You have found yourself in a place where your friends and yourself have very different lives. As you age, you and your friends will start to grow distant. For some people, the first experience of separation starts after high school. You are beginning to figure out who you are and what career path you want to pursue. Your adult “life” begins here. You are probably in the decision-making process of deciding to go to college, your friends are likely going through the same exercise and more will attend varying universities. Some of your friends may not go at all. (All depends on one’s career path). The likelihood of going to the same school as your friends are slim to none and from personal experience, I believe you’re less likely to evolve and grow culturally if you stay in your hometown.
I started my undergraduate career at the University of Pittsburgh. As I mentioned above, a majority of my high school friends attended other universities or decided to stay at home which is a good four (4) plus hour drive. Eventually, the relationships I had built with my hometown friends grew more and more distant with each year that passed. Now, as sad as that may sound, the positive is that you’ll start making new friends and building new relationships with peers at school. However, post-grad a similar evolution occurs. In most cases, you and your friends will take jobs in different cities, towns or even countries. And once you leave college it becomes inherently more difficult to meet new people. The purpose of this article is to tackle how to make friends in this transitional moment when you are starting your career in a place that’s completely new to you. To be honest, I just moved and am sitting in this exact situation at this very moment. I just recently moved to a new city.
Now, I just want to mention that growing distant from your friend’s post-high school and college does not have to be looked at negatively. Honestly, it is the evolution of life and the older I get the more I cherish those sacred moments that we’ve spent together. Some of those individuals you will stay in touch with but the time investment that you give to that person might look very different. For myself, it has been crucial that I surround myself with people who understand what I’m striving for and have similar ambitions. Because of this every time I speak or hang with some old friends we can pick up exactly where we left off. I think we can all agree that those are the best type of friends.
Before we dive into my five (5) tips for making new friends, I want to touch on the mental health side of building new friendships. Your mental plays a huge role in trying to muster up the courage to go out and meet new people. If you have social anxiety, try talking to people online first who may be in your area. This is a way of getting comfortable interacting with people you do not know. Agoraphobia is “a type of anxiety disorder in which you fear and avoid places or situations that might cause you to panic and make you feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed.” If this is something you have, work at your own pace. Don’t push it. When you’re ready to go out and meet people, make that jump.
Five (5) Tips for Making New Friends
1. Join a group
What activities do you enjoy? What activities are you interested in but have not tried before? This is a great way to start involving yourself in the community. If you love playing basketball, Join a league. I played soccer for most of my life. I joined a league and found a group of people who played soccer for the majority of their life. Right out the gate, I was able to pair myself with other individuals who have the same interest as I do. The relationship blossomed when they were trying to get a soccer team to participate in a league this summer, and they invited me to join due to our mutual interest. I am 100% going to do it. Take my advice and participate in the activities you genuinely enjoy and the people/friends will follow.
2. Don’t be afraid of your co-workers
I realize some people are just so busy with work and get caught up in it and don’t have much time for other recreational activities. Work comes with routines where you see the same people every day. I think there are some negative connotations with befriending coworkers. You have built up a professional persona and don’t feel comfortable pulling back the curtain and showing the more unfiltered version yourself. But honestly, most of your coworkers probably feel similarly. I can attest to acting differently at work versus when I’m at home, etc.
My tip for bridging better relationships at your workplace is forcing your peers into more casual settings. I like to start by asking people to lunch. This is a good way to gauge interest and gives the person an opportunity to ease into the relationship. If you find that you have some similarities, ask them to grab a drink when the day concludes. And don’t discriminate between ages. Grabbing a drink with someone in their 50s is generally the same as grabbing a drink with someone in their 20s and transparently I enjoy getting to know individuals who have experienced more life because they’ve likely been through what you’re experiencing in your career and can give great feedback. We touch a bit on this in our article, How to Network in your 20’s (Benefits + Beginners Guide).
When you find yourself with free time, explore your town/city. Become familiar with your new surroundings. The new places start to become less scary. Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with someone. Sure, some individuals might want to be left alone but that probably isn’t the type of person you want to spend time with anyway. If you find yourself at a restaurant or a store, ask the people around if they know of any cool places to go and check out or ask them if any upcoming events may be fun to attend. Locals have all the ins and outs of the city.
4. Start saying yes
Maybe you met a co-worker and they asked you to go to a baseball game. You hate baseball and never watched a game in your life. Even so, say yes. If you can’t get past the baseball part, reframe your mind, the reality is you are saying yes to meeting up, not the activity itself. Meeting up and building that connection is the most important part of building a dense relationship. “Comfortable evenings on your own are a lot more available than a night out with your friends. Don’t take their offers for granted.” I get that a certain environment isn’t for everyone. I hate going to clubs, absolutely hate it. I would never go because of my social anxiety. I hate the feeling of being so confined like a can of sardines. If someone asks you to do something you absolutely cannot do, offer an alternative. “Hey clubs are not my thing but I’m down to go to a local bar, if not, we can get coffee in the morning.” By doing this, you are informing that friend with information about what you like to do and also showing that you care about the friendship because you are taking the time to come up with an alternative plan that meets them in the middle.
This can be a very strange and uncomfortable process at first. But if you are tired of not having good friends, maybe you are willing to get over the uncomfortable feeling to test it out. Here are a few apps for you to try and meet people in your area.
Yeah, I know… Bumble? Isn’t that a dating app? Yes, yes it is. But it also has a BFF mode. This mode allows you to, well, basically create a profile of you and your interests. You can meet various types of people who may also be looking for friends. I have not personally tried Bumble Friends, but I just moved to a new city so it is likely that I will try it out. I’ve heard stories of people meeting their best friends through this. (FYI, the friend mode only allows you to meet people of the same sex).
Meetup is another great way to go and meet friends. I have done this in the past. It expedites the process of finding a group of individuals who hold similar interests. You can search for what you’re passionate about and it will give you groups and events that are happening in your area.
We hope you found this article helpful. We understand how difficult it can be to make friends post-grad, especially if you aren’t inherently extroverted. But don’t be afraid to make the first move. “But why do I always have to make the first move, why can’t they? If they don’t, they may just not be interested in being my friend.” This isn’t about them, it’s about you. They may share the same feeling and won’t approach because of this, so be the one who does.
Drop some ways that you have made friends in the comments!