It happens: You move to a new city; you get a new job; you suffer a gut-wrenching breakup after a relationship that had somehow taken over your life—and suddenly you look up and realize you have approximately between zero and two friends in this world. You’re also in your late 20s or early 30s, which means you’ve been out of school for about a decade, so you sort of forgot how to make them.
In the past six years, I’ve moved five times through four major cities and across two continents. This can be attributed to hard work, blind luck, and timing. In many ways, I’ve been fortunate to see as much of the world as I have in the few years I’ve lived on it (29, to be exact). And as scary and exciting as it’s been to pick up my life for various opportunities, I would say that the dark, dirty secret of those adventures was how many times I found myself in a new place with no friends. As such, I consider myself a bit of an expert now on ways to find like-minded people who I actually want to hang out with.
Here are my top six tips for attracting a high-quality new crew, wherever you happen to land, no matter how old you are.
Ask for Introductions
This one’s especially important if you find yourself in a new city. Ask friends—IRL or on Facebook—if they have any friends in your new city, and if so, who they’d think could be your new BFF. Be downright shameless! The friends who know you will help you meet other cool, pre-vetted people, and in the same way that having someone pass along your résumé can help, having a great introduction from a friend can elevate your cool. Not only have I found friends this way, but I always play my “new kid card” and also ask about suggestions for local drinking holes or restaurants: That way, even if you don’t make a bestie, you might find your new favorite dinner spot.
Side note: Even if you’re not in a new city, asking friends who used to live there to introduce you to friends or coworkers is an effective way to expand your existing circle.
Ask People Out on Friend Dates
Do this when you’re introduced to someone via email, do this at work, and do this when you accidentally strike up a drunken conversation with a friendly lady in the restroom. Do this every time you get a good vibe off of someone or think that they are cooler or smarter than you, or may have a squad you want to be a part of. As a secret introvert, I find this pretty difficult; and if you fall into the category of people who never text first, I suggest you let that shit go and do whatever it takes to get comfortable putting yourself out there. For me, this means announcing I’m asking a lady out on a friend date before I do it. It’s like a wedgie: You gotta call it before you pick it.
Follow Up—Again and Again
Asking people to hang out once and expecting a real connection is like taking a Disney love story at face value. Real love (read: connection) takes time. Most likely, anyone you ask to hang out already has a full life (work, friends of their own, possibly children) and is not desperately seeking new things to add to it. Thus, if you hang out once and they don’t follow up promptly with a new date to meet, this actually doesn’t (usually) mean they don’t want to be your friend; it’s probably just that they’re busy, normal, humans. Actually, one of my now best friends confessed to me how much she appreciated me following up in the beginning because she’s a very shy person and isn’t very good at following up with people outside her close circle. To make a new friend you need to take follow-up upon yourself for the first three to four hangouts. It’s a lot of investment up front, but this is a quest for your people. You can do this!
Discover (or Rediscover) Your Passion
Remember when you used to make time to be creative? When you promised yourself you’d learn Portuguese? When you thought it would be awesome to learn how to blow glass? THIS IS YOUR TIME! No, really. Take this glorious moment, when your life isn’t already jam-packed with commitments, and ask yourself what makes you happy—then do it. In one instance, I started playing co-ed soccer after not having put on a cleat since age 12. I ended up making guy friends (no easy feat after the age of 25) and getting into shape, in spite of my complete lack of skill. Not only will participating in new activities give you opportunities to meet people, but you’ll start emitting that irresistible vibe of a person with passion, making you all the more attractive to potential new friends and dates.
Say YES More
Your coworkers are going out for drinks? YES. Your old college friend invited you on Facebook to a friend’s birthday party? YES. Your favorite band is in town and playing at a small local venue? YES. This one has also been particularly hard for me as an introvert, and if you too find yourself dreading situations where you are a bit on the fringe, I suggest making a compromise with yourself and going for at least one hour, or one drink. Proximity is such a powerful part of connection, and casual drinks, happy hours, and parties are some of the easiest ways to walk into introductions. I met one of my current closest friends at an acquaintance’s friend’s 30th birthday as we were all sitting on the edge of a pool, discussing exes. You never know where the right people might find you.
Get Out into the World!
No, really. GO. Literally, put yourself out there. I used to go to bars with a book and perch near a whiskey for an hour or two, or plant myself in a local coffee shop likewise with a coffee, or wander often through my favorite bookstores whenever I was close. Sometimes the universe takes care of a meeting for you. As an aside: I also met more than one romantic interest with these particular tactics.
I know it’s not an exact science, and it’ll require anywhere from one to six months of active work and feeling all kinds of awkward, but adulthood is a long stretch, and putting in the grunt work now, while you’re still young, is so worth it to find your tribe for the next phase of your life.