I worried I'd lose all my work friends when I quit. It surprisingly brought us closer together.

Rachel craft and her friend
Rachel Craft, left, worried about losing work friends when she quit, but they became closer instead.Courtesy of Rachel Craft
  • I was reluctant to leave the job I was unhappy in because all my friends were at work.

  • To my surprise, our friendships have only improved since I left.

  • Now that I work alone, I have more energy for social activities and am more outgoing.

In 2013, when I moved across the country to start my first engineering job out of college, I envisioned myself building space shuttles and climbing 14,000-foot peaks. I never imagined my biggest challenge would be making friends in my new home.

I soon discovered socializing as an adult was a far cry from socializing on a college campus. Work seemed like the easiest place to meet people, but as a young woman in the aerospace industry, I was in the minority in age and gender. Most of my coworkers shared none of my hobbies, interests, or political views, which made it harder to connect.

But I eventually found my people and worried I'd lose them once I left the industry.

My friends and I bonded over shared workplace trauma

Most of the friendships I cultivated were with other young women. We would hole up in conference rooms for hours at a time, commiserating about our struggles to get promoted and venting about issues such as sexism and harassment. Finding others who understood what I was going through made coping easier.

But as the years passed, I realized I was facing another challenge: My heart simply wasn't in it. My passion was back home at my writing desk — along with a pile of short stories and an unfinished novel. Between that and the increasingly toxic culture in my department, I considered quitting many times, but something held me back.

I was afraid to leave my job because of my friends

Sure, there was the instinctive shame I felt at the thought of giving up and the fear of failure at the prospect of changing careers. But my friends were one of the main reasons I stayed for so long. Leaving my job felt like abandoning my entire social group, too.

Then, in 2022, after a particularly stressful incident at work, I couldn't take any more. I quit without a new job lined up, which was nerve-racking. But it pushed me to make the change I'd been thinking about for so long.

As I left my engineering job to pursue my writing dream, I worried I would be starting my social life all over again. I had met all my close friends through work, and most of our time together was spent at the office — especially since the pandemic, which had pretty much killed off our occasional happy hours.

Would our friendships be strong enough to survive when we were no longer in forced proximity five days a week?

The answer surprised me.

Taking my friendships outside the office gave them room to grow

At first, I felt disconnected from my old work friends. I went from seeing them almost daily to being apart from them for weeks. The first time I met them for lunch and listened to their latest stories from my old workplace, I felt a strange combination of nostalgia for that world and relief that I was no longer in it. I also couldn't help feeling a little left out. I missed the social group we had formed — which I had given up for hunching over a laptop in my home office, alone.

At the same time, my leaving reinvigorated our conversations. Instead of fixating on workplace gossip, we began to share more about our personal lives, travel plans, and life goals. Instead of hiding in conference rooms, we started checking out new restaurants and trying new activities, including paddleboarding. Moving our friendships outside the office seemed to give them room to grow.

I have more energy for socializing now

Since my job change, I've noticed a significant difference in my attitude toward socializing. Hanging out with friends after work used to feel like a chore, probably because I was emotionally drained after eight hours in a toxic workplace. Now that I work alone, my social battery is always full. I often reach out to friends first to plan activities — something I rarely did before — and I've been cultivating relationships with people I've met through my new job.

I now put more effort into maintaining my friendships, and it's paid off. I've started to see who my friends are outside of their least favorite place: the office.

Looking back, I realize my old job wasn't the foundation of my social life; it was a limitation. Now that I've found the courage to pursue the career I want, my friendships have the space they need to flourish.

Read the original article on Business Insider