Networking is usually the best way to find a job. But growing a network takes time so you want to build it before you need it. Here’s how to start growing your job search network today.

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Employed or not, spend at least 30 minutes per day actively reinforcing your brand and growing your network through the activities listed below.

37 ways to grow your network online and offline

To excel at networking, the key question to ask is not “what can you do for me?” but rather “what can I do for you?” The more you give to your network, the more you can get from it.

1. Get an easy-to-remember email address. A good format is firstname.lastname@webmail.com where “webmail” is Gmail, Yahoo Mail, etc. Use this address for job search/work purposes only.

2. Choose your personal tagline. Find a 3-4 word phrase that relates to who you are professionally and puts you in a positive light. You want people to think that phrase when they hear your name, and everything you do work-wise should match your tagline. Use it in your email signature and begin by saying it when people ask what you do.

3. Prepare an elevator pitch. In 30 seconds you need to be able to describe who you are and which problems your expertise can solve. Practice until it comes naturally. Tweak as you go, judging by listener response.

4. Build an impressive web profile. A recommendation-filled LinkedIn profile with the right LinkedIn Applications can show off your accomplishments, successes and elevator pitch. LinkedIn will also give you an easy-to-remember url to put in your email signature, on your resume and business cards, encouraging people to connect with you. Use your personal tagline and easy-to-remember email address.

5. Become a LiON, a LinkedIn Open Networker. This is a quick way to grow your number of LinkedIn connections to the top level of “500+” but the looseness of these connections means you shouldn’t expect much from them. Still, all it takes is one good connection for this to be worthwhile.

6. Be active on LinkedIn Answers and LinkedIn Groups related to your profession, responding to questions and drawing other LinkedIn users to connect to you.

7. Sign up to Twitter. Take a few moments to flesh out your profile, putting your personal tagline in the Bio box and customizing the background image. Use TweetLater to automatically follow back any people who follow you, then search for people to add to your network. Once your network has grown a bit, use Twubble to find more people to follow from among your followers’ favorites. Setup a separate account for personal use.

8. Create a Facebook Page. Use Facebook for more than staying in touch with friends and family. Separately from your personal profile, use a Facebook Page to promote yourself professionally,  giving Facebook users a place to follow you as an expert in your field.

9. Carry business cards with your personal tagline and contact information to give out to potential business contacts. Try to always leave a note on the back before handing over your card, for example, to write where you met.

10. Ask for referrals when handing over business cards. People are more likely to respond to this than if you ask about open positions in their company. Give them extra cards if they have any potential referrals.

11. Use calling cards for non-business occasions. They’re like a business card, but with personal information. I haven’t tried this yet but I like the idea. The novelty aspect alone will leave a good impression.

12.  Join real-world business networks and chambers of commerce. You want people in your industry to notice you. Find local networks by googling “business network” and the name of your city.

13. Join general purpose business social networks. Besides LinkedIn, there are other networks like Xing and ZoomInfo. Use the one that is most popular in your industry.

14. Join industry-specific social networks. In many cases, these are business social networks created on the Ning platform. Use Ning’s search to find relevant networks or start a Ning network yourself.

15. Start blogging about your profession. As a super virtual resume, blogging is a terrific way to not only grow your network and show your expertise but also to attract job offers.

16. Follow industry blogs of different size readership. Subscribe and comment on them so that their bloggers discover and interact with you, especially if you have your own blog too. It’s better to get a lot of attention from 10 small blogs than no attention on 2 big ones.

17. Participate in industry discussion forums and mailing lists. Become the expert that people want to hear from on the topics you specialize in.

18. Become a member of professional associations. Every market has a group of people who are creating the standards and organizing member professionals. Being part of such groups can net you recognition from across the industry.

19. Create an industry newsletter for an industry niche that doesn’t have one. Or, you could become a contributor to an existing newsletter, but only if there’s a clear way for your network to profit such as via a link or email address in the byline.

20. Go to industry conferences, and make time to meet people and exchange business cards. Also great is to use conferences to finally see people face-to-face after having met online.

21. Attend local (speed) networking events. Have lots of business cards with you and a polished elevator pitch.

22. Organize informal industry events like launch parties or anniversaries. If you choose the right type of event and promote it well, the success will carry over to your personal network and people will want you to do it all again so that they can bring along other contacts who missed out.

23. Bring friends along. You can network in parallel and compare notes, opening doors for each other.

24. Join a job search support club. Also called job clubs or job search clubs or groups. Network with like-minded people.

25. Volunteer. Meeting new people is one of the best reasons why job seekers should volunteer. If there aren’t many opportunities locally through e.g. religious institutions, find them online using a site like Idealist.org.

26. Join a gym. A great place to network with people from across different industries and positions, there are also many other reasons to be exercising regularly.

27. Get a career and/or job search coach. Among the many benefits, the coach will be able to guide you to other ways to grow your network.

28. Find a mentor or mentoring community. You want people who have achieved your goals and can help you achieve similar success. Take your mentor out for lunch and pick their brain.

29. Do information interviews. This is a great way to get your foot in the door, and you’d be surprised how often in can lead to a job, even in a different department or company.

30. Email friends and family and ask them to put you in contact with anyone that can help your job search.

31. Talk to people you see regularly. Neighbors, parents at your kids’ school, taxi drivers. Cast your net as wide as possible.

32. Offer a cash bounty when you email your personal contacts. They’ll be willing to help you for free, but encourage them to forward your email to their own contacts for whom the cash will be a big motivator.

33. Join an alumni jobs network. Placing alumni in jobs is usually a major goal of  university and college alumni networks but also military reserves associations.

34. Nudge people in your network from time to time. A simple “any way I can help?” is a great way to stay in touch and not be forgotten.

35. Keep track of your contacts’ needs. Then, fill those needs whenever you can. The more you give, the more you’ll get. Here are another 9 ways to keep value in your network relationships (lower half of the article).

36. Always follow-up. Whether to confirm a referral or send over a link to an article you discussed, find a good reason to follow up with new contacts before they forget about you, which is usually within 24-48 hours.

37. Use thank you notes. Always take the time necessary to appreciate the people in your network. Just because people are happy to help doesn’t mean you should take their help for granted. Snail mail will make your note stand out even more.

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Conclusion

Like a tree, a network requires caring and time to branch out to its full potential. The more you invest in your network, the more you’ll get out of it. Even if you can only afford a few minutes per day, start growing your network as soon as you can and continue nurturing it until you need its fruits.

If you liked this article, you’ll enjoy 8 Creative Ways to Use Social Media for Your Job Search.

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--Jacob Share