Tapping the value inscribed in social capital

“Nurturing relationships for a brighter future”

It isn’t easy making a best friend these days. A number of obstacles can get in the way as kid tries to cultivate strong friendship bonds — aka, a best friend.

Gone are the days of running around the neighborhood with your best buddies until dinnertime. Nearly gone are the tree house hangouts and the baring of souls at slumber parties. There is too much homework and too many electronic alternatives. There is the beckon of pervasive social networks and the changing dynamics of the modern family. And then there is the changing of suburbia itself.

Although the majority of kids tend to meet their best friend at school, school dynamics and cultures are changing. Toward middle and high school, cliques are typically broken up to prevent or combat bullying and classrooms are often shuffled for size and ability. Lunch time is shorter, as is the time between classes.

Many kids have their afternoons packed with programmed activities. According to Fred Frankel, author of “Friends Forever,” daily extracurriculars tend to drain friendships. Although some extracurricular activities allow kids to find companions with common interests, he says that daily after school programming cannot replace the benefits of spending one-on-one time with a best friend.

Social networking, online gaming and texting can help maintain close friendships when close friends are apart, but overall, typical online friendships create mostly superficial friendships.

Here are some tips for growing and strengthening your social network:

Get out of your comfort zone. Strive to make a few friends outside your regular group. Join a sports team, participate in an affinity group at work, or ask a colleague to introduce you to his or her favorite coworker.

Find common ground. To make an immediate connection with someone, it’s helpful to explore what you have in common and transform the way you approach networkingOpens in New Window. For example, change your growth mindsetOpens in New Window. Also, when meeting new people, ask questions that get past the typical ‘Where do you work? What do you do?’ Instead, ask where they went to college, whether they played any sports, and where they grew up. If your meeting is pre-scheduled—an interview, for example—do a little research beforehand on LinkedIn to get a well-rounded picture of your interviewer, including his or her personal brandOpens in New Window.

Find ways to give back. Whether you make work connections or start new friendships, all relationships are two-way streets. So, remember to regularly give backOpens in New Window. Make time to drop in on new work friends before heading home on a Friday, and periodically send quick thank you emails to your best ‘broker’ and your mentors.

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