When I left college, it got harder to make friends. I wasn’t overly social or interested in going out partying every weekend, and my old friends either moved or got busy with work and family.
I’ve tried all these methods myself and used them to successfully build up a social circle after college. Therefore, I know that they work (even if you’re introverted or a bit shy).
If you don’t have any friends to start with, first see our guide on what to do if you have no friends whatsoever after college.
Where do people make friends after college?
These diagrams show where people meet their friends after college (Education).
As people leave college, work becomes their main place of making friends. Other friends, and religious organizations, are stable sources of friendship throughout life. As we grow older, volunteering and neighbors become a larger source of friendship.
This diagram can help us see where you’re the most likely to find friends after college. But how do you put this information into practice? This is what we’ll cover in this article.
1. Skip clubs and loud bars
Parties are great for quick hello’s, but it’s hard to have a more in-depth conversation when there’s loud music and people are buzzed. To make a connection with someone, you need a chance to get to know each other.
It was frustrating trying to push myself to go out every weekend and still not make new friends. If you have social anxiety, it’s even more painful. I was relieved when I realized that parties aren’t even a place where people make new friends – you go to have fun with your existing ones. Let’s look at better ways to make friends after college.
2. Join groups that interest you and meet up often
Do you have any interests or hobbies you’d like to pursue? They don’t need to be life passions, just something you enjoy doing.
Here’s some inspiration to find like-minded friends after college:
A great way to meet like-minded people is to look up groups or events that meet regularly in your city. Why should they meet regularly? Well, to establish a real connection with someone, you need to spend time with them on a regular basis.
For example, it takes around 50 hours of interaction to turn an acquaintance into a casual friend, and another 150 hours to turn a casual friend into a close friend.
Meetup.com and Eventbright.com are good sites to visit to see if there are groups that get together weekly. Weekly is ideal because then you have a chance to develop a real friendship over several meetings and a reason to see them often.
Click here for the filters I use to make sure the meetup is recurring.
3. Avoid groups that aren’t related to a specific interest
You have a higher chance of finding like-minded people at events focused on your specific interests. When there is a common interest at a meeting, there’s also a natural opening for chatting with your neighbor and trading ideas. Like “Did you try that recipe last week?” or “Did you book your hiking trip yet?”
4. Look for community college classes
Courses are great places to find like-minded people. You are guaranteed to see them over a longer period of time, usually 3-4 months, so you’ll have time to make connections. You’ll also likely have similar reasons for taking it — you’re both into the subject. And you are sharing an experience together that you can talk about (tests, assignments, thoughts about the professor/college). It’s usually not too expensive, and it could even be free, particularly if the course is at a community college.
To get some ideas, try Googling: courses [your city] or classes [your city]
Volunteering becomes a larger source of friends as we grow older. It can connect you with people who share your values and outlook. You can join Big Brothers or Big Sisters and befriend a disadvantaged child, work in a homeless shelter, or help out at a retirement home. There are lots of non-profit groups out there, and they always need people to lighten the load. It’s also good for the soul.
Find these opportunities in the same way you would find any groups or courses in your city.
Google these 2 phrases: [your city] community service or [your city] volunteer.
You can also check out opportunities on VolunteerMatch.
6. Join a recreational sports team
Sports, if you are into them, are great for making close friends. You don’t have to be great at it to join a team, particularly if it’s a recreational league. You just want to do your best and get out there. Could it be potentially embarrassing? Maybe, but nothing bonds people like talking about their best/worst plays after the game with a beer.
A woman I know joined her office hockey team, having never really played before. She explained to me that people loved the fact that she did it even though she had almost zero skill. She got to know a bunch of new friends at work.
7. Accept invitations as often as you can
So, you’ve talked to that girl or guy in your hiking group a few times, and they invited you to a get-together this weekend. You want to go but know it will be a bit stressful as you don’t really know anyone else. Let’s face it – it’s easier to say no.
Try this: Say yes to at least 2 out of 3 invitations. You can still say ‘no’ if you really don’t feel comfortable. Here’s the rub: Every time you say no, you probably won’t get a second invite from that person. No one likes to be turned down. By saying yes, you’ll meet a bunch of new people who can invite you to more things later.
8. Take the initiative
I felt uncomfortable taking the initiative around new people. To me, it came down to fear of rejection. That’s a normal thing to worry about, as no one likes rejection. Because rejection is so uncomfortable, few people dare to take the initiative, and they lose countless opportunities to make friends. If you take the initiative, you’ll be able to make new friends much more easily.
Here are some examples of taking the initiative:
- At social events, walk up to someone and say, “Hi, how are you?”
- Ask people for their number so that you can keep in touch.
- If you are going to an event, invite people who might be interested in going to join you.
- Ask acquaintances if they want to meet up.
9. Ask for potential friends’ numbers
It’s cool to have a conversation with someone and think, “we really clicked.” However, you just met them, and it’s a one-off kind of event. Now’s your chance to take the initiative and say, “It was really fun talking to you; let’s exchange phone numbers so we can keep in touch.”
We’re not in college anymore, so we don’t see the same people every day. Therefore, we have to make an active decision to keep in touch with people we like.
10. Have a reason for keeping in touch
After you get someone’s number, make sure you keep in touch with them. As long as you have a reason, it won’t feel forced. Use whatever you bonded over when you met as the reason to call/text. When you come across something related, like an article or a Youtube clip, text them and say, “Hey, I saw this and thought about our conversation…”
The next time you’re doing something related to your mutual interest, text them and ask whether they’d like to come along. For example, “I’m going to a philosophy group on Thursday, want to join me?”
