How To Network for Friends

Do you think of networking as being business-related? Let’s just break that down a little…

When most people think of networking, they think of it in the business sense: Networking to find a job, or a contact within a specific industry, or in the industry they’re already in.

They think large conference rooms full of men in dark suits standing awkwardly in groups, pushing their business cards in one another’s faces, whilst one bald guy in mismatched socks stands shivers in the corner and wonders why nobody will speak to him.

But what if you’re not networking to find business acquaintances? What if you want to find friends? What if you want to put yourself ‘out there’?

*shudder* and cue: floodgates of insecurity opening.

When I moved to Paris 18 months ago, this is exactly what I set out to do. With no friends in a city new to me, I either had to find a way of making new friends, or rot away in my apartment, gorging on chocolate covered Pringles and watching reruns of the Gilmore Girls.

The latter is not an attractive look, you guys.

It took me about 8 months of concerted effort to finally find a group of friends who I absolutely adore. And in true blogging fashion, today I reveal E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G that I learned.

You ready?

First, let’s start with what networking-for-pals isn’t…

What Networking-For-Pals Isn’t

It isn’t a replacement for dating. The intention is to make new friends. If one does become more than a friend, then grab your coat honey ‘cos you’ve scored. But don’t make this your immediate intention. There are services for needs like that. And they don’t involve the kind of websites you’ll be using to network for friends.

It isn’t a desperate cry for help. You’re lonely in a new city? It’s nothing to be embarrassed about, pumpkin. It’s OK to admit it. Acknowledging that will fuel you into action.

And what’s more? There are likely hundreds more just like you in the same city.

It’s your job to find them. Meet then half way. They’re likely to be searching for you too. And yes, when you finally do meet ‘your people’, you’ll be running towards each other in slow motion along the beach, whilst violins play softly in the background.

It isn’t a fleeting fancy. Once you’ve got the talking-to-new-people thing down, you can apply it to other areas of life. It gives you a confidence boost.

  • If you’re on holiday/the train/a random mechanical bull and want to talk to the person sat next to you.
  • If you’re at the airport waiting for your flight and want to make small talk with your fellow passengers.
  • If you’re at a birthday party. And the only person you know is your cousin who invited you out of pity. But she then left you to go party with her friends. So it’s time you mingle with the other guests.

All of these situations become easier because of the people skills you’ve acquired in your venture to make new friends. You’ll be talking to strangers like a non-creepy expert!

What Networking-for-Pals Is

It’s variety. Aside from this being the spice of life, it’s also the spice of finding friends. Make the effort to try lots of different avenues.

Go to meetup.com and sign up to a few groups. If you’re in a new country, don’t shun the ex-pats. There are opportunities to bond a-plenty from the woes of moving your stuff, to mingling with the locals.

At meetup.com join groups for things you love to do (cooking, museums, trying new bars) and those that you have wanted to try. The whole point of this site is to help people be more social. Use it.

If you’re working for a business, ask your colleagues for events you can attend (or make friends with your colleagues and they’ll ask you to parties). Make a habit to say yes to invitations.

I met some great people after a colleague invited me to her birthday party and introduced me to her friends. The locals have an existing social circle. Tapping into it means being a part of it first.

If work isn’t an option, what about your local community? Are there events being held that you can go to? There’s nothing like the city celebrating its history of clay pigeon shooting to gather the locals. Go be part of it.

It’s a consistent effort. Going to a meetup event just once will not bring the friends a-flocking. Random actions bring random results. Or worse, no results [insert something about kissing a few frogs before finding a prince here].

Make the effort to go to one event a week. Every week. That’s manageable. Especially when you’re alone and in a new city. Over time, when you make new friends, you won’t need to keep this up. But in the beginning, invest your time well.

I did this for 2 months before acquaintances became friends. Sometimes going to more than 1 event a week. Not only did I meet some amazing people, I also saw different parts of the city that I may not have ventured to had it not been for the events I attended.

It’s trying new things. You know when you’re in a karaoke bar, and a friend signs you up to sing next, and you get a feeling in the pit of your stomach because you haven’t taken enough shots to pull a full-on Sasha Fierce on stage? That feeling is your comfort zone calling.

It’s saying ‘hey, don’t change – it’s great here! It’s warm. And familiar. And there’s even some hot chocolate on the day’s you’re feeling like a loser. Let’s camp down here togetheeerrrrr!’.

And it’ll say the same thing when you’re trying to meet new people in a new city. Don’t go to the meetup event – it’s dark outside! Don’t go to the meetup event – the new series of Homeland starts tonight! Don’t go to the meetup event – you may not return alive!

Here’s some friendly advice about that comfort zone: DON’T LISTEN TO IT.

Meeting new people can be scary. It’s something new you’re doing. Perhaps for the first time in a long time. And them liking you / vice versa can be a little random.

Because you’re being judged by new people. Those people that haven’t known you for years and so don’t know you have a slight affinity towards marmite-covered Oreos.

Acknowledge the fear and put it aside. Do I now feel nervous when going to a new event? You betcha. Every. Single. Time. The feeling has never gone away. So I ignore it (like with most things that don’t serve me).

It’s following up. Met someone you like? Take their number. And call them. Promised someone you’ll send them an email? Do it.

Final Thought

The friends you’ve had for years? Those relationships took nurturing, and so will these new ones. And it means making an extra effort to be extra friendly.

