EmptyA good friend from home was in town last night and even just seeing his face reminded me of how much I miss about the network of friends and colleagues I left back in Rochester. Mostly, the pure existence of one.

I grossly underestimated the amount of effort it would take to put myself on the map here in Chicago. And I absolutely took for granted how great a group of people I found myself surrounded by in Rochester. Job opportunities? Never had to look. Volunteer opportunities? Came knocking at my door. Freelance work? I was approached by the client almost every single time. And my best friends were my neighbors, my co-workers, my fellow board members and volunteers, and my brunch dates on lazy Sunday mornings. It certainly didn’t start that way, and one of my closest friends Katelin, should she read this, would be eager to tell you all the story of my first interaction with her, an awkward meeting at a local coffee shop where I basically begged her to let me volunteer at the Ad Council so I could make more friends and get to know the community.

Those awkward coffee meetings and uncomfortable networking lunches feel like eons ago (they basically were), but how quickly I am reminded what it all felt like.

Even the most bold of extroverts (myself included) will tell you they hate networking for a job. No one likes it. No one enjoys waxing poetic about themselves to complete strangers while secretly crossing their fingers that they’ve impressed them enough to lead to a connection or a job opportunity. It’s just unnatural, no matter how well you fake it.

I keep finding myself reaching back four, five years ago trying to remember the words I said, the jokes I told, the lines I dropped that landed me the incredible network I hold several states away – while trying to replicate it here.

And then I remember that it wasn’t my innate charm and one-liners that built what I had in Rochester; it was grit and hard work. Volunteering every spare hour I had. Attending networking events where I knew not one other person and diving in. Driving in a snow storm to have coffee with a stranger I reached out to on Twitter. And doing great work that got me noticed.

So if you speak with me in the next couple weeks, please ask what I’ve been doing to make that happen here. Holding myself accountable is one thing. Having you all hold my feet to the fire is even better.