Ask Amanda: I’m Struggling to Make Friends After College
posted on April 29, 2016 | by Amanda Holstein
I graduated from college last May and landed an awesome job in July in a suburb of Houston. I’m a big home body and love to be around family and friends, but all of my family is 5 hours away, along with my boyfriend, and my friends from college are about an hour away. Also, my job isn’t a normal Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm. I work rotating shift work with really weird weekend hours. I’m so drained by the end of week that I spend my entire weekend catching up on sleep for the next week. It’s been about 9 months and I haven’t made any friends down near me. I’ve tried going out to nearby bars or coffee shops and I see all these people come in groups and I’m that shy person in the corner because it’s hard for me to make a first move. I’ve stopped going to bars altogether because I can make my own drinks for less and not feel so bad when I’m looked over.
In college it was so easy to make friends because you were constantly surrounded by people with similar interests, but the making friends after college is much more difficult. I’ve learned that a majority of my coworkers are much older and already have families, so it’s difficult to become friends when I’m just out of college and want to go have fun. I enjoy people watching and this may sound bad, but many people I’ve seen when out and about near me are people I wouldn’t feel comfortable becoming friends with. I guess you can say I’m somewhat picky and that might turn me off to people around me.
My college has a monthly get together in downtown Houston for alumni. I was finally able to attend one that fit into my work schedule and I had never felt more like an outsider in my life. I stepped outside of my comfort zone and actually tried to make conversation with people and they’d just leave and go back to their groups.
I don’t know what to do and I’m going to be down here at least another year. I’ve become comfortable just being in my apartment by myself or reading at a local coffee shop, but I would really like to make some friends so I’m not “that person” sitting alone at a bar.
Thanks for your email and for opening up like this! The first thing I want to emphasize is that it’s TOTALLY normal what you’re going through. I know you might look around and see people in groups and with friends and think you’re the only one by yourself, but I promise you this is a very common thing people go through right out of college. Because you’re right, making friends after college is difficult.
Before I offer some suggestions on how to get out and meet more people, it’s important for you to know (and believe) that this won’t last forever. This is a phase of life that’s all about transition. 9 months may seem like a long time since you’ve been out of college, but really it takes until your late twenties/early thirties to feel like you’ve “settled in” to the real world. And that’s okay — that time is important, you’ll experience a lot and learn a lot, so there’s no need to speed through it. Just know that making friends is just part of that phase and it is in no way a reflection on you or who you are as a person. So don’t judge yourself for not having made friends yet or for sitting alone at a bar (and chances are no one else is judging you either!).
Now for some suggestions: it’s hard to meet people, especially “your people”, at something general like a bar or a coffee shop. I think it’s important that you make time for something else that interests you — yoga? painting? a book club? A book club might be right up your alley, and believe it or not, they exist for younger people! Try to attend classes or clubs where you’re more likely to find your people and where people are open and looking to make friends.
I’d also recommend asking your network if they know anyone at all in your area — even post to Facebook and say you’re looking for some people your age that live in Houston. You never know if someone you went to college or high school with knows someone, or if someone you didn’t know that well growing up is close by and you’d get along now. Get the word out that you’re looking to connect with people and you never know who might be right around the corner!
I also think you should continue going to the alumni events whenever possible. Just because that one experience wasn’t great doesn’t mean it won’t get better. There will be different people at these things each time and some may be more friendly than others. Or you may start seeing the same people each time and feel more comfortable talking to them. I think it would be really good for you to try and go as much as you can, even if it’s just to help build up your courage and feel confident in new situations.
Lastly, once you do meet people, don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know a lot of people in town and are looking for friends. You’d be surprised how many other people have the same mentality and would be open to getting together more often. Plus, if they know you are looking to make friends, they will be more open and more likely to put in the effort and make plans. You will need to make an effort to build these new relationships as well. Text often, invite them anywhere you’re going, set specific plans ahead of time and don’t give up just because you haven’t seen each other in a few weeks or months even. Life gets busy after college so you won’t see your friends (or new friends) as often as you did at school, but that doesn’t mean those friendships need to just fade out. You can always reconnect, no matter how much time has gone by.
I hope this helps, girl! The most important thing here is to remember that this situation is not a reflection on you as a person. Don’t judge yourself for not having friends near you right now — it says nothing about you. Stay confident within yourself and know that things will change!