Ask around… how did most of your friends or family find their current job? Was it through a job site post? Or, did they have a connection that helped open a door? Odds are, networking played a large role.

Networking is making contact with people you know, and strengthening those relationships. Does everyone in your circle know you are looking for a job? They should! Here are some tips on how to organize your network and develop a strong networking plan.

  • People want to help! But only if they know how they can help you. Don’t make them guess – be sure to tell someone how they can help you in your job search. Be clear in what type of job you you looking for. Do they have a copy of your resume? And when someone does help, be sure to express your thanks and appreciation!
  • Have the right tools. Here are a few items you need to have ready before you network.
    • Resume and your personal and professional references
    • Online professional profile (think LinkedIn)
    • Elevator pitch
    • A list of people you know (friends, family, professors)
    • Social media (who are you following on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn)
    • A list of professional and social networking events you want to attend
  • Make a plan and do your homework. Once you’ve developed a list of who to network with, develop a list of companies you want to work for. Research these companies and connect with key employees or contacts on LinkedIn. Work on your elevator pitch and attend as many events as possible to meet with alumni or other professionals.
  • Know your networking approach. Should you meet with someone face-to-face, or online?
    • Face-to-face networking: If you’re networking with friends, neighbors or family, in person is a good approach. Set up 30 minutes and invite them to a cup of coffee. Have an agenda and bring your list of target companies, along with your resume. Remember to not push for a job – but instead push for connections.
    • Online networking: Remember the goal of online networking – you’re trying to get a face-to-face meeting. Personalize any requests – when possible, send a note along with a connection request on LinkedIn. Don’t use stock messages like “I’d like to add you to my professional network.” Write a quick note to your connection, then a separate note that you’d like to meet. If you haven’t heard from the connection, send a reminder note in about 10 days. It’s also helpful to join groups that can connect you – for example, if your degree is in business, join business or industry-specific groups on LinkedIn and Facebook.

When you are reaching out to contacts, don’t leave anyone out. That one person you decide to skip may be the one to connect you to a great opportunity.

Remember, you only need one job – and that one connection could be the key to finding it!