Alex Aster is the managing editor of The Newsette, and as a part of our new “Ask Alex” series, she tackles some of our readers’ most pressing questions, in an effort to bring a new perspective to the table. Today, Alex answers a question about networking.

Q: Dear Alex: My question is a simple one. I’m kind of sky, you would call me introverted. How do I build a network? Help.

A: Hello, fellow introvert! Being introverted means getting the bulk of your energy from being by yourself, rather than getting your energy from others. Before anything, I want you to know that many–probably half, or more–of the successful people with huge networks out there are in the same boat. So, please don’t feel that being introverted is a strike against you.

The fact is, most people–extroverts and introverts alike–don’t like networking. You know why? Because it’s not typically enjoyable, hanging-out-with-your-friends types of social interactions. It’s known to be rigid, at times awkward, and one step away from off-putting. So, how do you build a network without going to those advertised “networking events?”

Start with the people around you. Depending on which field you want to get into, you might be surprised to find that someone one-degree away from a person you know well (such as your sister’s college roommate) is a good contact to connect with. Or, use resources readily available to you. If you went to college, get on your alumni network, and connect with people that way. Meet a few local alums for coffee, even if they seem a little removed from your desired industry–because, at the end of the day, they could end up connecting you with someone else. The beautiful thing about connections is that they grow almost exponentially. So, the more people you know, the more people they know, and the more people they know….

Once you have a few good people you’ve chatted with, don’t let those connections die! Send an email if you find out they got a promotion. Congratulate them on a milestone. Obviously don’t be annoying, but it’s much easier to ask a favor or for advice after you’ve had a few non-asking interactions before that.

And, probably one of the most important tips: for networking to be successful, it should be two-sided. Meaning–this can’t just be a relationship built on them helping you. So make sure you reciprocate favors whenever you can.

Beyond this, another great way to network is simply getting out into your community. Forming meaningful bonds with people outside of work–charity events, religious functions, specialized clubs–can be good, as it can potentially lead to career connections in the future. After all, wouldn’t you be more willing to help/give advice to someone you have known for a few months/years, who has proven to be a reliable person?

Good luck!

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