Whether you are an extrovert or introvert, here are six tips for developing a robust Rolodex.

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If you’re like me, the idea of attending a networking event makes your head hurt. As a reluctant extrovert (according to my Myers-Briggs profile), I can rise to the occasion with the best of them, but putting on my game face takes a toll.

Networking is work. But it doesn’t have to drain your lifeblood. Here are a few tips for getting the biggest bang for your networking buck.

Gravitate toward what you enjoy. You don’t have to solely go to industry events where you’ll be surrounded by a sea of name tags. Look for interest and affinity groups who host events IRL. If social networking is your jam, look for a meet-up and join some Facebook interest groups. If you are committed to social justice issues, volunteer.

Get a networking buddy. Like a workout buddy, a co-worker or friend can hold you accountable and ensure you show up and sweat it out. It’s much less intimidating to approach strangers as a duo. And you can combine your best takeaways after the event.

Pace yourself. Take some nights off the networking circuit and use that found time to send emails to your new acquaintances, mentioning something specific you discussed. Invite them to meet with you to chat over coffee. Networking is only as good as your follow-through.

Be prepared. In addition to having an ample supply of business cards on hand, make sure your online presence is consistent, up to date and professional. Ditch the casual profile photo and replace it with a decent head shot across all platforms. There’s no sense in networking if you don’t have the goods to back up a first impression.

Network on the fly. Your whole life is a networking opportunity. This is especially true in a gig economy. We meet new people every day. Talk to them. As a publishing consultant and writer, I’m always giving out my contact info because I’ve discovered that everyone has a book idea and everyone needs help. I know that sometimes it may seem crass to always be selling, but remember that you have skills that can help people and companies. What skills do you have that others want or need?

 Jennifer Worick, columnist for The Seattle Times Jobs
Jennifer Worick, columnist for The Seattle Times Jobs

Reciprocate. Networking is a two-way street. When talking with new contacts, start rifling through your own mental Rolodex. Can you make introductions that will benefit them in some way? Do you have a few ideas on how they can accomplish a goal more effectively? Be generous.

Cast your net both wide and deep and you’ll quickly plump up your professional contacts with quality individuals who can hire, mentor, support and recommend you.

Jennifer Worick is a veteran freelancer/contractor, publishing consultant and New York Times bestselling author. Email her at jen@jenniferworick.com.