School gets a bad reputation, but for all its shortcomings (namely the fact you feel like you’re forced to go), it’s pretty easy. Friends is one big reason it’s a breeze; split between class, lunch, field trips, and being around each other for almost eight hours a day, most of us connected quickly and effortlessly in a space practically designed for friendships. So if spending so much time together is the recipe for making friends, why doesn’t it translate to the “real world” when you’re working a full-time job? Well, let’s just say that you and everyone else’s priorities shift. If you’re reading this, you probably are struggling to find some buddies now that school is done. How to make friends after college, especially while working, isn’t easy… but it’s totally possible.
Why Making Friends (And Keeping Them) After College Is Hard
The older you get, the harder it is making and keeping friends. In fact, it gets exponentially more difficult. Why is that the case? Why does it become such a challenging and demanding feat to make and retain friends?
Just about anyone who isn’t tipping the scales on extreme introversion is capable of making acquaintances. You know the type. The person you run into randomly through other friends, have them on your Facebook, maybe store their number in your phone in case you head out on the weekend and want to see where they’re at. The one you tell every time you run into them that you should hang more often, even though you don’t care enough to follow up on that statement and neither do they.
A friend, on the other hand, is someone above and beyond an acquaintance; not just people you go out and drink with. It’s someone you can open up a bit more to, reach out to catch up outside of a bar environment, and build great rapport not involving alcohol.
Ever wonder how two humans can just vibe, decide that they want to be in each other’s lives a bit more than a random hang out here and there, and suddenly become friends? How is that decided? When is that decided? It’s a two-way street, so at some point both parties enter a non-existent, non-binding, invisible, and mutual “let’s be friends contract” to be cool with each other without ever thinking about it.
As you get older though, patience wears thinner.
You decide to start putting up with less and less shit. People who aren’t really contributing in your life begin to stick out like a sore thumb. The phenomenon behind this is simple: what you perceive as important in life becomes fairly clear, and you can tell who in your life contributes to that and who doesn’t. Unfortunately, many of us spend way too long dragging people along for the ride when we should bring down the hammer and cut our losses. But the older you get, the smarter and more strategic you become in who you surround yourself with. Finding real friends is like dating 2.0. You kind of realize what you want out of someone and get way more picky bringing those people closer in.
You are the company you keep.
Whereas growing up you became fast friends because your respective moms packed you the same Lunchables lunch and you sat at the same table, the threshold for retaining friendships changes as you mature. It no longer becomes a game of who you don’t want to talk to, but rather a game of who you want to talk to.
Instead of looking for reasons to not be friends with someone, you begin to look for reasons that you should let them in.
And this closed-off attitude is both a detriment and an advantage. Whereas it allows you to be way more selective on who you invite in, it causes you to appear colder and more of an asshole to others who are looking to get in. It takes two to tango, and just like a romantic relationship, both sides have to be willing and engaging to make it work.
But most importantly, it’s difficult to get out and meet people.
Besides work, you probably don’t spend nearly as much time around a big group of people like you did in school. And considering you likely hate your 9 to 5 job that leaves you feeling drained, you aren’t clamoring to be surrounded by others outside of it. Last but not least, you don’t exactly have a ton of hobbies or activities outside of work that you’re involved in, which is the icing on the cake. This puts your chances of meeting people at mainly two places – work, in which the people there aren’t really considered friends, and bars/clubs, where liquor-fueled social gatherings leads to nothing but a ton of acquaintances.
So to recap, why is it so hard to make friends after college?
- You’re likely becoming more introverted so you aren’t excited by the idea of going out and socializing as much as you once were
- You’re no longer constantly thrust in environments where you have no choice but to socialize all day (like school)
- Your patience has worn off and you’re much more easily able to tell someone to fuck off
- You know much better what you want out of life and you don’t have time to bring in the bullshitters
- It’s just difficult to get out and meet new people because of a lack of hobbies/activities/interests
So how do you make friends after college, especially once you’re working full-time?
Most articles talk about venues and ways to meet people, but first let’s get through a few mental things you’ll need.
Understand The Effort and Uncomfortableness Required
Everyone should be open to meeting new people who contribute positively in their life. But it’ll take some effort and a lot of uncomfortable situations to get there.
