spend the most of your time (just like in college). I’m not going to go into the details of why making friends outside of work important — maybe in another post! So how do you support localization?
- Make a List as a part of On-boarding – Simply providing a simple list of common local places and events can be extremely helpful. At a minimum, just share your favorites: restaurants, parks, coffee shops, farmers markets, unique events, boutiques, sports leagues. For example, Cincinnati has Cincinnati Sports Leagues – a casual, wide variety of sports teams that anyone could join. Or they also have a big celebration for Labor Day unlike anywhere else, complete with fireworks timed to music on the riverbank.
- Give Recommendations for Service Providers – What I would have loved to have every time I move is knowledge of good physicians, dentists, repairman and that mechanic I mentioned earlier. The kind of thing people who have lived for years in one place can tell you, because they’ve gone to those service providers for years. Of course, don’t make an official endorsement. But having the reco would be nice. Websites like Angie’s List can help, but depending on the size of the town, it may not have all the data.
- Country to Country Relocation – Help someone find a little bit of their home in the new country. Be aware of where they came from to give some ideas of food, religious establishments, and friends, such as recommending international networking groups or hobby-oriented groups in your area, to make them feel at home. Do not assume they would enjoy the same local preferences you would – ask them what they enjoyed doing in their country first, before giving recommendations. I had many people assume I would go to church when I first moved to the Midwest and this was a common suggestion to help me meet people. Not only did it reflect complete unawareness of who I am, it was borderline offensive. I felt alienated and more hesitant to meet people. Not a good move.
Even if you move with a partner, it’s important to establish a broader community. You can’t spend 24/7 with one person and your phone. Proactively taking steps from an individual and organization standpoint can help greatly decrease the stress of moving by providing a real, physical community in your new hometown.
Your turn: What else can help you become a local and fight Relocation Disorientation Syndrome?
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