How to be a Young Professional in Blacksburg

Finally back after a bit of a hiatus + trying to get rid of some spam!
This post I’d like to dive into something a little more personal: my move to a college town. I feel like lately on Reddit in design, VT, and Virginia subreddits I’ve been answering a lot of questions about what it’s like to be a young professional in an area where there’s no middle ground between student and raising a family.

When I graduated college, all of my colleagues went on to big cities and massive design firms. I moved to a small company in a town where you’re considered an outcast if you’re not a Hokie. Now, since then I’ve been adopted into cheering for VT, but it wasn’t always that way. I hated it here at first. I’ve never lived in the mountains before, let alone a town sub 50k people.
So to anyone that might feel lost in the same situation, here’s how I learned to stop moping at home and embrace the college town:

Buy your coworkers a beer

This is a bit obvious, but it starts with any coworkers you might have. If they’re cool people, go out for a beer after work. I started out in a 1 bedroom studio apartment by myself every weekend – and it took one night of going out after work for a few of my coworkers to become some of the best friends I’ve ever had.

VT Clubs usually accept non-students

I started out just joining clubs at VT that would accept people that aren’t students, I’m interested in gaming and outdoor activities (kind of a contradiction I know) so I met a lot of people that way. Being in my early 20’s at the time I looked like a student anyway so it wasn’t too weird. Gobbler Connect has helped me find clubs in addition to just showing up to things from meetup.com. I still meet up with some of the people at the Outdoor Club, which is pretty active.

Join a Gym

Gyms are good, I would take a class if you can. I starting doing Yoga over at the weight club twice a week which has helped me meet new people. I’m debating the Jiu Jitsu classes soon – martial arts makes you get to know your classmates really well.

RBTC & Tech Events

If you’re in the tech industry, it can be tough but there are some solid groups. See if you can get involved in the RBTC, the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council. They do these things called “Tech & Toasts” I’ve been to where they’re like TED Talks in the mornings. There’s also the Blacksburg Young Professionals group which could be good but I’ve never actually been to one of their mixers outside of Up on the Roof.

Another tech event – Make a Mark

This is only once a year but it’s been a HUGE help to me with networking around here. If you have any sort of design or coding knowledge consider volunteering your time towards Make a Mark when that comes around. It’s a creatathon that puts you with a team of other young professionals that balance your skillset. I’ve met awesome people this way, and if you crank out good work they’ll notice you. It was held in Rackspace last year too which was fun.

Get a dog!

Unfortunately it might not be feasible for some, but for me adopting a dog within the first few months helped me build the confidence to go to new places. I suddenly had a reason and motivation to go on all these cool hikes or trails. Honestly, Blacksburg is very outdoorsy. I used to not be that way. Now, I can’t imagine spending a weekend when I’m not going on a hike or a long walk with my dogs. I also met some cool people at the dog park this way…although don’t expect to get their name or number the first few times they see them. Everyone mostly knows each other through their dog’s name 😃

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