This is a topic that feels so relevant to people our age, and I've been asked to write about it. Many of us know all too well the struggle of making friends for the first time in several years, and now with the added difficulty of it being out there in the real world as opposed to at school. I've given a lot of thought and reflection to what has helped me, as well as other people I know, make friends in post grad life.
If there’s anyone around who you were even remotely friends with before, cling to them
When I first graduated from college and was only one of a few people my year who were sticking around in the same city, I mentally prepared myself for the realization that I’d probably just not have best friends around for a while. I convinced myself it was temporary anyway. However, a friend from my sorority who was also living in Rochester and was much more social than I was pretty much forced me to do everything with her (If I could sic Maura on anyone and everyone struggling to make friends, I would—she’s like the friend whisperer). I’ll be forever grateful to Maura for turning what was a friendly connection into a truly close friendship that absolutely changed the trajectory of my life as a post grad. If you have a Maura in your city, cling to her!! She recognized way sooner than I did that together is better than alone—and we truly became a little team that slowly grew to be bigger and bigger.
Join your local alumni chapter
Wait—don't run away. I know this can elicit some eye rolling. But if you were part of any kind of sorority or other organization in college, look into joining your local alumni chapter, if for no other reason than it's an excuse to meet new people without having to really put yourself out there. Just think—everyone else in the chapter most likely joined for the same exact reason as you, so lose the intimidation. All of these people at one point wanted new friends and missed the camaraderie it offered in college. It is usually a flexible and inexpensive commitment, so even if you're not sure what your involvement will be going forward, just give it a whirl. Worst case scenario, it's simply a resume builder or a networking outlet.
Try to keep an open mind—you’re not going to meet your best friend overnight
One of my very best friends came into my life just a couple of years ago, and she was introduced as a friend of a friend and someone new to the area for grad school who didn't know anyone. I went into it without expectations, really—or if I had an expectation, it was probably that she'd stay just that—a friend of a friend to be pleasant with for a night. I've never been someone who makes close friends easily or quickly, anyway. But I sorely misjudged what this initial meeting would turn into over time. With a little more exposure, we hit it off big-time. It is bizarre for us to think today that we haven't actually known each other for years and years. Our friend Ellie, who introduced us, recently added about meeting new people, "Just think, at one time Michelle was the 'new person' and stranger to our group." It was such a great point that at one time I had no idea the potential friendship that was there with this new stranger I'd just met (which is crazy to think about now, considering I can't imagine my life without Michelle). So be patient, and keep an open mind about new people you meet.
Hang out with someone from work in a totally non-work environment
I’ve noticed that it’s very difficult to break through that office-only friendship while at work or work sponsored events. Even at firm Happy Hours or lunches, conversation mostly revolves around work topics or other people in the office. And to be honest, I only really have one true friend that I’ve made at work, and I think it’s largely because we started hanging out outside of work, through a kickball team. It just helps to have shared experiences that you can talk about the next day that are purely separate from office drama. Because although bonding over your feelings about other coworkers is a start, it’s not enough for a meaningful friendship until you start to get to know other parts of each other’s lives.
Reach out to a friend of a friend in your city
Even if the person is a complete stranger to you, you’re starting off way ahead of the game. This person is friends with your friend, so you’ve already won more than half the battle—you guys are probably going to like each other, and you have something in common to talk about right off the bat—your mutual friend! Don’t be intimidated to reach out. I can’t imagine a person being against making a new friend, so even if this person has her own established group of friends—she’ll certainly be open to meeting you. And bonus—if you guys hit it off, you are immediately exposed to this person’s circle as more potential new friends.
Paradigm shift; think about everyone as a potential new friend
I know, I know, it almost feels creepy. But your barista, your hair dresser, your yoga instructor, the girl who’s always on the treadmill next to you, your coworker, your bartender—these are all potential candidates for friendship. I’m not saying to force it, but we’ve all hit it off with a figure like this in the past, and although before you may not have felt a need to capitalize on it, now you should consider it, especially if they invite you to do something. And if you feel super weird pursuing it, remember: strength in numbers. Make your best friend come visit you, and while she’s there, hit up the potential new friend. Having the support of your friend there will help you feel in your element and will bring out the best in you.
Get a side job
I’ve had friends who’ve become bartenders or waitresses (myself included), a friend who picked up shifts at Anthropologie during the holiday months when the store is looking for more hands on deck, friends who babysit, a friend who got certified to teach classes at her gym, and a friend who became a volunteer cheerleading coach. All of these types of jobs tend to be crawling with young people (or at least people who could introduce you to other young people) and are therefore a great way to meet people in a more intimate setting than just chatting up a stranger somewhere. They’re usually doable even on top of a full-time job, and since you may not be filling your free time with much else, why not take the time to make some extra money and meet new people?
Lastly: remember it's temporary
Do not forget that this more solitary time in your life will not be forever. It's important to keep perspective and remember that just as periods of blossoming friendship have come before, they will come again. Work on your long distance relationships, and remember more than ever why you love and miss those people who are far away. I have managed to remain very close with friends who are states away, and the distance is an excuse to be even more committed to planning frequent phone chats, FaceTime dates, and visits to each others' cities.
My very near and dear circle that came together in my post grad years—some new friends and some old—some of whom are still close by and others who have moved but are no less close to my heart