11. Start your own meetup
I started a group on Meetup.com last week, and I recommend that you try it out. It costs $24 a month to be an Arranger. In return, they promote your group in their newsletter to everyone who’s in related groups. Six people joined my group on the first day they sent out the promotion.
Ask people you know to join and ask new attendees to bring others they think might be interested. Write to every attendee personally, and they’ll be more likely to show up.
12. Make sure you meet lots of people
Sometimes it takes a while to meet someone you really click with. It’s a numbers game of sorts. The more people you meet, the more likely you are to find someone who shares the same interests and values as you do. Not everyone is going to turn into a good friend. Even if you’ve come across lots of people that you don’t click with, it doesn’t mean that “your kind” aren’t out there. You may need to meet dozens of people before you make a close friend.
13. Start or join a book club
Book clubs combine people’s passion for story-telling, ideas, human experience, words, culture, drama, and conflict. In many ways, you are talking about your values and who you are when you discuss the merits of a book. You also learn about your book club member’s thoughts, ideas, and values. This is a good basis for a friendship.
14. Move to a larger city
This is a more radical option, but perhaps your town is just too small, and you’ve met everyone in your age group. Big cities have more people and more things to do, which can give you more chances to meet new friends. But before you take this step, consider the possibility that you may just need to widen your net at home with a few of the strategies discussed above.
Read how to make friends in a new city here.
15. Regularly keep in touch with people you like
We’ve talked about some of these ideas above. Here’s a quick summary:
- When you meet someone, tell them you want to keep it touch, especially after a good conversation that you both enjoyed.
- Ask them for their phone number or email and make sure to follow up with them soon afterward.
- Use your mutual interests as a reason to follow up with them by sending an article or a video clip.
- Invite them to a group event.
- The better you know each other, the more casual the meet-up can be. The first few times, a group meeting is good. After that, go for coffee. Then you can offer a general invitation to hang out, e.g., “Want to get together Saturday?”
There are more detailed ideas in our guide on how to make new friends. Check out Chapter 3 specifically.
16. Invite your friends to bring other people along when you hang out
For example, when you invite a friend along to a hobby group or seminar, ask them if they know anyone else who might like to come. If they do, you’ll meet someone new who shares at least one of your interests. By meeting your friend’s friends and asking everyone to hang out together, you can build a social circle.
17. Try an app for meeting platonic friends
The dating app Bumble now lets you meet new friends through the Bumble BFF option. There’s also Bumble Bizz for people who want to grow their professional networks. Patook is another good friendship app.
If you are shy, you might prefer to meet up with two other people. This can take some of the pressure off. Try the We3 app, which is designed to help users make friends in groups of three.
On your profile, list a few of your interests and make it clear that you’re looking for people to hang out with. If you find someone with the same hobbies and they seem polite and friendly, suggest meeting up for a specific activity. To stay safe, meet in a public place.
18. Join a political party
Shared political views can bond people together. Political parties often run long-term campaigns and projects, so you’ll gradually get to know the other members.
19. Socialize with your coworkers
After college, lots of people make friends at work. Making small talk and being friendly is a great start, but to go from casual conversation to friendship, you need to spend time with your colleagues on a regular basis.
If your coworkers don’t hang out much, try to set up a weekly time for everyone to socialize. Ask them whether they’d like to try going out for lunch once every week. When someone new joins the company, make sure they are included.
20. Join a local spiritual or religious community
Some places of worship run groups for different ages and life stages. For example, you might find regular meetups that are just for single people, parents, or men. Some people like to socialize before or after services or worship; this is a great opportunity to get to know other members of the community. You may also be able to take part in retreats or voluntary work.
21. Get a dog
Research shows that dog owners are more likely to make friends in their local area. A dog is a good conversation starter, and if you visit the same parks every day, you’ll start getting to know other owners. If you click with someone, suggest meeting up to walk your dogs together. You could also ask them to join you for a coffee before or after a walk.
22. Consider co-living
After college, you might be eager to find a place of your own. But if you want to expand your social circle and live in a city, consider living in a shared house or apartment for a while. If you are in the US, look on the Coliving site for accommodation.
When you see the same people every day, you have a chance to get to know them well, which can then lead to close friendships. They can also introduce you to their friends and acquaintances.
When David, who started this blog, moved to the US, he lived in a coliving the first year. He says that that’s where he met most of his friends in the US.
23. Get a social part-time job
If you want or need to make some extra money and you have some free time, picking up a part-time job can be a great way to practice your social skills and meet new people. Try to find a role that involves lots of face to face contact and teamwork. For example, you could work as a server in a busy restaurant or coffee shop.
24. If you are self-employed or run a business, look for professional networking groups
Google “[your city or region] business networking groups” or “[your city or region] chamber of commerce.” Look for a network or organization you can join. Go to as many events as possible.
You might meet people who can be both useful business contacts and potential friends. If you get on well with someone, it’s natural to suggest meeting up between events to talk about your work and businesses. As you get to know each other, you can take your conversations in a more personal, interesting direction.
25. Know that there are many in your position
I get emails from people every week telling me how after college or uni all their friends suddenly got busy with work and family. In a way, that’s a good thing. It means there’s a huge number of people out there who are also looking for friends.
Almost half (46%) of Americans feel lonely. Only 53% say that they have meaningful in-person interactions every day. So when it feels like everyone else is busy, it’s not true. One in 2 people are looking to have a good conversation every day and will probably go out of their way to make new friends just like you.