Although networking is essential to gain more professional relationships and advance our careers, not everyone has jumped on the network bandwagon. In fact, professional business networking founder of BNI, Ivan Misner, wrote, “Every year, more evidence comes out on the success people have using networking to grow and promote their businesses. But I still see so many people who, for one reason or another, continue to resist networking.”

Whether you choose not to network due to lack of time, unwillingness to meet others, impatience, or a lack of confidence, networking doesn’t have to be dull. Networking can actually be a lot of fun. Here are some ideas on how to nurture your network so you can build stronger relationships:

1. Have A Cookout

With temperatures warming up, now is a good time to get your co-workers together and have them come over to your place, or a more public setting, and have a cookout.

Community director and co-founder of Undergrad Success, Samuel Hershberger, said, although networking can be boring at times, it all depends on the energy of the workplace.

“At my internships, I’ve always made it a goal to have co-workers come over for a cookout or BBQ,” said Herschberger.

Getting your co-workers to meet all in one place is not only a great opportunity for you to get to know your co-workers, but it also allows for your co-workers to get to know each other better as well. It’s a win-win for everyone.

2. Go To Happy Hour

Though this one is limited to the 21 and over audience, Herschberger suggests also going to happy hours as a fun way to nurture your network.

“Happy hours aren’t inappropriate when enjoyed responsibly and in moderation,” he said. “We often feel that things in the office must remain strictly professional. While the office demands results, when everybody leaves, they want to have fun and relax.”

3. Go Out To Lunch

If you’re anything like me, your lunch time is probably one of the most sacred parts of your day. A time where you can relax and take a real break from whatever chaos is happening in the office. However, singling yourself out during lunch can keep you from building relationships with your co-workers.

If you’re too young for the happy hours, Hershberger suggests grabbing a bite to eat with your co-workers during lunch. This way, you can still have fun without breaking any networking no-nos.

“It’s the small opportunities like these that allow us to connect with our co-workers on a more friendly level,” he said.

4. Grab Some Coffee

Another great way to nurture your network is to invite your co-workers out for some coffee. If you work in an office setting, chances are a lot of your co-workers drink coffee. Why not do something new for a change and ask one of your co-workers out for coffee either after work or during your breaks?

“Focus on building relationships with these people outside of work and the title of networking turns more toward the idea of friendships,” said Herschberger.

5. Use Social Media

Our increasing digital technologies have made it possible for us to reach people in all areas of the world. If you’re attempting to start building relationships virtually, Herschberger suggests using social media tools to get to know your contacts better.

“I like to assume that an eventual real-life meet up is inevitable, as fun activities for virtual networkers is a bit more difficult, he said. “With things like Twitter chats and Google Hangouts, it becomes much easier to connect with people. I really enjoy Google Hangouts for putting a face with a handle or online profile.”

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