How to navigate the brave new world of making new friends after college
Growing up, making friends was not exactly challenging. Spending 13 years in various buildings surrounded by your peers is rather conducive to making friends. Your entire ecosystem revolves around you and kids your age. Staying close to your friends and making new ones is a natural part of life.
In college, for me at least, it was even easier to make new friends. I was doing the things I absolutely loved surrounded by my fellow nerds. Plus, we all lived within a three-mile radius, so spending time together was only ever a walk away. College is a friendship breading ground.
As I prepared to graduate in the spring of 2014, I had a sinking feeling that I was about to leave the golden era of friendship building utopia. It’s that strange feeling of missing something before you even lose it.
Post College Life Was a Rude (and Lonely) Awakening
As I packed my bags to move from Ithaca College to Hamilton, New Jersey, for my first big girl job, I had no idea how abruptly my life would change. I went from living with my best friend, to living alone. From being surrounded by my peers, to living in a random sleepy town, where I knew absolutely no one. From constant coffee dates, girls nights, weekend shenanigans, and parties, to a continuous loop of going to work, then gym, then home.
It was easy, as an introvert, to enjoy the time I spent alone, but I stopped making any effort to try to get outside my comfort zone to meet people.
I Thought City Life Would Change Things
That winter, my job moved me to Boston. I jumped at the opportunity. My sister lived in Boston, I’d be three hours from home (instead of eight), and I assumed that making friends in a city would be about 1000x easier than before.
However, my life didn’t change that much. I stayed in most weekends. I allowed my introverted nature and focus on building the blog, to become excuses for why I couldn’t even try to branch out. I blamed the city, instead of realizing that I alone had the power to meet people.
When It All Changed
I was a year into my first job, which on paper I loved. I was living in a city I thought I’d thrive in, and yet every day was the same. I was feeling more and more depressed as each day went on.
I realized something had to change.
Fast forward to January of 2016, I moved home to work at a coffee shop and start to run my blog as a small business.
Working at Handlebar Cafe, I’ve learned so much about myself and how important relationships are to my happiness, even as an introvert. Working at a community-centric coffee shop I’ve met so many amazing people, whether at work or through friends of friends.
My life feels like it’s taken a 180 since just a year ago, and I attribute it to the relationships I’ve built. My approach is completely different than it ever used to be.
Here Are the 4 Things I Learned About Meeting People Post-College
(after failing horribly for almost 2 years)
Attitude is Everything
Not to get ‘self-helpy’ off the jump, but damn your attitude is important. The only person who can really help you meet new people is… you. I know. It really doesn’t matter if you’re in a small town or a big bustling city. If you don’t take the reins on this one, no one’s going to be busting down your door to grab coffee with you. As soon as you blame x, y and z then you’ve lost.
Especially in the beginning, I had to fake it until I made it… a lot. Most nights I wanted to just curl up and watch Netflix or work on my blog. But I had to psych myself up and remind myself that even if I didn’t want to go hang out with people I barely knew, I would be glad that I went.
Get Used to Being Uncomfortable
This was probably the #1 thing that held me back for over a year and half. Meeting new people outside a school setting is not easy. It’s not comfortable. It can be awkward at first and for introverts, it just takes a whole lot of energy. Not every uncomfortable new social situation is going to be great or lead to a new best friend, but not going at all will result with nothing.
My strategy this winter was to push myself to go to 1-3 things each week that I wouldn’t normally do. I went to a run club, toastmasters, hosted a couple social media workshops, went to a couple networking nights. Not all of them were the best nights of my life, but I made quite a few wonderful connections.
Remind yourself: pushing yourself outside your comfort zone is where the magic happens (you have no idea how many times I’ve had to tell that to myself… probably 501,323,289,329 times)
Small Talk isn’t the Enemy
I (used to) hate small talk. It used to make my skin crawl. It felt so artificial and phony. Do we really care about the weather? I don’t think so. Why can’t we just have a meaningful conversation about things we’re passionate about?
But my boss told me something this year that changed how I view small talk in a big way. He said, “in order to build relationships with people, and having meaningful conversations, you at least have to be friendly with people, and you can do that by starting with small talk.”
I’ve been lucky enough to have a small talk crash course because I have conversations with our customers every day. This helped me realize one huge truth about small talk: the only way to get good at it, is to do it a lot. It really did suck at first. I felt so awkward and uncomfortable, but slowly I found questions that people enjoyed answering.
As a result, I ended up meeting my now boyfriend at the coffee shop. He would come in every Monday night when I was closing. Mind you he was always easy to talk to, but I would always make an effort to talk to him and see how his day was going. Over several months our conversations got more interesting and one night we saw each other out and he asked me on a date. I guess the rest is history.
Instagram is Basically a Friendship Dating App
Never in a million years would I have believed that I would make real-life friends through the interwebs. But in 2016, it’s never been easier to connect with people through the power of apps like Instagram.
How to meet people locally
Check out location tags, find someone who’s profile looks like someone you’d want to get to know. Comment genuinely and maybe throw ‘em a nice DM. Over the next couple weeks see if they’d be someone you’d want to get to know. Then don’t be afraid to ask ‘em on a friend date.
Fun fact: I met the amazing Christina aka the culinary goddess behind The Blissful Balance and the co-founder of BGB Community through Instagram. I collaborated with Lindsey in Boston for her line of bracelets, Pelistones, before she moved to LA.
I’m hardly the only one doing this! There are multitudes of insta-meetups. Yes, they’re probably more popular in bigger cities but that doesn’t mean you can’t start them in your town. I’d recommend finding an activity like a group fitness class, a play, or some kind of event you can all go to. People make bonds quicker when they’re able to do activities together.
4 Ways to Connect with New People
Become a regular at your favorite coffee shop (or bar, or fitness studio) and talk to the baristas
People who work in the service industry in some capacity are usually pretty friendly and outgoing. They also talk to a lot of people every day. As a barista, I love connecting people. So if I meet someone my age looking to meet more people I’ll give them a whole long list of what’s going on that week. Find these “connector” types wherever you like to hang out.
Join a Rec League or Running (or biking) Club
Nothing like the endorphins from a good sweat to help you connect to new folks. Plus you already have something in common! Boom. Plus, a lot of great rec leagues or running clubs congregate for a drink after too. (heck yes)
Find local classes
Looking to learn a new skill or dust off an old one? Check to see if a local community center, art organization or school offers classes. Learning a new skill together can be a great way to connect with new peeps.
Find a part-time job or volunteer gig somewhere fun
Why not make friends while you make money? See if your local coffee shop, favorite yoga studio, animal shelter or smoothie spot is hiring. Find a place where you love the vibe and see how you can become a part of it. I’ve found that work has helped me meet not only new people, but meet people through my co-workers as well.
At the end of the day, I’ve learned that despite being a proud introvert (someone who gains energy through time spent alone) I (and we all) still need meaningful relationships. It’s certainly taken me a while to get out of that comfort zone to meet new people, but man has it been worth it.
- Where did you meet your best friend?
- What are your favorite “friend dates” to go on?