If you're unhappy with your current career or job, or you're out of work and looking, I can't stress enough how important it is to network. But networking isn't just about contacting people. You want your contacts to be impressed with you. Here are some ideas to help increase the impact of your networking program (or, if you're feeling tapped out, revitalize one that has flagged):
1) If you don't have one already, create a website.
Contacts that you make as you network, and of course potential employers with whom you're interacting, are likely to Google you. Having an attractive professional-looking website allows you to present yourself in the most positive way by showcasing your qualifications in a carefully constructed, integrated narrative. But having a rambling, sloppy, or boring website can be the kiss of death to a job prospect. Few people have the combination of expertise in graphic design, technology, and messaging required, so I advise most of my career coaching clients to invest the $500 - $1000 necessary to pay a professional to craft an appealing website.
2) Start A blog.
Blogging is an excellent way to demonstrate to a contact or a potential employer your commitment to, and knowledge of, a field. However, if you're considering starting a blog, be sure that you are willing to devote the time to regularly creating content - posting monthly at the very least, ideally weekly (or, for the ambitious and prolific, even daily). If you're worried about developing enough content for the blog, put your mind at ease: researching a topic on the internet will yield plenty. WordPress is the most popular blog program, but there are a number of other good ones (BlogSpot, for example, hosts Google's official blog). Googling "How to Create a Blog" will yield dozens of tutorials that will simplify the process. http://wordpress.com ; http://blogspot.com
3) Volunteer strategically.
Volunteering is a great way to keep yourself feeling productive, maintain or enhance your skills, and expanding your network. So, in seeking opportunities, be sure to take into account not just your interests, but the possibilities that volunteering can create for productive networking. For example, you might want to consider volunteering for a professional association in your field. Or, if you have a company you're particularly interested in, you might investigate whether they support any causes and, if so, volunteering for one of them. The idea is to put yourself in a position that will allow you to more easily connect with influential people in the field you're looking to work in. Also, investigate temporary opportunities (both paid and unpaid). Demonstrating excellence as a volunteer or temporary employee will generate the kind of buzz that can ultimately lead to a job.
4) Make use of TED
As its website says, TED is a small nonprofit devoted to "Ideas Worth Spreading". It hosts an annual conference, but there are also numerous individual presentations given throughout the year by people (often famous people) passionate about a particular idea. Many of these presentatioins (over 700) can be found on YouTube. At the very least you will be inspired or learn something new by listening to these "Ted Talks". You may also be able to connect with one of the presenters by engaging with them on-line. Some of my clients have had surprisingly good luck getting connected with TED speakers by e-mailing or writing them a provocative question or suggestion. www.ted.com/
5) Give a presentation
This is an idea that creates a lot of anxiety in my clients, but if you don't suffer from severe stage fright it can pay off. Even if you're at the entry level you can develop a presentation on a subject of interest to potential employers. There are many organizations (chambers of commerce, Rotary clubs, civic or neighborhood associations, church or synagogue groups) that are looking for ways to fill their meeting times. You never know who will be in the audience who will turn out to be a networking bonanza, and even if you don't uncover a connection the first time you make a presentation, the mere act of developing and presenting on your topic can enhance your knowledge and self-confidence.