How to Make Friends After College

Throughout our childhoods, making friends was easy. We had to have friends for our social survival, to learn about our own identities and how to interact with others. Friendship allowed us to navigate the terrors of high school and the self-discovery of college. But once you graduate college, making friends is a whole different ball game.

Having a close social circle is integral to our health and happiness. In fact, having substantive social interactions will make you as happy as a $131,232 raise. But while the Internet has made it easier than ever to stay in touch, our virtual relationships have replaced our real-life ones. When we do go out with friends, we are only half-present and spend far too much time on our phones.

According to sociologists, 3 triggers promote the development of close friendships: “close proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting where people let their guards down and confide in each other.” These conditions are hard to find after college, especially if you’ve moved to a new city or are married with kids. But you can make friends later in life – you just have to work at it a little more.

1. Change your attitude.

Making friends after school is a lot like dating. It requires some effort and commitment, so approach it with the right mindset. While a little apprehension is natural, try to be a little less shy. Don’t be too aggressive, but follow through when you tell a new acquaintance, “We should hang out.” And don’t treat rejection as an automatic sign of disinterest, as you might in a romantic situation. In a platonic context, it’s far more likely that something just came up. That said, new friends don’t fall into your lap – expect this to take a little time.

2. Find a hobby.

Friendships are often based on common interests, so find a social hobby. Volunteer at your favorite non-profit, audition for a community theater troupe, or join a local athletic league. Or try a website like Meetup.com, which is packed with groups catering to all different interests. If you prefer solitary hobbies like reading or hiking on your own, try taking a class in something you’re intrigued by but have never tried. Check your local community center or a Groupon or LivingSocial deal for ideas.

3. Go alone.

In college, we dragged our friends to social gatherings because we didn’t want to go solo. Nowadays, you might turn down a party invitation or refuse to take a class because ‘you don’t know anyone there.’ Don’t! Sure, it might be awkward at first. But there’s bound to be another straggler or a friendly group in the class, and at least you’ll know one person at the party. Stop saying ‘no’ to things just because you would go alone, especially if you’re married or have kids. Trade childrearing duties with your spouse and don’t feel guilty about having some friends and hobbies of your own. So what if the evening ends terribly? At least you’ll have a good story.

4. Bring your online friendships off.

Do you have a group of people you often chat with on Twitter? Are you active on a web forum? If your online friends live nearby, suggest meeting up in person. Just follow the usual rules of online safety: meet in a public place, inform someone where you’ll be and have a built-in out in case the meeting goes downhill. Is this too much? Try attending an internet conference instead, especially if you run a vlog or blog.

5. Stop limiting yourself.

Before you graduated college, most of your friends were probably your age and gender. Start thinking outside the box! You can be friends with someone who’s older and works in a different field if you have enough in common. Don’t limit your relationships because someone doesn’t fit your ideal of a new friend. You might even get a mentor out of it.

6. Talk to people you already know.

What could be more natural than becoming friends with people who are already on the fringes of your social circle? Ask a friend to set you up on a ‘blind friend date.’ Host a party and have each guest bring someone you’ve never met. Or try reaching out to acquaintances who live in your area and invite them for a cup of coffee, especially if you’ve recently moved to a new city.

7. Be active in your community.

Having a roommate is a great way to stay socially active because it ensures regular human contact. If you live solo, become active in your community instead. Volunteer locally, greet your neighbors and attend shows at the local coffeehouse. And remember, your community doesn’t have to be your neighborhood: it could be your church, fellow dog-owners, or the other parents at your kid’s school.

8. Befriend co-workers with caution.

Befriending colleagues makes the 9-5 grind infinitely easier. But be careful: talking smack about your boss to the wrong person could be a one-way ticket to unemployment. While we wouldn’t suggest becoming BFFs with your colleagues, occasionally invite them to a Wednesday happy hour. Want to gripe about your industry without getting fired? Try joining a professional group. Many aren’t well-advertised, so do some digging to find one you like – your college alumni association is a great starting point.

9. Don’t forget your older buddies.

You probably have several friends with whom you’ve lost touch. Rekindle that relationship, sending an e-mail or a text to touch base. If you haven’t spoken in a while, it could be awkward at first, especially if one or both of you has made major life changes. Be supportive and remember that your friend is still the same person, and work on not losing touch again. Schedule Skype dates, respond with short notes if you don’t have the time for a long email, and plan a visit if you can.

10. Keep trying.

Some people have no trouble making friends; they have trouble keeping them. But you aren’t going to run into your friends on the quad anymore. Make an effort to create and maintain new friendships. Be interested in the other person, ask questions and smile. Put your phone down. Schedule friend-dates in advance. Text or call out of the blue to see how he/she is doing. While we often have fewer friends after college, the ones we keep tend to be of better quality. But if you keep blowing them off because of your kids, spouse or job, you’re going to lose them. So do your part. Otherwise, you might have to recreate a new social circle.

Do you have trouble making friends after college? Did we miss your favorite tips? Let us know in the comments, on Facebook or Tweet us @SuperheroYou!

