College is a comfy, cozy little bubble. Want to go on a Taco Bell binge at 2 a.m.? Just swipe your student ID and worry about the aftermath later when the bill (and the Freshman 15) comes in. Want to set your schedule so you don't start class before 10 a.m.? No problem. College makes building friendships easier too. Leave the door to your dorm room open and in walks your new best friend. Slide into a seat on the first day of Spanish 101 and you may be sitting next to your maid of honor.
Because college is such an alternate universe, making friends as an adult can be a shock. This is especially true when you move to a new city for work. Suddenly, you're putting in long hours at a job where you're the low woman on the totem pole, while trying to lay down roots in a place where you know no one. Free time is hard to come by, which makes it difficult to build solid relationships with people in your area. For this reason, many women in their twenties and thirties are finding themselves in the midst of a full-on BFF crisis.
In fact, a study done by Alia and Tim McKee of Lifeboat found that less than 30 percent of millennials are satisfied with their friendships and less than 20 percent of Gen Xers feel good about theirs. Sixty-eight percent of people surveyed said they wished their friendships were deeper.
I experienced this post-college BFF struggle firsthand when I picked up and moved from Syracuse, New York to Charlotte, North Carolina. Not only did I have to worry about learning about things to do on the weekend in my new city, but I also had to find a group of friends to do them with. I was meeting plenty of people, having casual conversations at the gym and spotting potential friends at my apartment complex, but I struggled to figure out how to take these connections to a deeper level.
I asked Alia McKee, who conducted this survey about the state of friendship, how we can start enjoying deeper, more fulfilling new friendships. She explains, "Repetition is necessary to move acquaintances to deep friends. That's why it's easy in college. You see them in your dorm and in class. A lot of times after college we're so busy that we make plans for a "date" every six months or so, but that frequency isn't enough."
To get past this problem, even if you don't have time to get together during the work week, stay connected. Send your new friend a text about something you chatted about when you saw each other last. Call them just to check in, or email them a link to a video you know they'd love. Establishing this kind of ongoing conversation helps to bring you closer and takes you from casual acquaintance to full-fledged friend. When you do have free time on the weekends, make getting together a priority, just like you build in time for hobbies, exercise or dating.
Another key component to solving the post-college BFF crisis, explains life coach and author Jenny Blake, is to be assertive with potential new friends. If you casually interact with someone and want to build a more regular connection, extend an invitation to that person. She says, "Assume that you won't freak them out if you ask them to get together. The worst they can say is 'no.'"
For the hesitant new friend, it's best to suggest something that's low-key and easy to say yes to, notes Blake. If you're both planning on going to a networking event, why not head over together? Blake also suggests creating your own community by inviting acquaintances from various networks to get together and get to know each other. You can all plan to attend a yoga class together, for example, or can check out a festival in your area.
For me, the website Meetup.com has been another huge resource in establishing a social circle in my new city. I started a group for people who are new to Charlotte that has since grown to include almost 400 members. Since I was the group's organizer, I was able to start planning events right away instead of hoping that another Meetup group would do something that interested me soon. If you love hiking or your dog or macaroni and cheese, start a group for other enthusiasts in your area.
Lastly, McKee explains that it's important to stop focusing on sheer volume when it comes to friendship in your 20s and 30s. During life as an undergrad, it was normal to see packs of 15 girls heading to parties together. After college, it's smarter to zero in on two or three close friendships. McKee says that this "allows people in their 20s to have the time and emotional capacity to get deep with people, because they're not trying to spread themselves too thin."
Making friends once on-campus life is over requires more intentional action and planning on your part. But if you're willing to be assertive, make new friendships a priority and tap your resources, it's easy to start fostering connections that will leave you feeling fulfilled and connected, even after you've left the dorm behind.