Since graduating from college three years ago, I have had four different jobs and moved cross-country three times. Like a lot of people my age, I was unprepared for the challenge of forging new friendships without the built-in social network of a school environment. It’s hard to put down roots when you’re living a nomadic lifestyle. And worst of all, it’s lonely. I spent many nights by myself, just me and my movie collection.
But I’m proud to say that in each new home, I have been able to make friends—great friends—even if I was there for a short time. It wasn’t as easy as moving into a shared dorm or chumming it up over a class project, but the basic principles are the same. Making friends requires community and an open and welcoming disposition. But where should you start, and where can you find like-minded people? Here are some tips.
01. Join a professional organization.
You have your diploma and, if you’re lucky, a shiny new job, but that doesn’t mean you have it all figured out. And that’s OK. Tap into a professional organization that will help you figure out what direction to take your career and connect you with people in your industry. Advance your career? Make connections? Possibly make a new best friend? Sign me up!
Betsy Hays, APR, M.A., coauthor of the book Life After College: Ten Steps to Build a Life You Love (cowritten by Tori Randolph Terhune), says that tapping into professional networks is a great way to meet new people. “Most cities have committees or small groups you can become a part of, giving you an opportunity to get to know others more quickly and also perhaps learn something new or expand on a current skill set,” Hays says. “Chambers of Commerce are great and found in most cities, and many professions have industry-related organizations as well—either exclusive to a community or as a chapter of a national organization.” Ask your boss and coworkers about possible networks to join.
02. Get active.
When I first moved, I found a local running group, where I met my current marathon training partner. I stuck with something I already had a passion for, but Hays suggests getting into something a little more out of the box. “Perhaps try bowling or Ultimate Frisbee; be creative to expand your horizons,” she says. Joining a site such as MeetUp.com is a great way to connect. “These groups cover everything from pet-lovers to hiking to business networking. There really is something for everyone,” Hays says. I have absolutely done this, in particular for hiking groups. (I am no navigator!) There are film enthusiasts, book clubs, dance groups—you name it. Besides exploring different hobbies, learning something new is a great way to create solid bonds with people.
03. Get a roommate.
My first job out of college found me in a one-bedroom apartment completely by myself because I had moved to a new city and knew no one. Looking back, I wish I had branched out and taken a chance with a roommate. Sharing your living space with another person creates instant community. Maybe you won’t become BFFs, but maybe you will. There are several apps available to screen possible roomies, so you don’t have to go the Craigslist route if you don’t want to.
It’s time to reach out. As Hays says, volunteering doesn’t have to be a serious commitment. “Volunteer for either a one-time event or a committee for a cause you deeply believe in,” she says. “You’ll meet people with similar values and interests, and you’ll feel more purposeful, [which is] always a good thing.” Check with churches, or register for a volunteer network such as VolunteerMatch, which has thousands of opportunities for all kinds of interests and passions.
05. Be an initiator.
A great way to feel more social is to be the person who rallies everyone together. Start a book club with coworkers (and tell them to bring a friend), or a suggest a brunch outing for foodies via MeetUp.com. It doesn’t have to be a club; being a leader means not waiting around for acquaintances to invite you. Ask your family and friends to “set you up” with people they know in your city. I met my mom’s second cousin and her husband (hey, they’re family!) for a meal when I first moved to a new area, and it helped make the move a lot less overwhelming. These friends of friends or extended relatives can offer great advice about where the locals eat, shop, and hang out—and don’t forget to ask them to think of you next time they do anything social.
Thinking back to childhood best friends, it all seemed so easy and natural. As an adult, however, the quest to be social can seem daunting and scary. No matter how you look at it, making friends as an adult can be hard. Just remind yourself that the great people are out there—you just have to put in a little more effort to find them.