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Cam Marston on Making New Friends

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I was reminded of how hard it is to make friends the other day. I was at an event on how to attract and retain young people in our corner of the state. Our projected job growth down here is exciting but our challenge, like so many communities, is how to get the volumes of people needed to fill the jobs.

The panel consisted of four young people our community would love to keep and duplicate. We’d love more of them. They were all very proactive. Very social. They lifted up those around them. They were positive, good people.

One of the key points they made was that their social networks were what was keeping them in Mobile. These were four young people would be valuable contributors to any community they chose to live. Right now – and hopefully for a long time to come – they’re giving their energies to our fair city. And it was their network, their connections, their friends – both personal and professional – that made them grow roots here. The job got them started here but their networks are what’s keeping them here.

The discussion led to questions of how one creates a network and, ultimately, makes friends. Moving to a new place and setting out to create new networks and make new friends is hard. I did it years ago when I was the age of the four young panelists. When I moved to Raleigh, I knew no one. When I moved to Charlotte, I knew only then my girlfriend now my wife but no one else. Making friends is hard. It requires a heaping mix of braveness and vulnerability. I did it. I could do it again today. However, I’m older and the fear of rejection doesn’t worry me like it did 25 years ago.

A panelist named Terrance offered his recipe for building networks. “I figure out where I can help,” he said. “Where my skills would be helpful, and I go there, and I do it.” Terrance went on, “When I help, people take notice and want to help me in return. They introduce me to new people, and I help those new people any way I can and then they help me in return, and it starts all over again and my network keeps growing and growing. It’s not fake. It’s not forced. It’s natural. I’m helping them. They’re helping me. It leads to us becoming friends.”

Could making friends be so simple? Maybe so once you’re clear on what you can offer others. And in Terrance’s case, where his strengths lie. Literally. He helped an older lady move furniture and she took a liking to him and introduced him around.

Braveness. Plus vulnerability. Plus offering your talents and strengths equals new friends. Lessons for us all, no matter our age.

You go, Terrance.

No. Check that. We’d actually prefer that you stay.

I’m Cam Marston and I’m just trying to Keep It Real.

Cam Marston is the Keepin' It Real host for Alabama Public Radio.