When you leave a job, you walk away with a lot of things — valuable experience, industry connections, a little pep in your step if you didn’t love your job. But one thing you can’t take with you to your next job? All those work friendships you made. Your office pals got you through the late nights, the tense meetings, and commiserated with you at more happy hours than you can count. Just because you’re leaving a job doesn’t mean you have to leave the friendships you made at work behind too. Continuing those friendships, even though you are no longer a cubicle away, is easier than you think.
Make the Effort
When you leave a job it can be a whirlwind. All that celebrating combined with the hustle and bustle of adjusting to a new routine can make the time fly by. Now that you can’t catch up on your lunch breaks, it will be a lot more work to make friendships with former colleagues thrive. If you’re committed to maintaining the friendships, you’ll need to make an effort to plan outings. Call them to check in and be reliable when they make plans with you. These are solid friendship rules in general — especially when you’re looking to take a relationship from one of convenience (which let’s face it, many workplace friendships are) to a real friendship.
Keep it Positive
If you left a job on bad terms or were eager to leave, you may find you harbor some bad feelings toward a former employer. Maybe when you worked together, you and your work bestie bonded over your frustrations. While spending time with friends from a former job, try not to be negative about the company they still work at. Yes, you can commiserate when they vent. (You can relate and empathize in a way their non-work friends can’t, after all.) But one way to rub people the wrong way is to talk about how fabulous your new job is, and then remind them of all the faults of their current job. It’s inconsiderate and an unsustainable way to grow a relationship.
Find New Common Ground
Good or bad, you can’t sustain a friendship off of only what you used to have in common. You connected with specific colleagues because you had more in common than your jobs. Find whatever those things are and focus on them instead of only the fact that you used to work together. This is an especially good rule of thumb if you’re the one who was left behind at a job. Your friend who left the company you both worked at will want to hear about your big projects at work, or the latest gossip about a steamy office romance. But chances are, they don’t want to hear every minute detail of the presentation you’re working on or the conflicts you’re having — even if they did in the past. They chose to move forward and their interest in a friendship lies in you, not where you work.
Incorporate Them Into Your Life
Generally, your work life and your personal life are very separate, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find joy and friendships in both areas of your life — it does mean that your work friends may not be included in your personal time. That’s OK! You can spend an hour a day with a work friend at lunch alone and not feel the need to get together for brunch on Sundays. But once you no longer work together, your only option to spend time together is outside of work. Make your friends feel incorporated into the rest of your life — invite them over for dinner, introduce them to your other friends, or find a hobby you can enjoy together.
The friendships you make at work are bound to change when you or a friend moves onto a new job, and it can feel like a harsh transition. You go from chatting during breaks, power walking at lunch, and carpooling to well, nothing — all in the course of two short weeks. The occasional happy hour may make you feel like you’re spending minimal time together in comparison to how close you were before. Don’t stress, it’s beyond normal to scale way back on how much you see or talk to a former work friend. Even if you are both committed to continuing the friendship outside of work, it will take time to fall into a new rhythm. Being supportive of their career and life, making an effort to spend time together, and being honest about your friendship goals can all lead to a long-lasting relationship that will surpass any job.