Your college years are often an intense, shared experience where you are flooded with peers in the same life-cycle stage, everyone is in a new place, and most people are open to meeting new people and forming new relationships. Bonds are forged over being away from home for the first time, attending the same club meetings, or bemoaning your terrible professor. Every time you walk out of your dorm room or your front door you are faced with a plethora of potential new friendships or romantic relationships.
Once you get that diploma, however, things can get a little more difficult.
With the job market being what it is, many new grads are faced with uprooting their lives and moving to a new city or even a new state in order to get the job they want, except this time they are not moving to an enclosed campus full of other new grads. This time, they are moving to a place where others are established, may have long-standing networks of friends, and may just be too busy to actively pursue and nurture new friendships.
This stage of life can be just as intense and exciting as college years, but for many it is very isolating and can feel like you’re starting over from scratch. There are a few ways, however, to smooth the transition and help put down some new roots as you enter the professional stage of life.
- Give yourself room to miss your old routines, your freedom, and your friends. Adapting to a new work schedule is hard, and can leave you drained emotionally and physically. Allow yourself space to adjust to the changes in your life, rather than speeding full steam ahead into your “new normal.” Call your friends when you’re missing them. Talk about how difficult it can be- it can help just to know you’re not the only one dealing with these feelings!
- Get out and explore your surroundings! As much as you want it, sitting on your couch binge-watching Netflix is not going to make you new friends. Find the festivals, concerts, and events happening near you, and go check them out. Take walks around your neighborhood or local dog park. Check out the coffee shops, bars, and restaurants near where you live. The more you are out and about, the more chances you have of meeting new people.
- Get involved in things you enjoy and care about. The best way to meet people with shared interests and passions is to be active in your own interests and passions! Enjoy reading? Find a local book club. Is your faith or spirituality important to you? Join a church or religious group. Like sports? Join your community’s dodgeball or softball league.
- Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there! Found a co-worker who you click with? Met a friend of a friend at a party? Don’t be afraid to invite them along as you explore the town, or out for a lunch “friend-date.” In the same way, if someone invites you to something, take the chance and go. It can be incredibly intimidating to try to forge a new friendship, but without risk there is no reward.
Be patient with yourself as you explore this phase of your life. Someday, you’ll look back on this time in your life and be amazed that you ever felt out of place or alone.
Molly Halbrooks, LAMFT
mhalbrooks @ growcounseling.com