Sing it with me, “I’ll be there for you!”
Remember Friends. Or the legendary T.V. sitcom, Living Single? Wouldn’t it be great if all our friendships could come together with such ease? Good sense says that staying in one place helps to keep friendships alive. After all, time and proximity help people to form bonds. And while this tactic may be working for the general American population — they are less likely to move, even for a higher salary or better job prospects.
Millennials are more mobile and becoming more lonely.
Not only are Millennials finding it difficult to find companionship in everyday life, but also, 65 percent of them struggle to make friends at work. And the repercussions for this are substantial. The average person spends more than 90,000 hours of their life on the job, and Millennials work an additional 4.2 hours compared to their counterparts.
So it begs the question, should we be making friends on the job or at least trying to?
As a millennial who is also an immigrant, an ex-pat and has had bouts of digital nomadism. I’ve had to discover ways to build friendships at work. In between finding a place to live, buying furniture for my new home, and figuring out a brand-new city, there was often zero bandwidth for after-work socializing. It was either work-friends or no-friends.
Here are some mindset shifts and behaviors I adopted to start building connections at work and make my 9-to-5 a more healthy place for me:
1. Join An Interest-Focused Group
Many companies, no matter the size, have clubs or meetings focused on a particular interest. Whether that’s Women In Engineering or a group that meets at 2 PM every day to complete 100 push-ups (not made up, I worked at a company that did this). I’ve made it a point to join various women in tech groups to make more connections and build more community in a space where I spend such a large chunk of my week.
2. Introduce Yourself At The Lunch Table
I was one of the few people who brought a home-cooked meal for lunch at my first Bay Area company. After a few weeks, another woman joined my team, who also brought her lunch. From that moment, I knew I wanted to be friends with her. I invited her to eat with me every day until lunching together was the norm. Soon our daily lunches became happy hours and sometimes even weekend movies with her fiance! The friendship didn’t outlast the job. However, our conversations, her support, and her humor made the first few months of work-life in San Francisco, much more bearable.
3. Find A Peer Who Can Be A Cultural Ambassador
I’ve found that a better way to understand all the cultural nuances of your job is to have an older, wiser person explain them to you. When you’re new, knowing where to grab extra printer paper or the best way to submit a request for a new monitor can make your head spin. Asking a friendly co-worker (or two) to explain all the jargon can help soothe the rough transition that is starting a new job. One year, I started at a technology consulting firm at one of their busiest times. I felt overwhelmed and stressed from day one. Luckily, one of the women who interviewed me made it a point to check on me every day. She was the person I turned to when I couldn’t find the bathrooms or when I couldn’t decipher an email from my new boss. And to this day, we still catch up over wine in the Financial District.
As with most relationships, building meaningful friendships in a new place, at work or otherwise, will take time. In a time and a literal age, when we’re moving to new cities every year, relocation and the newness it brings can make you feel like you don’t have any free time, to begin with. Community is vital, so I’ve found it helpful to shift my mindset about when and where I can find it — especially in those first few months after a big transition. Give yourself space to transition and know that you can build a new thriving social circle starting in the places you frequent the most. Let’s improve our health and happiness by being open to connecting with people on the job.