Young Professional Problems: How to Friendwork

by Borderstan.com March 12, 2013 at 11:00 am 3 Comments

From Lauren Levine. Email her at lauren[AT]borderstan.com


Kayaking with a friend. (Luis Gomez Photos)

It’s no secret that DC is a transient city. You’ve probably been here less than three years and probably plan to move within three years, resulting in a lot of social turbulence. Friends must be made and friends must be replaced.

When I first moved here, I was in need of friends. But making friends isn’t easy. I can’t just walk up to a girl with a “Free John Bates” tote bag at the farmer’s market and tell her that she would be my perfect new best friend and would she like to drink wine with me and talk about Jennifer Lawrence? Even though my freckles and dimples are very disarming, she’d probably think I was a creep.

That’s where “friendworking” comes in — meeting friends through mutual friends. Friendworking is networking’s friendlier and more attractive older brother, yet less serious than matchmaking.

Friendworking is More Important than Networking

Networking might get you a new job with more responsibility, a higher pay check and maybe even your own intern. But at the end of the day, will that new job sit with you while you catch up on Breaking Bad? Will your new job take you rock climbing for the first time?

In these early years of our ambitious climb out of entry-level positions, it’s easy to lose sight of what will bring you long-term happiness. Countless studies show that a wide circle of friends and close relationships are the key to happiness.

How to Friendwork

Unlike dating, friendworking in the 21st Century can actually happen outside of OkCupid. You can do it at work, at a happy hour, at a party or at your entertainment venue of choice. Potential friends are everywhere.

  • Stop asking everyone “what do you do?” the second you meet them. It’s no way to start off a friendship. Keep that question for networking events only.
  • The best way to friendwork is to be open to every new person you meet. They could end up as your best friend, your golf buddy, your foreign film watching companion or your free ride to the nearest Costco. They might be a perfect rebound for your recently dumped best friend, or they may be able to teach you how to make jam (which I know you’ve been dying to learn).
  • Be inviting. If you sense that someone in your life could use some new social connections, be a pal and invite them along. Oprah’s book club isn’t exclusive and yours shouldn’t be either.

There are so many things that a new friend could offer you (in a non-professional way), and you’ll never know until you give them a chance!

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  • Ryan

    You do understand that this is pretty much just as opportunistic as networking and in fact IS simply networking? You don’t have to friend work…you make friends. Not based on whether they can take you to Costco or be there when you are lonely, but based on common interests. As a midwesterner, I am terribly sad for you and your disarming freckles. Here’s a novel thought: volunteer and meet people. Don’t seek anything from them. Listen to them, have new experiences with them, share with them. That is friendship. What you propose is putting DC wolves in sheep’s clothes, which feels redundant.

    • Hey Ryan — you sound like someone I would not want to friendwork with. The whole point is just to have a positive attitude and be open to new people. I obviously understand that I am suggesting “networking,” I just feel networking, especially in DC, has a specific connotation of furthering your career. I am trying explain, especially to those ambitious, career focused folks, that sometimes a new friend is more important than a potential colleague. Inevitably all friendships are give and take. Do I “seek” something from everyone I meet? No, not explicitly. But when I meet someone who watches Downton Abbey I am pretty pumped that I will have someone to discuss Downton Abbey with, and perhaps down the road they will become someone who will sit with me and eat Ben & Jerry’s when I am on my couch crying. Friendships have to start somewhere, and a shared interested or passion is usually that starting point. From there, one can hope the relationship develops into something more.

      Perhaps for you making friends is easy. But for a lot of people, it is difficult. If you just moved here or your best friend just moved away, it can be really hard to find someone to spend your time with. It takes a certain attitude and often times being in the right place at the right time. For you to diminish the difficulty that many people have is very insensitive.

      And for the record, many people say that my freckles are adorable, including midwesterners.

  • KT

    You must be a real hit down at the soup kitchen Ryan…sheesh.


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