Making Friends After College (and Beyond)

Colleagues Buffet Party Brunch Dinning ConceptAfter college, I moved back to my hometown, ready to pick up where I left off. I quickly found that many of the people I’d known over the years had moved away or were busy with young families. I began to send out my antennae for new friends to complement the relationships I still had. If you’re looking to make friends after a transition (or anytime, really), these tips from my experience might work for you, too.

Pay Attention. When I keep my eyes open, I meet friends everywhere. I met one woman in line at the book signing of a visiting writer and another at my dental clinic. I reach out to the friends that I already have, asking for “friend set-ups.” Sometimes this happens naturally at a party or local event. I make an effort to be open to the people around me, to ask questions and listen to the answers, to acknowledge the humanity in everyone I meet.

Work Your Workplace. Over the years, my co-workers have been wonderful witnesses to the everyday moments of my life, and occasionally they’ve become companions outside of business hours. I find that most of the time these relationships don’t abide after I’ve left the job, but they’ve all been great to have during that season.

Make Facebook Friends For Real. Still other friends have come to me from the internet, through professional organizations, private Facebook groups and Twitter. It’s amazing how powerful it can be to know at a glance whether someone shares one of your interests. Though the relationships start on the internet, many of them have migrated to the phone or face to face communication.

Follow Up. It’s been over five years since I graduated from college. In that time, I’ve realized that friendships are largely about persistence. If I meet someone I’d like to be friends with, I follow up and show my excitement. I don’t stop looking for new friends, even when I feel that I have a wealth of them. You never know who you might meet.

Let It Go. This can be one of the hardest things about friendship, but over the years I’ve learned to hold relationships with joy but also with a loose grip. Certain people seem to be in my life only for a season. Even if relationships don’t end, they almost always change. Just because they are different, or over, doesn’t mean that they weren’t meaningful.

Be Patient. Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned about friendship is that it takes time. Sometimes the process of making friends is slower than I like. And instead of the unencumbered playdates of childhood, my friends now have challenging jobs as well as spouses and kids. Friendship is something that we have to fight for and schedule.

I can’t snap my fingers and have a lifetime of memories with someone. It takes the work of calls and texts, remembering birthdays, kids’ names and details from our last conversation. It takes walking through hard things together and conversations that last longer than you think they will.

Friendship isn’t easy. It’s work to meet your friends and to maintain your relationships. But as far as I’m concerned, friendship is among the best work you can do. It’s worth giving out your card at a networking event or even in line at a coffee shop. It’s worth owning up to your own loneliness and inviting someone new into that space. You might feel a little nervous, a little exposed, but with a small act of courage, the rewards may be boundless.