Written by Sasha Graffagna

Throughout our childhoods, making friends was easy. We had to have friends for our social survival, to learn about our own identities and how to interact with others. Friendship allowed us to navigate the terrors of high school and the self-discovery of college. But once you graduate college, making friends is a whole different ball game.

Having a close social circle is integral to our health and happiness. In fact, having substantive social interactions will make you as happy as a $131,232 raise. But while the Internet has made it easier than ever to stay in touch, our virtual relationships have replaced our real-life ones. When we do go out with friends, we are only half-present and spend far too much time on our phones.

According to sociologists, 3 triggers promote the development of close friendships: “close proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting where people let their guards down and confide in each other.” These conditions are hard to find after college, especially if you’ve moved to a new city or are married with kids. But you can make friends later in life – you just have to work at it a little more.

1. Change your attitude.

Making friends after school is a lot like dating. It requires some effort and commitment, so approach it with the right mindset. While a little apprehension is natural, try to be a little less shy. Don’t be too aggressive, but follow through when you tell a new acquaintance, “We should hang out.” And don’t treat rejection as an automatic sign of disinterest, as you might in a romantic situation. In a platonic context, it’s far more likely that something just came up. That said, new friends don’t fall into your lap – expect this to take a little time.

2. Find a hobby.

Friendships are often based on common interests, so find a social hobby. Volunteer at your favorite non-profit, audition for a community theater troupe, or join a local athletic league. Or try a website like Meetup.com, which is packed with groups catering to all different interests. If you prefer solitary hobbies like reading or hiking on your own, try taking a class in something you’re intrigued by but have never tried. Check your local community center or a Groupon or LivingSocial deal for ideas.

3. Go alone.

In college, we dragged our friends to social gatherings because we didn’t want to go solo. Nowadays, you might turn down a party invitation or refuse to take a class because ‘you don’t know anyone there.’ Don’t! Sure, it might be awkward at first. But there’s bound to be another straggler or a friendly group in the class, and at least you’ll know one person at the party. Stop saying ‘no’ to things just because you would go alone, especially if you’re married or have kids. Trade childrearing duties with your spouse and don’t feel guilty about having some friends and hobbies of your own. So what if the evening ends terribly? At least you’ll have a good story.

4. Bring your online friendships off.

Do you have a group of people you often chat with on Twitter? Are you active on a web forum? If your online friends live nearby, suggest meeting up in person. Just follow the usual rules of online safety: meet in a public place, inform someone where you’ll be and have a built-in out in case the meeting goes downhill. Is this too much? Try attending an internet conference instead, especially if you run a vlog or blog.

5. Stop limiting yourself.

Before you graduated college, most of your friends were probably your age and gender. Start thinking outside the box! You can be friends with someone who’s older and works in a different field if you have enough in common. Don’t limit your relationships because someone doesn’t fit your ideal of a new friend. You might even get a mentor out of it.

6. Talk to people you already know.

What could be more natural than becoming friends with people who are already on the fringes of your social circle? Ask a friend to set you up on a ‘blind friend date.’ Host a party and have each guest bring someone you’ve never met. Or try reaching out to acquaintances who live in your area and invite them for a cup of coffee, especially if you’ve recently moved to a new city.

7. Be active in your community.

Having a roommate is a great way to stay socially active because it ensures regular human contact. If you live solo, become active in your community instead. Volunteer locally, greet your neighbors and attend shows at the local coffeehouse. And remember, your community doesn’t have to be your neighborhood: it could be your church, fellow dog-owners, or the other parents at your kid’s school.

8. Befriend co-workers with caution.

Befriending colleagues makes the 9-5 grind infinitely easier. But be careful: talking smack about your boss to the wrong person could be a one-way ticket to unemployment. While we wouldn’t suggest becoming BFFs with your colleagues, occasionally invite them to a Wednesday happy hour. Want to gripe about your industry without getting fired? Try joining a professional group. Many aren’t well-advertised, so do some digging to find one you like – your college alumni association is a great starting point.

9. Don’t forget your older buddies.

You probably have several friends with whom you’ve lost touch. Rekindle that relationship, sending an e-mail or a text to touch base. If you haven’t spoken in a while, it could be awkward at first, especially if one or both of you has made major life changes. Be supportive and remember that your friend is still the same person, and work on not losing touch again. Schedule Skype dates, respond with short notes if you don’t have the time for a long email, and plan a visit if you can.

10. Keep trying.

Some people have no trouble making friends; they have trouble keeping them. But you aren’t going to run into your friends on the quad anymore. Make an effort to create and maintain new friendships. Be interested in the other person, ask questions and smile. Put your phone down. Schedule friend-dates in advance. Text or call out of the blue to see how he/she is doing. While we often have fewer friends after college, the ones we keep tend to be of better quality. But if you keep blowing them off because of your kids, spouse or job, you’re going to lose them. So do your part. Otherwise, you might have to recreate a new social circle.

Do you have trouble making friends after college? Did we miss your favorite tips? Let us know in the comments, on Facebook or Tweet us @SuperheroYou!

Written by Sasha Graffagna

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