A solid, constructive friendship base is something most people had while growing up and, if not, strove to have as they went to higher education or whatever they chose to do after high school. For me, that search started in college, as I was never really connected to many students in my academic career previously.
I saw college as the introduction into my adult life, and a place I had always associated with “life-long friendships.” More meaningful, perhaps, than adolescent ones as many students I knew lost touch with a lot of the people they grew up with as they went out of state to continue their educations. So the college experience was one of establishing long-term interpersonal relationships, platonic and romantic.
My success at my undergraduate university I attribute to the friends and acquaintances that occupied my life while on campus. Especially the “good friends” that I maintained contact with during vacations and holidays. These kinds of relationships are hard to reestablish for recent graduates but is just as important as jobs, graduate school, resumes and interviews.
My mother moved to North Carolina when I was in high school. I would visit every now and again, as a college student, but was never there long enough to establish any kind of friendships or interaction beyond my family life. What consoled me was the fact that I was just passing through, I was in college and when I graduated I was on to bigger and better things. Just as well, I already had friends on campus and so I didn’t really need to make any other friends, was my rationalization of the situation. Most feel that way unless they have a personality where they have a need to make friends wherever they go. For most of us we will only have a select few really close friends throughout our lifetime that we can count on for anything, anytime, and wherever we happen to be in the world.
Yet what happens when we go through changes in our lives that disrupt this social process, like a recent graduation for example? The most important advice that a counselor in my career center gave me was through an email invitation to a seminar on “re-building social connections post-graduation.” It was definitely the most overlooked of all the senior emails that I received as resume building; interviewer basics and networking tips were my primary focus.
However, as I am in North Carolina now on a brief one-year hiatus from higher education, and on the job hunt that will take me who knows where, I have realized the importance of these social connections that sustained me for four years while in college. I have talked to all my friends so far via email, messenger and the good old-fashioned telephone in an attempt to maintain what we had as undergraduate students. I know that we are now scattered across the US but I still try to salvage some form of familiarity with the major life change that came with my graduation.
I am not altogether concerned with making connections in NC as I will be leaving in the fall for work, hopefully, but I know that wherever I go I will have to “start over” in a sense. Sure I will have the people I’ve grown up with, the people I began my adult life with in college but they are not present. I will have to mingle with people at work, go that extra mile and attend events where other peers will be looking for friendship, and that frightens me. The only thing that keeps me from being completely terrified is that I acknowledge the importance of this major step.
I know people who have graduated and are so secluded from their present life and are still living in the life that was college. These people only involve themselves in their friends’ lives from school while avoiding or ignoring the people around them. They don’t go out, have no friends, no prospects and are very lonely people in general. They have failed to make the necessary next step after graduation. It’s not the ability to apply for jobs, or write a job-getting resume or interview like a pro, although all are undeniably important as well. It’s the ability to make lasting friendships with people who occupy your new life and your future that is also important to success and happiness.
Having friends to share in birthdays and celebrations and to listen to your mistakes and craziness is the most supreme form of living well after graduation.
While friends will probably not pay your bills (or your loans) they will definitely be there to support you when you have that truly nightmarish job that you can’t quit because of all those debts. Making friends is an important part of the post-graduation process, and is to some (including me) more frightening than that first job interview.
To make the transition easier I know I will put a smile on my face in the office, ask my co-workers about their personal lives, go out for a drink or even lunch. I plan to sincerely involve myself in my new world and to value the people and friendships that occupy this new place in my life. It is a daunting task but it can be done and with a positive and open attitude is only a matter of time.