You don’t have to dread going to work (we know, it’s a wild concept). The truth is that we all have to work at some point in our lives and it’s in our best interest to, at the very least, try and make it fun. Whether it’s the less-than-stellar summer job at your local ice-cream shop or an exciting job in your field of interest, we know working can be a drag. Even that job in an industry that you’re pumped about can leave you feeling disinterested if you don’t have the right work environment.
One way to make your newfound life as a working adult more fun is to try and make new friends. Everyone talks about how it’s harder to make friends as an adult than it is in college, so keep reading for some of our tips on making new, lasting friendships.
Be yourself and be honest (but not too honest).
“Making friends in the workplace can make the environment much more fun and lighthearted,” says Katie Barry, who’s been a Sales Associate at a fashion retailer for about 19 months. There’s no denying that making friends can be a downright scary struggle, though. “I’d say be yourself,” Katie adds. “You are the only you out there and odds are that someone in the same workplace is looking for a friend.”
Of course, it’s important to not take it too far. A simple, “Hello,” will work just fine when you’re introducing yourself for the first time in the workplace. You should also try and keep most interactions positive. We know it’s tempting to just spend your time ranting to your coworkers (and yes, we’ve done it too), but it’s important that you start and stay on the right foot.
“Be positive,” Says Stephanie Bird, a Career Advisor at the University of North Carolina Charlotte’s Career Center. “People want to be around positivity, so try to stay away from office drama or complaining too much.”
Put in an effort and be curious about people.
If you’ve noticed that you bond really well with someone, make an effort. It’s not weird to invite your coworkers out for coffee or drinks. Bird actually recommends that you get a group together to go get drinks or lunch together. Part of putting in an effort also includes remembering what it was like when you first started your job. “Remember what ‘s like to be the new person,” Bird says. “If someone new starts in the office, take them out for coffee or lunch! They’ll appreciate it.”
We know how tempting it is to always be glued to your phone, but when you’re hanging out with your coworkers make sure you’re present. Nothing’s worse than trying to forge a new friendship and phones keep getting in the way. It may not have prevented friendships from being made in college, but once you’re in the “real world” life is a little more difficult and people may not have time to sit around pretending to hang out with you while you’re texting everyone else you know.
One piece of advice that Bird has for new employees is to be curious about people. If you have an open floor plan in the office or work one-on-one with someone a lot, take a moment to ask about decorations they may have and listen to what they say. You can learn a lot about someone from the decorations in their office and your genuine interest in them could forge that friendship you really want.
Don’t get discouraged—it’s not you.
There are some instances when you may not have any luck making friends in the workplace. This is always a possibility, and you need to be prepared for the reality that it’s just not going to happen with your current job. If this happens, just know that it’s probably not you.
Company culture can have a huge impact on whether or not you’re having any luck finding friends. “Some cultures allow for relationships to form easier while others may be a little more challenging,” Bird adds. “When applying for jobs, ask about things like work gatherings or how groups work together.” Sometimes, though, the company culture just isn’t the place to make friends.
If you do notice that you’re having a hard time making friends in the workplace you’re in, put in an effort to keep in touch with friends from college. Just because you don’t have any workplace friendships doesn’t mean that you don’t have people to hang out with. There’s probably at least one person from your university that is missing those friendships too. Plus, you can talk about work without having to worry about it spreading (although, you should still be careful about work talk).
If you are one of the lucky ones who find really great friends at work, we have a suggestion: talk about your new friendships with your new friends. Work is still work and you want to make sure that you are inclusive, professional and productive.
“I think it’s important to have friends in the workplace,” Katie says. “But I think it’s also important to have boundaries, too.” She adds that, for her, it was difficult to know when it was appropriate to add someone on Facebook or follow them on Instagram. You don’t want to overwhelm someone or make your work environment awkward.
Although keeping the friendship professional is important, a common (and even recommended, to a certain extent) tactic to making lasting friendships in the workplace includes talking about real things that you’re going through (if you’re both on the same page). At Aerie, Katie is surrounded by coworkers who are close to her age and can relate to the things she’s going through. “We share advice on our college experience, rant in the stockroom about our relationship problems, and support each other in difficult times,” Katie says.
Simply put, don’t make it weird and try not to make anyone uncomfortable. Try to read the social signals and, as we said, have that discussion with your coworkers. Know where they stand and how far the friendship should go.
It can seem tempting, and even easier, to go through your workday without interacting with your coworkers, but that’s how we start to dread working. Why ignore our coworkers in favor of being miserable for eight hours?
It’s going to be a lot of work, but the best friendships don’t always happen overnight. Don’t be afraid to take the first step; it’s likely that at least one of your coworkers is starting to feel as lonely as you are and looking for friends, too.