Did you really think it would be easy?
Well, damn…I sure did.
If you’re reading this, I’m guessing the dream of living down the street from your BFFs forever didn’t come to fruition? Now, you’re chasing your dreams in a new city alone? Or, perhaps, you’re back in the town you fought so hard to leave a few years ago? Well, same girlfriend. And I have also faced the oh so common challenge of making friends after college because of a drastic move. It’s unpredictable and tiring, and there are really no guidelines on how to approach the situation. But, with a little persistence and optimism you will continue to create a life full of love and laughter, just as you had done before.
So, how does one find a solid friend group when there are no post-football game parties and Spring Break vacays to bring us all together?
The most fundamental piece of advice I can offer to anyone who is struggling to make connections and start a new chapter is this: Be Present. Curb the compulsive cell-phone scrolling. Keep in touch with your soul sisters, of course, but don’t devote all of your attention to screen time with them. Don’t spend all of your energy mourning your care-free collegiate days. Don’t dwell on the “What-ifs”. The “What-ifs” are a secret tactic your mind employs to force you into thinking your present day is anything less than perfect. Don’t let your mind win.
Being present means that instead of wishing you were somewhere else, you really settle into the current place you’re in. Search for the beauty, even if it’s someplace you have already been before. If there are people from your past in your current city that you can reconnect with, don’t feel too proud to ask them out for coffee or drinks.
Whether you’re strolling Downtown, sitting in a cute café, or simply grabbing produce at the supermarket- look up. This may not be the deciding factor in meeting your newest BFF, but it will lead to a conversation or two that wouldn’t have happened if you were sucked into your cell phone. Cutie that chatted me up over the cauliflower- this one’s for you.
Go to a festival.
This one takes a bit of confidence, but the gratification is infinite. I am now at the point where I have attended a handful of music festivals alone and trust me- it is not the easiest feat. It does get lonely, and sometimes a little bit awkward. It’s challenging but really forces you to be independent. However, any festival that I went into alone, I came out with at least one new friend and a deeper understanding of myself. Seriously. Win Win.
I believe festivals are a no fail catalyst to making friends after college because they bring together thousands of people who are all interested in the same lifestyle. This isn’t just true for music, but wine, fitness, and food too. Attendees are usually in vacation mode, totally present themselves, looking for connection. Now, that doesn’t always mean that friendships are going to fall into your lap- sometimes you have to buck up and be the one to break the ice. Compliment an outfit, offer up a beer, or just say hello. Generally, when people find out that you’re attending alone, there seems to be this instant desire that arises to take you in and make you part of their squad. Festivals are magical and there is a reason they’ve transcended from a hobby to a lifestyle for so many.
Netwerk it gurl.
You’re extremely passionate about blogging/photography/marketing/tattooing/etc.? Well, own it. Look for networking events, conferences, and conventions to attend surrounding what you are most passionate about. Enhance both your personal and professional networks by submerging yourself into a setting with hundreds of people with the same drive, ambition, and hustle as you. These events often have cocktail hours built in, which is where the real networking and relationship-building happen. You’ll soon find that making friends after college is more “lets collaborate” and less “lets blackout at the bar”.
Embrace the side hustle.
When I moved back to California without a solid job lined up, embracing side hustles not only put cash in my pocket, but also helped me meet like-minded people and create wonderful memories. My list of side-gigs ranged from selling clip-on animal ears at festivals, selling clothing at festivals, blogging about festivals, and coordinating weddings (didn’t see that last one coming, did ya?)
No matter how random those jobs may have seemed, they provided me with a social outlet and gave me some beneficial work experience that filled up the funemployment hole in my resume. Making friends after college is a more streamlined process when you are really in tune with what your own interests and talents are.
Go to yoga.
I get it. You may be thinking “Making friends while I’m working my asana? How?” Well, this one requires a bit of patience and time-management. Often times, it’s not a “hitting it off” right away type relationship, but one built upon a mutual dedication to getting on your mat at the same time each week. When you consistently make it to the same class, you’ll start seeing familiar faces and building relationships with the instructors. For best results, show up to class early and don’t be the first one out of the door.
Internet friends. That’s right, I said it.
Oh Mom, if you could see me now. Long gone is the fear of talking to strangers on the Internet- we embrace that shit now. I cannot tell you how many people I’ve hung out with “IRL” who I’ve met via Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram first. It’s the new normal, and it’s actually quite freaky how normal it feels.
Facebook groups are plentiful and there are probably already 10 in existence dedicated to your exact interests. These things get really niche too- right down to girl gangs that love a specific artist,or rallying around a shared obsession over natural skincare. Many people in these groups are also looking to make connections, so don’t be afraid of putting yourself out there. Remember, you are not alone in the making friends after college dilemma. So many cool women have been forced to start fresh, too, and are looking to the Internet for help. Obviously, don’t be naive and get yourself in a bad situation. Duh. Social media is a limitless resource if used properly.
Commit to Meeting Coworkers.
I was terrified to join the 8-5 life when I moved to California last year. I had this assumption that I wouldn’t meet a single soul that I would jive with or be able to be remain my authentic self with- because, like “only boring people work in an office 40 hours a week, right?” Ha. It wasn’t pessimism, just an unwillingness to let go of my precious free-spirited college years, I suppose. Well, luckily, I immediately got swept away by the sassy office chick, who invited me to lunch on my second day, and she proved that authentic and open-minded people exist everywhere. “Office Culture” is so varying across fields and disciplines, but if there is someone who seems like they could become a potential friend, put on those big girl panties and ask them to do lunch or happy hour.
By the way, Happy Hours are a gift when it comes to the whole “Making Friends With Coworkers” ordeal. The first few may center around discussing work drama, but before you know it you have made a cool new BFF who has a unique understanding for your career and lifestyle- because it’s theirs too.
To be blunt, making friends after college is just as difficult as dating after college. Sorry. You’re hoping to connect with like-minded people, but they are also busy creating lives of their own. Sometimes, they have a significant other. Or a child. Or two jobs. These things are all obstacles that get in the way of making plans and creating that foundation for friendship that we all just seemed to stumble upon in college.
Don’t give up.
Yes, there are lonely days. But there are abundant days. It is within this balance that your perseverance will get tested and your inner-strength will show her beautiful face. Keep evolving and working. Don’t let yourself take anything personally if a situation doesn’t work out how you hope it will. When times are tough, just remember to keep putting in work in the self love department. Eventually, you will look back and be so proud of how far you have come and all of the fresh, new relationships you have created.