If you're one of the millions of Americans who lost a job in 2009, you've probably started networking.
You're attending conferences, sending resumes and calling friends of friends.
Perhaps you've discovered that networking has changed since the last time you job-hunted.
While old-fashioned techniques still work, a new wave of high- and low-tech strategies has emerged. Outreach activities now include raising your online profile, volunteering your time and expertise to a worthy cause and attending informal gatherings where socializing supplants business talk.
The most successful networkers seek gainful employment with laserlike focus. They research what they want and whom they want to meet. Then they target their efforts to pursue what matters most to them.
"You need to have a clear, specific message," said Michael Melcher, a partner at Next Step Partners, a leadership development firm in New York City.
If you say "I'm looking for work," you won't stand out.
If you say "My background is in property-casualty underwriting, and I'm exploring risk-management opportunities in the insurance industry," you sound more credible and make it easier for others to help.
On The Line
As you ramp up your networking in 2010, monitor your online presence. Soon after you introduce yourself to strangers, expect them to type your name into a search engine to learn more about you.
"As much as possible, you want to control what someone finds out about you online," said Heidi Roizen, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who recently spoke to students at the Stanford Graduate School of Business about networking. "Google your name so that you understand what's out there. Correct inaccuracies, update your bio and remove anything that's potentially embarrassing."
Better, establish your own Web site. This lets you assemble all relevant information in one place. Post your resume, highlight your feats and describe your activities, presentations and media appearances.
"Creating your Web site makes you do some hard thinking about what you want people to see and how you want to present yourself," Roizen said. "It's also an easy way for people to find what they need to know about you."
In terms of social networking Web sites, many experts suggest that job seekers create a profile at LinkedIn as a starting point to connect with other professionals. Selectively expand your network and update your status regularly.
Among the newest types of online networking tools are Web sites that identify members' whereabouts in real time. This can help you connect face to face with someone if you're stuck on the same train or running errands a block away from each other.
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