I need to be so completely honest with you that it’s scary.
In college, the university staff works hard to ensure that community and relationships are built in a way that feels “natural.”
This is for two reasons:
First, they understand that we, as humans, are hardwired for connection, community, and belonging. To thrive, you absolutely must have belonging and connection within community.
Second, they understand that if you have meaningful relationships during college, you’ll have a better experience… which means you’re more likely to not transfer to another college, more likely to say you had a great college experience, and are, as a result, a bit more likely to donate to the college once you start making money.
(Oh, and a third reason that university faculty and staff probably don’t recognize: Everyone knows relationships and community increase happiness. However, it is that happiness that drives you to be more successful, not the other way around.)
But here’s the other truth:
College is a bubble, and community and connection are not necessarily hardwired into the framework of young professional living and lifestyle.
Relationships after college are hard. Really. Freaking. Hard.
Right before you walk across the stage to shake hands with the University President and receive your diploma, you and your friend group promise to always stay in touch.
But then life happens.
Y’all move to different parts of the country.
You start jobs. Find new churches and communities to join.
You meet a boy, start dating, get engaged… well… you know the rest.
Truthfully, I’ve struggled on and off with finding both deep and wide community in my post-grad life.
Most of my college friends graduated a year before me, and moved out-of-state, never to be heard from again. The friends I did graduate? They moved too. Never heard from most of them. The few that stayed in Birmingham run in completely different circles.
Right now, I live by myself, work for myself, and go to a really small church. Community is hard, y’all.
What I’ve found is that this isn’t just a “Aly-has-a-problem” problem. It’s a problem many people I’ve talked to struggle with.
Here’s a couple ways to find community after graduation…
Pick a job where there are people there your age.
This was a hit-or-miss for me. One job I worked at had a handful of people who were my age, and we formed an amazing community for a while. With two jobs, I was the only person on staff within 10 years of my age (apart from the youth I was working with).
Go to a megachurch small group.
This was definitely the biggest way for me to find community. Did I actually attend the megachurch? Nope. However, being in a few of their small groups was a great source of community for me. Bonus: megachurches often have small groups that aren’t Bible studies. This means that even if faith isn’t a big deal for you, you can still find community through groups like “Young Professionals Hang Out” or “City Newbies” small groups.
Jump on an app.
Have I been bold enough to do this? Nope. But my life has also been a bit busy lately. Bumble isn’t just a “women initiate first” dating app. You can flip a magical something or another in the settings to go into BFF mode and it helps connect you to other people like you in the community.
Get involved in the community.
This could be serving at a nonprofit or church, joining an organization like a young professionals group Rotary Club, going to a city-wide service day, or something else.
Try a networking event.
Go with the intention of meeting humans, not networking with colleagues. Get to know the being side of people and not just their doing side. You never know when you could meet someone incredibly interesting.
Learn to be okay with failing at finding community. It’s hard and nobody is perfect. Community and belonging and connection are messy and require a lot of courage and vulnerability. You’ll end up exactly where you’re supposed to be. Just trust the process…