An 8-Step Guide to Friendship After Graduation

University of Notre Dame

Since college ended a year ago, it’s been hard for me to stay connected with friends. I am no longer within that 15-minute walk of everyone on campus. I chuckle remembering those February nights I found too cold to make that short walk. How absurd it seems when those same late night hangouts require a plane ticket today. After graduation we scattered across the country to our respective careers. Now we must be very intentional to keep our friendships. But that is something I struggle with…

The good news? Friendship, as it turns out, is an 8-step process.

1) Prioritize Friendships — a little cold, I know, but hear me out. If we try to keep all our friendships as they were, we may keep the ‘friends’ but the relationships would become shallow. And selfishly, if there are goals we want to achieve, we need friends who have our same drive and ambition so we can help each other get there. Put a bit more bluntly:

2) The Five People — There is the old adage that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. After prioritizing your friends, choose a top five that you admire and want to be more like. Then maximize time with them. Be honest that you view them this way. That openness enables more meaningful relationships and is the first step in becoming an admiral person oneself.

3) Binder Full of Friends — I have an awful memory. I can remember people’s faces, but tell me your name and I am likely to forget it before the night is over. I’m terrible, I know. So, I came up with an awkward way of remembering people and what matters to them. I made a binder full of friends (yes, it’s as bad as it sounds). I use a Google Doc to put in a persons name and one interesting/fun thing they spoke about. This helps cement people in my mind and gives me great topics for following up on the next time we meet. Just be sure not to let anyone see you taking notes on them — that might get awkward…

4) Be Different — If it’s ‘normal’ for you and friends to go to a movie or talk about sports or whatever, do something different and unexpected. People don’t remember the 50th person who talked to them about sports, but they will remember the 1 person who took them to an axe throwing range (it’s a thing). People remember those who do and say unique things.

5) A Call a Week — I have never been good at texting. I have the best intentions, but I just can’t seem to respond with any semblance of consistency. And beyond that, I have always found that more can be accomplished in a 15-minute phone call then an hour of messaging back and forth. Not to mention the benefit of hearing a friend’s voice. So I set aside an hour a week to talk with someone important in my life. I don’t know how best to articulate it, but it’s done wonders for my soul. The only downside, my cheeks hurt from too much smiling sometimes.

6) News Can Say I Love You Too — Sometimes it’s enough just for someone to know you’re thinking about them. I send articles and videos to friends who follow certain topics. It’s a way to show I care even if I can’t see them every weekend or hop on the phone. These shared interests and passions are the connections that will keep friendships growing.

7) Leverage Work — I mentioned that seeing friends requires a plane ticket, right? That doesn’t mean it has to be expensive. I am fortunate to have a job that let’s me travel across the country. There’s flexibility to visit friends in other cities on weekends. The time is short, but at least I have it. Maybe your job gives you Fridays off or gives you a car for work. Use the hand you are dealt to build meaningful relationships.

8) Smoothie Bets — I’ve already established I do weird things? Good. I enjoy making bets with friends from the silly to the absurd — the winner gets a smoothie. Who will be bald first? Will there be 30+ people at this party? Will we have more relationships with robots than people by 2030? The benefits of this are: it’s different (they will remember it, because I mean who makes a bet for a smoothie?), it’s cheap (~$5), and it ensures you have to see the person again. Plus this playful gesture combined with physically giving someone something strengthens relationships.

Well there it is, in all its 8-step imperfection, but at least it is a start. And hopefully I will never miss another one of those cold February night walks.

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