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Best U.S. cities for newcomers to network

Networking has been hailed as a key way to build a professional reputation and even score your next job. But some U.S. cities are better for expanding your network than others, according to a recent analysis by LinkedIn.

LinkedIn’s Economic Graph data team analyzed new connections made on the platform over a 12-month period by 3 million members who relocated to a new U.S. metro area in 2021. Relocation was defined as when a LinkedIn member changed their location on their profile. Monthly new connections were then compared with the national average. 

It doesn’t come as a big surprise that New York City topped the list as the best metro area for newcomers looking to network. Workers there have a LinkedIn connection rate that is 11.1 times higher than the national average, likely due to an increased chance of meeting people. The New York metro area boasts a population of 23.5 million, making it the most populous region in the country.

Despite being the smallest metro area on the list, Salt Lake City is the third-best area for networking by newcomers. It was also named the top city to start a new career in by WalletHub last year

These are the top 10 U.S. metro areas for networking by newcomers, according to LinkedIn.

1. New York City

  • Connection rate vs. national average: 11.1 times

2. San Francisco Bay Area

  • Connection rate vs. national average: 9.5 times

3. Salt Lake City

  • Connection rate vs. national average: 9.2 times

4. Los Angeles

  • Connection rate vs. national average: 8.7 times

5. Boston

  • Connection rate vs. national average: 8.6 times

6. Chicago

  • Connection rate vs. national average: 8.4 times

7. Washington, D.C.

  • Connection rate vs. national average: 8.3 times

8. Houston

  • Connection rate vs. national average: 8.2 times

9. Miami-Fort Lauderdale

  • Connection rate vs. national average: 7.9 times

8. Dallas-Fort Worth

  • Connection rate vs. national average: 7.8 times

LinkedIn’s analysis also showed that Gen Z workers were the fastest to connect with other people after arriving in new metro areas, outpacing millennials by 13.6%, Gen Xers by 17.9% and baby boomers by nearly 50%.

Networking in general is a love-hate practice, with workers often reluctant to reach out to new connections for fear of being awkward or exploitative. It can be even harder to do in a new city where everybody is a stranger, but its rewards often outweigh the risk of feeling uncomfortable.

“You have to network. With networking, you get yourself out there — out of the witness protection program your own little desk can become,” management author and CNBC contributor Suzy Welch told CNBC Make It in 2020.

To network effectively, experts recommend focusing on quality of connections instead of quantity, maintaining an active LinkedIn profile and treating activities outside of work as potential networking opportunities.

“A connection can happen anywhere, so build networking into your everyday routine,” Byron Slosar, career expert and CEO of the HelloHive career platform, recently told CNBC Make It.  “You can network while volunteering, working part-time at a restaurant or walking a dog. All of those interactions develop relationship-building skills and help build your personal network.”

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