Most of us young professionals (YPs) still live very active social lives, with weekends jam-packed with parties, meals and sporting events that leave us utterly exhausted come Sunday night when we hit the sheets. Others rarely get a chance to see friends given everyone’s busy schedule, therefore the need to make new ones is not too high on the list of social priorities. For some, networking is part of the job and something that seems to come naturally, yet for others the thought of mingling in a room full of strangers is nothing short of panic-inducing. Whatever the case, we challenge ourselves professionally, physically and mentally – why not challenge yourself socially? The point? To meet new people you otherwise may not but who could enrich your life, to strengthen the impression you leave in social situations, to take a step back to evaluate your approachability and ability to hold the interest of others, and, finally, for the hell of it. Here are eight social challenges you should try now:
Go a weekend without making plans in advance
Urban YPs tend to be so preoccupied in planning every last minute of their weekend in attempt to make the most of it that it’s often more stressful than it needs to be. Sometimes the best weekends are the ones in which you go with the flow and don’t plan anything, rather let your days and evenings unfold as they will. The thought may induce FOMO, but you may thank us later. So will your significant other.
Travel alone to a communal destination
Arriving alone to a community backpacking destination abroad means that you really can’t be closed off or closed-minded… or you won’t have fun, bottom line. Picking a place with communal dinners, for example, may take you back to the days of summer camp when you couldn’t choose who sat around you during meals. As a result, you will likely meet people from all over the world and find yourself in conversation about everything and anything with people who you otherwise may never have met. You may even meet some future travel companions or leave with invitations to new cities.
Plan a weekend away with two different groups of friends
We recently returned from a girl’s trip (a bachelorette, actually) that involved two distinctly different groups of friends – what we affectionately referred to as “the east coast girls” and “the west coast girls.” The dynamic that resulted was both homourous, colourful and harmonious, resulting in new friendships and gratitude on the part of the bride, who had all of her friends in one spot for the weekend. Don’t leave your groups of friends so compartmentalized, whether they are work friends you’ve only known for a few weeks or childhood friends whom you’ve known forever.
Meet up with someone blindly
Yes, it can be awkward as hell, but at some point in your life we recommend meeting someone blindly who you have never met before. This could be in the form of a blind date or a friendly meet-up with a friend of a friend’s when visiting or newly moved to a new city. The challenge comes from putting yourself in the inevitably awkward situation and seeing how well you handle yourself with a complete stranger. It isn’t always easy.
Try to big up your social media presence
Try to step out of your social media comfort zone. This could mean joining a new social media site or becoming more active in yours and engaging with people you’d like to connect with both socially and professionally. After all, if you’re active on social media, you will be forever fresh in the minds of more people.
Purposely leave your phone at home
We have all been there; you’re halfway to work when you realize that you’ve forgotten your phone at home. It is a sick, sinking feeling when this awareness occurs and you panic thinking of all the messages (and the Facebook creeping you can’t do on your work computer) you will be missing throughout the course of the day. In reality, you may be pleasantly surprised by your productivity when your cell phone is not within reach. And that date you had the other night will just have to wait for a response, which is actually a good thing.
Attend a networking event alone
A few years ago, the thought of going to a networking event (or any event, really) alone was terrifying. But, as we have become seasoned in the event circuit (it is our job, after all), we have grown to love and appreciate the solo party experience. In fact, we see it as a challenge. If there is ever a time to be “on,” it’s at a networking event. We sometimes challenge ourselves to make a point of saying at least something to someone who we’d love to interact with and who has historically intimidated us. You should too.
Approach a potential love interest; don’t wait for him or her to make the first move
For the singles out there: have you ever walked away from a potential romantic situation kicking yourself because you were too scared to act on your impulses or thoughts? At this age, what do you have to lose? If you don’t act upon it, someone else will. It may be time to big up your game.
Practicing at least a few of these personal social challenges will hopefully result in new friends and contacts, a sense of confidence and self-discovery as you purposely venture outside of your comfort zone. Good luck!