How to get connected to Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh can feel like a big place to a newcomer.
Whether you're a transplant, a recent college grad or even a native who now wants to get involved, navigating the world of social and professional networking can seem daunting at first.
While there are plenty of civic, cultural and professional opportunities, where does a person even start to plug in? Here's a helpful guide designed especially for those in their 20s and 30s although anyone can benefit from many of the resources here.
Showing up is 90%
First, you should pinpoint and pursue events and organizations that align with your interests. Check out publications like Pop City and the Pittsburgh City Paper, the Pittsburgh Business Times and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for event news and calendars that feature a range of cultural and professional events.
Getting connected to Pittsburgh can be as easy as finding an event that interests you, following through with the event’s organizers, and building relationships with like-minded individuals that you meet.
Tip: Show up and introduce yourself to the head of the organization as a newcomer who wants to meet people. A good leader, who will be grateful for your support at the event, will help connect you to a few people or find someone else to help (Tell them we said so!).
If you have a strong interest in a specific hobby or activity, there's a slew of nonprofit groups with calendars full of events related to their mission.
Outdoors enthusiasts will find both event listings and volunteer opportunities on Venture Outdoors Activities Calendar
, for example, while the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s Event Calendar
features events ranging from Classical Opera to Salsa workshops and craft beer tastings. These fun and informal classes are the best ways to strike up a conversation. If you can't do it over a good craft beer, where can you do it?
Networking in Pittsburgh
Stick with us: There are lots more ways to get involved.
A day kayaking on the river, or an evening answering trivia at a local happy hour provides a fun opportunity to explore the social topography of the city, without a big investment of time and energy. Such low-pressure situations can open the door to more avenues of interest, enabling you to build upon your experiences.
Try the New Pittsburgh Collaborative
, a gateway group to 40 civic-minded orgs for the young and young-minded. (Ask for Abby!) Or Global Pittsburgh would love to see you at the FirstThursdays
networking happy hour at Shadow Lounge where you can mingle with both local folks and international visitors. Then you might want to volunteer to host dinners for a group of visitors or provide a home stay. Connecting others to your city will make you feel better connected.
And volunteering could be the most powerful tool in your toolbox. Putting your energy behind a cause combines the power of social networking with the impact of civic action.
Organizations such as Pittsburgh Cares
, which coordinate volunteer opportunities for nonprofits and individuals throughout the region, offer lots of events to choose from.
Spend a day at the Emerald View Park on Mt. Washington or help clean up a river for a day through Friends of the Riverfront. Into biking? Bike Pittsburgh is always looking for volunteers for their events. Pedal Pittsburgh is the best.
And while you may meet your future boss or new best friend on your first Urban Safari Hike, it sometimes helps to get a little more structure in your social and professional networking.
That’s where organizations like the Pittsburgh Young Professionals (PYP)
and Pittsburgh Urban Magnet Project (PUMP)
come in. Both the PYP and PUMP offer diverse programming designed to help young, and young thinking, professionals get their footing in town.
PUMP, which hosts the 20,000 member strong Pittsburgh Sports League, runs everything from kickball tournaments to mayoral forums, and seeks to engage Pittsburgh’s young professionals in civic participation, volunteerism, professional development and social networking.
“We’re working to develop affinity between our members and the City of Pittsburgh,” says Brian Magee, PUMP’s CEO.
"If a person goes to a PUMP forum and speaks up about an issue, that provides a much deeper level of connection. And that leads to ... leadership. And young people have the opportunity to lead. More than ever groups seeks young voices at the table. Take advantage of it.
Build Guild Pittsburgh
is a monthly event where folks in the the web industry—from designers and coders to project managers and hobbyists— get together to talk, share ideas, make professional connections, and land gigs. All are welcome to attend, says Dave Decker, from the novice to the full-time professional.
Then there's the new Built in Pittsburgh
for the innovators among us (Ask for Paul or Kit and check out their new site.)
Won't you be my mentor?
For those looking to focus on their careers, Pittsburgh presents opportunities that range from workplace training to industry-wide networking and career development initiatives.
Many companies, including some of the region’s largest such as PNC Bank
, offer formal internal mentoring programs that pair new employees with experienced professional mentors in the field. These programs provide an excellent source of professional guidance, helping young professionals navigate career development both in and outside the workplace.
In addition, the mentee may have the opportunity to expand their network through introductions to key people in the mentor’s professional network.
Keep in mind the large number of industry-based career development organizations here, like the Pittsburgh Chapter of the American Marketing Association (AMA)
, the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC)
, and the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN)
, that cater to the needs of professionals in their specific fields.
Trust us on this. They love hearing from new people who want to join.
Membership in trade organizations can be particularly helpful when you work in smaller companies or nonprofits and lack access to a formal mentorship or career development programs.
“Our organization allows individuals to network professionally with peers, to build strong personal relationships, to foster personal growth and to develop an overall understanding of how to navigate career development,” explains Todd Whiteman, President of the Pittsburgh Chapter of YNPN.
“In Pittsburgh possibly more than in other cities we place a high value on personal relationships. References and personal connections are one of the keys to successfully moving up in the region. Networking isn’t about working with the person you just met, it’s about building a relationship with them and building a strong network of professional relationships, one person at time,” Whiteman says.
He adds, “To get the best bang for your buck, however, I would recommend getting actively involved. Don’t just attend events; inquire about serving on the board or joining a committee. It’s the fastest way to engaged.”
Want to meet people from various sectors in town? Attend a Social innovation exchange, a series of events sponsored by Pop City and other groups to come up with ideas to make our city more vibrant. Some of the best ideas can get funded. Each SiX events brings together many people from a variety of fields—a great way to mix it up and get involved. (Stay tuned to Pop City for more soon.)
Leadership and Training
In fact, the more engaged you are, the more equipped you will be to take advantage of the networking opportunities presented by the region’s social and professional organizations. If you don't feel quite ready for a leadership position, Pittsburgh offers resources in that area, too.
Programs such as the Coro Center for Civic Leadership in Pittsburgh
and Leadership Pittsburgh
provide comprehensive programs that deliver hands-on learning experiences designed to build leadership skills. The various programs will teach you how to affect change in your fields, how to develop and mobilize personal networks, and how to work and play well with others across social boundaries.
Not coincidentally, graduates of the programs comprise a large and powerful social network of their own, further contributing to participants’ ability to expand and deepen their engagement throughout the region.
The message is simple, really: Get out there and do the things you like to do! The more passionate you are about working and playing in Pittsburgh, the richer and more rewarding you will find the city to be.
And then you can be of even more help by helping others get connected, too. That's when you'll truly feel part of the city.
A comprehensive list of professional organizations in the region can be found in the Directory of Pittsburgh Business Organizations, Associations, Societies and Initiatives
of the Carnegie Library.
Nichole Huff, a newly minted college graduate who works at Scenic Pittsburgh, is currently accepting applications for well-connected mentors and friends that enjoy kayaking and farmers markets. Interested applicants should share her love of makin,g novel connections in unexpected places.
Photographs of SIX events courtesy Rob Larson.
Photograph of LDI event courtesy Leadership Pittsburgh
Photograph of Nicole Huff copyright Brian Cohen