Today is Flash Friday – when 40:20 Vision tackles an issue from both the 40-something and 20-something perspective. Joining me on this mission is Molly Ford of Smart Pretty and Awkward. Today’s topic is how to make friends. As always we welcome comments and discussion…it’s all about creating conversation.
Making Friends: The 20-Something Perspective
By Molly Ford
“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’” ? C.S. Lewis
For many post-college 20-somethings, it can be tough to find friends–people to go with you to happy hours, yoga classes, and coffee dates; people that listen, understand and support you. In short, friends you can say, “You too?” too.
Judging by the amount of emails I get from girls asking how to make friends post-college, this is a topic many 20-somethings struggle with. The way that I’ve made friends post-college is through a combination of co-workers, “random” roommates that turned into awesome friends, and by becoming closer to college friends who I connected with more post-college.
When I asked 20-somethings how they found their own group of friends post-college on Facebook and Twitter, the answers had one common theme: you have to put yourself out there. Whether it’s by being brave enough to say hi to someone at the gym, to ask someone at work to eat lunch with you, or by joining a intramural kickball team (something I did and highly recommend), you have be friendly to attract new friends.
Beth said she made friends “at work or at the gym, because seeing the same faces every time lends itself to striking up a conversation,” while Melanie expanded on that idea by saying “I started going to small businesses and made friends with the customers at my local comic shop.” If you and a potential friend are in the same place, whether it’s the gym or the comic book shop, you have that specific interest in common, which can be easy to springboard into a conversation based on mutual interests.
Maria did just that and followed her interests, saying, “Doing the things I like have led to meeting people.” Online friendships can also blossom into “real life” friendships when taken offline. Alicia writes, “I made friends post-college with Meetup.com. Seems silly to meet friends online, but I found a women’s group that met weekly for coffee and it spiraled upwards from there. Through word of mouth the group numbers increased and 2 years later I have several close girlfriends and a ton of lovely acquaintances! I still look forward to our coffee dates every week!”
I agree with Alicia in the value of using the Internet to find friends, especially in a new city, as I’ve had probably dozens of coffee dates/dinner with other women I’ve met through blogging.
Using your college association and college friendships as a platform for new post-grad friends can also work. Christine says, “alumni associations!” is the place to meet friends post-college. Extracurricular or sorority alumni associations can also be great.
Additionally, if you move to a new city post-grad, ask your college friends if they have any high school friends in your new city you could grab dinner with. I lived with a high school friend’s college friends in a new city after graduation, and it worked out wonderfully.
If you chose to attend grad school, that’s also a wonderful place to meet friends in your 20’s. Rachel says, “I made friends at my first job out of college, but now I have made friends in law school.” Making friends in graduate or specialized courses can both lead to friendships, and also be a savvy career networking move.
Where do 40-somethings find awesome, interesting friends?
Making Friends: The 40-Something Perspective
By Christina Vuleta
For 40-something women, friendships are key to their identity and lifeline. They encourage younger women to cherish these friendships, as they will only get more important as they age:
“As I have grown older, I gravitate more towards my female friends. Women’s EQ [emotional intelligence] combined with our communication and listening skills provide a great foundation for any friendship.” – 40-something, financial advisor and former tomboy or “guys girl”
On old friends…
She says the first step is to stay connected to your old friends. They are a touchstone, especially when you are in new or unknown situations:
“The friendships we build in college have strong roots. There’s an innocence, a history and an understanding of who we are and have become that only broadens overtime”
Old friends can also be a source of new friends. When I first started 40:20 Vision I went around the country interviewing 40-something women. I did this by connecting with friends from high school, college and childhood family friends…and they connected me with their friends, etc. I met so many incredible women through this process, many of whom have become friends. So one idea, find a personal project and interview people who can help you with it. You never know what it will turn into!
On new friends…
You will make new friends at every stage of your life. “Making new friends is a lifelong adventure”, says a 40-something fashion designer and entrepreneur. She adds, “I would say that staying in motion is the key.”
She went on to say that “availability and common interests” are important. But we’ve learned that availability can be tough when A) your friends start to get married or B) you go through a break up.
Olivia, a 40-something consultant, moved cities with her boyfriend for a year in her late twenties. They broke up and she returned…ready to move on. But she found herself back in her old city without any of her old friends. They had gotten married or moved. So she made a plan. She thought of all of her acquaintances and friends of friends who were single. She cultivated those friendships and was not afraid to ask her friends to set her up…arranging for lunch for three or a meeting. As for acquaintances the key was to invite them to events. She says, “I had a reason to ask them to do something so that made it easier.”
The second part of the equation is shared interests. Make sure the invites are to things that you are truly interested in. It will make for a better chance of a friendship developing. Obviously if they accept they are interested in the activity as well.
I once took an art class where we met once a week with an art advisor who put took us insider tours of the current exhibits. I ended up meeting friends there easily…we already had so much to talk about. Check out local listings for classes and meet-ups in your town. Book signings, networking events, and events can all provide a springboard.
Kelly, a real estate advisor, suggests starting a book club to meet new people:
“Just drop that you are interested in starting a book club into your conversations with friends or acquaintances and see who bites. Then they can ask a friend, etc. etc.”
Louise, a 40-something advertising director thinks house shares are the way to go [if you live in a city near recreational beach or ski areas]:
“Summer shares and ski shares are a great way to meet people. It’s expected that you don’t know people and you have the whole summer or winter to get to know your housemates while doing fun activities from paddle-boarding to snow boarding.”
From professional to personal…
Of course many women feel the best place to meet new friends is through work. But sometimes it’s difficult to transform professional friendships into personal friendships. For some 20:40 Vision…I recently met Virgilia Singh, an amazing 20-something who co-founded So What’s on Your Plate, an action focused organization that brings women together to build lasting friendships, collaborate on projects and help the community.
It all started with a brunch. She and a friend met so many interesting people at networking events but hungered for female friendships with greater depth. So they built a platform to make it happen. They invited women to brunch to share good food and a good cause. Now they are in New York, L.A., Phoenix, and Paris. Check out the chapter in your city or start something similar yourself.
The motherhood connection…
Availability and common interests are critical when you are a new mom:
“Meet other moms. Being a new mom is so isolating. Playgroups, when child is first born, are not for kids, they are for mom. Go to them. These women will be your great friends. They will be your lifelines. You are in the same boat at the same time and will understand like no one else will understand. Moms who have been there already will be dismissive and those just before you, won’t understand.” – 40-something mom and parenting expert
It’s more difficult when you’re the one without kids as this single woman has noticed:
“Friends and relationships change as focus changes. If every one of your friends has kids and you don’t, then you have to look for friends with similar interests. Friends are a necessity but a few close ones is fine.”
In the end, be open, smile and ready to take advantage of opportunities to connect!
Thank you to all women who responded!