By Kelly Davis Strausbaugh

At first glance, this will seem like a young adult novel, meant to fascinate middle school girls with tales of mean high school bullies, how to ace that math final and how to find confidence while struggling with the inevitable acne and braces combination that seems to haunt us all well into our thirties.

Using the term “girl squad” may seem silly or way too feminine for your taste and I get it, I do. It’s a term that superstars like Taylor Swift have taken control of, and that can be a turnoff. However, I want to encourage you to build your own squad and rename it whatever you’d like, but for the purposes of this article, read along as I make my case for the importance of having a girl squad.

First, we’ll start with a little Q&A. 

What’s a girl squad?

It’s a network of friends, colleagues, and women you admire. Family members who call you out on your fears and help you work through them, co-workers who help you learn in your role and encourage you to push for management or fight for a fair spot at the table, friends who listen and encourage, and aren’t afraid of sharing ice cream when you really need it. Call it what you want: girl squad, posse, friends, role models – whatever allows you to feel like you have the support you deserve. 

Who shouldn’t be in your girl squad?     

Now, this really depends on your personality. For super bubbly/positive/empathetic people like myself, I pull from other people’s energies, so I choose to surround myself with other optimistic people, with a realist thrown in here and there for good measure.

If you only like honest, blunt people, that’s who you should gravitate towards, but remember to include a few girls who are always there to cheer you on. It’s important to balance encouragement with people who will give you honesty, without trying to hurt you.

What if those girls don’t exist?

I’ve never really had “girlfriends” and I don’t really like hanging out with girls my own age. Then look outside your age group! I promise, the women in your potential amazing networking friendship group DO exist, you just need to look for them. Keep searching till you do, it’s worth it. When you find someone great but you’re not sure that they are the best fit for your network, just store them in your mental rolodex. I’ve met people I liked and respected, but we didn’t connect as friends, but soon enough I’d find someone that I knew would make an awesome connection for them. Matchmaking is one of my favorite activities!

How can I build a girl squad?

This is easily one of my favorite questions. I post often on social media and I blog about my amazing squad. It’s not like you’re having to arrange huge sessions to hang out with twenty people at once – I have many different groups and friends to call for every topic that may arise. How did I meet them all? You’d be amazed at the weird and happy circumstances that have led me to my current group of fierce females who I am proud to call friends. Here are a few tips to meeting new friends and creating your own support system.

Say hello and give a genuine compliment!

There can never be enough kindness. When friends reach out and ask about how I meet my friends, my first piece of advice is to start talking. If you see something you like, say it. Admiring someone’s shoes, purse, earrings or just the way they rock their style is a doorway to a conversation. It may sound silly, but I’ve found some great contacts just by genuinely reaching out and saying hello! In today’s world, women are constantly told that we’re not enough. We’re not skinny enough, pretty enough, cool enough – so when someone tells you that you ARE cool, or pretty, or funny, or smart – that’s one of the best things you can do. It makes others feel good, it makes you feel good, and it can even lead to fun conversations, the exchange of social media handles and boom – friendship born. If you’re not a “millennial” it might sound a little crazy, but this is the evolution of how we make friends, and it’s accessible and fun when done correctly.

Always trust your instincts!

One not-so-great thing about social media is that we aren’t always meeting people face-to-face; it’s amazing because we can connect with women around the world, but you don’t always get that gut reaction that you might have when meeting someone in person. Trust your instincts. If you meet a cool girl but she seems like she tends to pick at people, or be a little mean, I’d stay away. She might just have a different communication style and you’ll know when it’s not right.

I’ve met friends that I have absolutely nothing in common with, but in most cases, I love reaching out to them for a totally different perspective. You never know when you’ll need a different set of eyes to help you find a solution.

“Not to compare yourself to them, but to use as inspiration.”

Be brave!

One of the best things I’ve ever done was to start asking people if they would mentor me. Mentoring has evolved as well – it’s not like I need a babysitter, but it’s so important to look for people in your squad that are smarter, funnier, better. Not to compare yourself to them, but to use as inspiration. You should never be the smartest person in your friend group, because then you’re not growing. I have always kept in touch with bosses from old jobs, contacts that I’ve met a few times from events or functions – anyone who made me want to push myself harder and be more, that’s who I’d email or call. Those women are busy, sure! But nine times out of ten, they’ll meet you for coffee. Pick their brain, ask them for advice – you never know how they will inspire you, and you might even inspire them!

For me, having a girl squad makes me feel strong. It makes me feel like I’m not alone, and that’s one of the biggest assets in my life. I don’t recommend building a squad just to use them for whatever problems or issues arise; you also need to be an asset to them. Be giving, be honest, be loyal, be yourself. As women, we feel like we need to do it all, and for me, I’m realizing that it’s true – but no one said we had to do it all ALONE. One of my favorite things about the Women’s Resource Center is that it has allowed me to strengthen my girl squad. Through my WRC, I have met amazing, inspiring, brave young women and fierce, amazing role models. If you don’t have a girl squad, a posse, a network, I implore you to find one immediately. If you should ever need help, reach out to the amazing staff at WRC and they will connect you with women in our community who will provide guidance, support and hopefully – a lot of laughs. Behind every amazing woman is a strong, fierce squad who has her back.