Really, finding new quality friendships isn’t much different than dating. You’re actively seeking new opportunities to connect, scoping people out, and putting yourself out there. Lots of small talk, lots of failed potential (without the heartbreak), and some pretty good connections. It’s all part of the human experience.
Follow Up Again And Again…And Again
Persistence pays off. Everyone already has established relationships and routines, and even though you may be cool and the two of you hit it off, you’re trying to crack a somewhat impenetrable shell. It’ll take following up with someone multiple times for the idea to set in that you may be worth a friendship.
So, be the one who initiates a get together, maybe even for the first few times. DOn’t be disheartened if you feel like you’re the one who’s always reaching out at the beginning.
Always Be Willing To Help
People connect with others who seem cool and who they vibe with, but the mystery remains on how you can appear cool and get that vibe going with someone.
Part of that equation is fairly simple: always look for opportunities to help someone else. People love that shit and will eat it up, and it’s not like you’re playing a game. If you take a genuine interest in someone else’s life (see below), you can spot ways to help. Connecting them with others, setting up a job interview for them, recommending places, and offering your advice (without pushing your opinion) are all ways to help.
As humans, we remember when someone offered candid advice or helped us with something, whether it’s seeing something a different way or getting our foot in the door.
These people tend to like you much more and will pay dividends, where they’ll ideally return the favor down the line.
Take A Genuine Interest In Someone Else’s Life And Forget Your Own (Temporarily)
People really, really, really like to talk about themselves.
If someone consciously (or even subconsciously) sniffs out that you’re engaged in the conversation and taking an interest in their well-being and life, you’ll more than likely vibe. Forget about your life for a bit.
Remember, this is all about how to make friends more easily up front. If after a bit you find that they’re still only concerned about their own life and never ask about yours, well…that isn’t really a friend and probably more an acquaintance. It happens.
Don’t Forget About Existing Friends
The all too common scenario: a friend of yours shacks up with a boyfriend or girlfriend, and you’ll hear from them maybe once a year, or sometimes never again. Poof.
Don’t be this friend.
If you complain you can’t make new friends, first look at the ones you’ve got. Are you treating them fairly and giving them the time of day, or are you too busy focused on yourself and your partner to make time for anyone else?
Clean up your own backyard garden before you try planting in someone else’s.
Now that we’ve covered the mental side of how to make friends after college (especially while you’re working full-time), let’s dive into some physical ways to make friends.
Get To Know Your Coworkers If They Seem Cool
The idea of becoming friends with colleagues makes a lot of people pause. You’d rather keep them at arm’s length because you never mix personal with professional. So you shove them in the acquaintances category and you’re done. Many times you’re probably right with this approach, but that doesn’t mean you should swear off all colleagues as friends. You can totally spark the real deal friendships with coworkers.
But you could also meet other friends through colleagues. You may just connect with someone through a colleague if everyone’s hanging in a big group.
Find a Hobby For God’s Sake
You’ll need to find things to do that force you outside of the house and office. This will immediately put you among like-minded people that enjoy the same thing you do. Hey, look at that… a common interest.
Want to get better at public speaking because your job has you talking to groups constantly and you’re always super nervous doing it? How about that…find a Toastmasters club and you’re immediately around a group of people with a common goal.
A shared interest is one of the fastest ways to make lasting friendships. So why wouldn’t you put yourself in a position to meet these people? This isn’t an exercise in trying to find your purpose, it’s just an exercise in trying to find stuff you enjoy. You never know where it may end up.
Find a damn hobby.
Volunteer Your Time
Similar to a shared hobby or interest, volunteering accomplishes the same thing. In a way, it is a shared interest. But whether you connect over the volunteering is irrelevant; it puts you among other people who share a similar passion for a) helping, and b) helping in whichever volunteering event you’re part of.
If it’s an animal shelter, you can probably figure you both really like animals and helping them. If it’s an old folks home, you’re both likely passionate about helping seniors. If it’s a homeless shelter, take a guess: you both enjoy helping the less fortunate.
How to make friends after college becomes a harder game to play, namely because there’s less opportunities to be surrounded by others on a near constant basis. Aside from work, you generally don’t see the same group of people much. But there’s definitely a few mental and physical things you can do to help your chances of creating genuine connections. In a way, it’s networking without having to attend those god awful networking events.