What can be even more difficult than professional networking? Making new friends — whether it’s in a new town or a new stage in your life — can be a huge challenge. Personal networks can be a source of support, opportunities and joy in your life. How do you create a personal network for both your own fulfillment AND to generate professional opportunities?

But what do we even mean by a personal network? It’s your support system, outside of your professional life. It often consists of friends, but it can include mentors, family and other people you know outside of your career.

As we go through life changes — moving, going to school, changing careers — our personal network changes as well. A good example is that as we age, we tend to lose touch with people we may have been very close to in high school. We lose friends and gain friends as we go through life, but there are times when it’s especially challenging to make new friends. Moving is a prime example. Sometimes you move to a place where you have friends already, but many people move just for a great job and have to start building their local, personal network from scratch.

Outside of school and work, we have limited time and energy to devote to building that personal network, especially if we have families or demanding jobs. Here are a few tips on how to build your personal network:

Join a club: Anyone who has been in Nerdy Girls Society for a few months can tell you that joining a group like ours and meeting folks of similar interests has been a blessing to them. Many members have built friendships, and we’ve had some of them tell us, “I couldn’t have made it through this year without the people I met through Nerdy Girls Society.” Those are the kinds of relationships that can be built just by joining a club and attending the events.

Initiate: You may already have a few folks in your life that you want to build a better relationship with, but you haven’t made a move. It’s a little bit like dating — no one wants to be rejected, but the payoff is great! Some ways you can initiate include offering to help with something, inviting people out for coffee, or mentioning something you’ve wanted to do for a while, and then inviting others to join you.

Offer to help: I mentioned this above, but it needs to be repeated. Helping people is a great way to make a stronger connection. You can simply offer help to a potential friend or connection. Or you can volunteer at a nonprofit and help the larger community. When you’re helping others, you feel good, and you have the opportunity to meet new people.

Ask for help: Often people are afraid to ask for help because they think it might make them look stupid. But the feeling you get when helping other people is the same feeling other people will get when helping you. The help you ask for can be as simple as seeking out a restaurant recommendation or locating a certain store. Those kinds of conversations can be a great lead into an invitation to have lunch.

While these are just a few tips, I’m sure others have great examples and suggestions. If you have a tip, share it in the comments. Try out a couple of these and watch your personal network grow!

Author: Carolyn Noe

Carolyn is the Founder & Executive Director of Super Heroines, Etc. She is a recent transplant to Cincinnati and lives with her husband and her dog. She regularly nerds out about Parks & Rec, Firefly, and Pride & Prejudice.