I grew up in the Denver metro area and went to college at the University of Wyoming, just a couple hours away from my high school. After graduating, I took a job in Denver and was excited to stay local. I wasn’t even moving to a new city, so I figured “real life” and adulting were going to be a piece of cake.
I remained local for my entire life. 20-something years. That means I was in the same vicinity as my high school friends AND my college friends.
And yet, after graduating from college, I was so unbearably lonely.
I can only imagine how difficult (and, frankly, traumatic) moving to a new city would be after college.
Think about it – when you’re in the school system, you have a built-in way to make friends. You’re surrounded by peers in the same classes, going to the same clubs, fostering the same interests. Friendship happens naturally because you’re surrounded by it. It would be difficult to NOT make some connections along the line!
Adulthood… well, adulthood is different. You have to contend with different ages, incomes, work schedules, and interests, and that’s before pets, marriage, babies, and career advancement come into the picture.
It is SO MUCH HARDER to make friends as an adult and I was NOT prepared for that.
I spent literally a year crying after work because I was so lonely. And then I decided to do something about it.
I had never had to put effort into making friends because they always just existed around me. I was lost and clueless.
Does this sound familiar?
If you’re struggling to make friends, these tips will make the transition into adulthood less painful and less lonely.
1. Check out Meetup.com
Meetup.com terrified me when I first started checking it out. What if everyone figures out I’m a lonely loser who is struggling to make friends?!
Well, newsflash: everyone is trying to foster shared interests and make connections along the way! They aren’t lonely losers, they are emotionally healthy adults.
On Meetup, you search for different interests and join the group. After joining a group, you’ll get emails about upcoming events. You’ll even be able to see who’s attending (for someone who occasionally experiences anxiety, I found that reassuring).
There are Meetups for literally ANY interest. Wine, dogs, photography, golf, Dungeons & Dragons, single professionals, whatever – if you can think of it, it probably already exists.
I joined a Denver women’s golf Meetup and it was so much fun. I made nearly 10 friends from that and we hung out once or twice a month. Meetups are great, and I think it’s an awesome first place to start.
2. Join local alum clubs
The first thing you should do after graduating from college is to join your college’s local alum club chapter. I can almost guarantee your university has an alum club and it’s probably pretty active wherever you’re at.
I go to University of Wyoming events in Houston and it is so much fun. UW alum are dedicated and rare in Houston so we’ve become a pretty tight-knit group.
As an added bonus, these are awesome for career networking.
If you’re Greek, I also recommend you join your local chapter’s alum club as well. This will keep you involved at the collegiate level and get you networking with like-minded people, too!
3. Join professional societies
Basically every profession has professional societies and you should absolutely take advantage of these.
I’m a petroleum engineer by trade so I participate in the Society of Petroleum Engineers, Young Professionals in Energy, and PinkPetro, an organization for women in oil & gas. I haven’t made a ton of friends from professional societies but it’s a great way to network occasionally and you may meet some awesome people.
4. Take some social workout classes
Remember how I said I’m a petroleum engineer? It is mega male-dominated. Gal pals were few and far between for a long time in my life.
And then I started taking pole dancing classes.
I know that sounds crazy, or maybe like stripper fitness or something, but it’s basically aerial acrobatics and it was so much fun. Being a little bit vulnerable while being surrounded by some badass empowered women meant friendships were forged quickly and frequently. All of a sudden, I had probably two dozen ladies that I considered my friend.
No, you don’t have to take pole dancing classes. Maybe regular dance or Zumba or Orange Theory Fitness are more your jam. Take some classes that have some degree of interaction and go somewhat frequently. I promise you, you’ll end up befriending other regulars.
5. Connect with other young professionals at work
Being friends with coworkers always sounded like a bad idea to me. That was when I was young and naive.
You’re going to spend the bulk of your waking hours at work. You’ll get to know your coworkers better than you know your roommate. It’s only natural to forge some friendships along the way.
Don’t go get shwastey with HR on the weekend, but it’s totally acceptable to check out happy hours, climbing gyms, and sporting events with your colleagues.
There may even be a formal recent graduate group at your company! That’s a great way to organize social events.
(And, if your company doesn’t have a recent graduate organization, consider starting one. I did along with 4 of my peers and it was awesome.)
6. Consider adopting a dog
ONLY adopt a dog if you:
- Plan to keep the dog for its entire life;
- Have the funds to take care of it (food, vet, and other care);
- Won’t keep it crated all the time;
- And are able to let it out at reasonable time intervals.
Adopting my little dog was the best thing I’ve ever done. I am lucky and live in an apartment complex that has a pretty substantial dog park right next door. There are dog park regulars that go every day after work and we’ve all become pretty close. We call ourselves the “Dog Park Heroes” and we’ve gone on beach trips, BBQd, done holiday parties, and gone to bar trivia together. The bulk of my friends in Houston are people I met at the dog park and we are a super tight-knit community.
If you like doggos, it may be a great way to meet people.
7. Go to community events at your apartment complex
Most apartment complexes host community events somewhat regularly. Go check them out and actually strike up a conversation with other people!
8. Find ways to merge friend groups
After you’ve done all this work and made some friends, get your new friends to introduce you to their friends.
Check out a piano bar, the local sushi happy hour, or host a Cards Against Humanity night. It’ll make the environment super approachable and, before you know it, everyone will be talking to each other.
Sharing is caring – take advantage of this!
Studies show that having friends is actually good for your health. It’s important to have a circle that you can enjoy life with and lean on when life gets a little bit harder. With these tips, you can start to expand your circle and make friends after graduating college.
What other tips do you have for making friends? Share it below!