Say the word “networking” and many people think of attending awkward events, anxiously clutching business cards, likely looking for the nearest exit. With a reputation for being disingenuous, one-way, and simply uncomfortable, it’s understandable that many people prefer not to network at all.

However, what if we shifted that view? What if we thought of networking as a way to meet people with whom we share mutual interests and aspirations? That it wasn’t about racking up tons of names and business cards, but rather about cultivating a strong and supportive community? And instead of being one-way or one-time, it’s about creating long-term relationships to nurture and grow?

Too often we leave out the “mutual” “supportive” and “long-term” components of networking.

For me, it’s just wanting to meet new people wherever I am and be helpful to others whenever possible. Below are a few ways you can build your network and nurture your network.

Building your network: Pain-free ways to meet people

The trick: Go to an event where the subject matter is something you’re truly interested in and there are activities to bond over. Not a fan of group events? It never hurts to connect with people one-on-one.

  • Ask for an introduction: Let friends and family know you’re looking to meet interesting people in your field.
  • Attend a workshop: Workshops often allow you have conversations with other participants, inadvertently introducing you to new people. Don’t let the opportunity slip!
  • Join a club: One word: Meetup. Don’t see a Meetup near you that you like? Create one.
  • Connect with a coworker: Sometimes we ignore the people right next to us. If there is a coworker you’d like to get to know more, meet up after work (or for lunch) and stay in touch if either or you leave the organization.
  • Harness social media: We could write an entire article about this (and we have!) but think about how you can turn online relationships into face-to-face (or Skype!) meetings.