Most people sit by the phone waiting for others to call. Those people are lonely.

Don’t be most people.

Oh, and before I go, there’s one more ‘isn’t’.

It isn’t a finished game. You’ll never be ‘done’ making friends. The friends you have may move to a different city. Their life may move on – and so may yours. Cater for this. Use the skills you’ve learned consistently to keep good people in your life.

It isn’t a life without them.

Over to you: what advice would you give to someone in a new city looking to expand their network of friends?

Don’t put answers on a post card – add them to them comments instead.


Comments

How To Network for Friends — 25 Comments

  1. Great points here, Razawana – you do get into the essence of what it is to network with your last point. Nurturing these new friendships – friendships aren’t just made overnight. I guess networking in the real world can be a lot like networking online. That may be kind of a stretch (and sound kind of creepy in the wrong circumstances lol) but the way I’ve developed blog friendships can be relatable to real friendships. For example, I met on their blog, tweeted them, commented on their site, kept in touch via email etc If I had tweeted them one time and then never went back to them again, the friendship would have ended. So just going to one party and never saying hello again would for sure result in chocolate covered Pringles which sounds like the most delicious food ever.

    A lot of reasons people don’t network is the fear of it. I’ve been fearful at networking events – I won’t know anyone, no one will talk to me, it will be boring, etc but here’s what I started telling myself and it actually worked: each event would introduce me to someone new, help me in some way or lead me to a new resource or contact. And since I adopted that mentality, I’ve found that to be true. Every networking event produced some fruitful personal or business or life help contact. Just like anything else in life, you gotta keep going at it so yes!! Consistency is key!

    • Your points here are solid, Vishnu. And I agree with the connection with people online.

      When I think of the friends I have in my life (online and in person), the times when they’ve become true friends is when we’ve had an experience that’s bonded us in some way. Whether it’s taking a trip somewhere, sharing the same hobbies, whatever.

      And getting to that point takes time, and as you point out, persistence.

      Do you find you’re the one making the effort with everyone else – or is there a balance?

  2. I admit I am a workaholic but I am trying to go to one event a week now just to get out of the house and have some balance in my life. Since I am doing something I like if I make a friend that is a bonus but I do not put pressure on myself to make a friend because then it would seem forced and not natural. If the friendships arise because we share a similar interest and evolve from that then I think that is the best way. I think this is also the best way to go about dating as well, to go about life doing the things you naturally enjoy doing and in the process you will meet people who you will be compatible with because this is when you are being the real you.

  3. Raz, colleagues have been a great resource for me. I moved across the country by myself for my internship and didn’t know anyone in the state. I became friends with a colleague who was a local and she included me in her social circle. I also love Meetup.com.

    • Those two worked a treat for me to when I moved to Paris, Shannon. None of this ‘take classes in what you love doing’ was ever considered when the office and meetup.com were right there !

  4. Hi Razwana,

    thanks again for this awesome post. I still can’t find those flourescent socks…

    … and thanks for teaching me what ‘pulling a Sasha Fierce’ is. I shall try and incorporate that into my wild party animal lifestyle…

  5. I love your advice. As someone who moved to another city without knowing anyone, I can attest to the difficulty of meeting new people and making friends. It takes a lot of consistent work and effort, especially considering that you might be trying to make friends with people who already have an established group of friends and aren’t looking to make new friends. Of course, if you get into a group like that, you get to meet a whole lot of people so even small successes can pay off tremendously.

    Meetup.com is a good resource and I’ve also had pretty good luck with volunteering positions. Watch out for job opportunities. One job I had involved a softball team and that was a great way to meet people. Anything you can do to meet like-minded people works. Eventually you connect on the thing you both like and that may lead to a deeper friendship down the road.

    • I never considered meetup.com for volunteering positions or for jobs. Of course! It’s the perfect place!

      Totally get where you’re coming from when you say it’s tough with people with an established group of friends. In Paris, the added difficulty is people generally segregate their friends – some get invited to certain parties and others don’t!

      The key is to keep persevering, as I’m sure you’ve found.

  6. Great tips, Razwana 😀

    I have moved a lot, but that has affected me much since most of the moving was when I was in elementary and middle school (I did lose a lot of good friends, but I also managed to gain new ones at new places).

    As for networking, I do also networking/socializing with others, especially online (and as a result, I do have a lot of online friends).

    Offline, I prefer to work alone. It’s not fear though. I have no problem with socializing, it’s just that I prefer not to do it. I like talking to myself than talking with others (especially offline).

    Plus, I don’t find it that much attractive these days – time is an issue. If I spend time with socializing offline, I have less time to study and of course, to maintain my blog – both of which I consider important.

    Anyways, thank you for sharing your experience 🙂 Hope you are doing well in Paris!

    • Jeevan – online and offline interactions have very similar etiquette. There’s a post on this by Alan that I read earlier.

      It sounds like you’re very invested in your blog. Do you not miss human interaction in ‘real’ life?

      • No, not at all 😀

        I prefer online communication (In any case, I really don’t have time for offline socialization…it takes me 1 and a half hours to get home..and most of my classes end pretty late in the day – well, after noon. So, I get home by evening. Then I have to study..then blog, so I am busy :D).

  7. Thanks Raz, a great reminder that people that you meet are only friends you have not met yet. As you say it is just getting out of your comfort zone and making the effort to connect with others.

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