One of the easiest and most successful ways to increase professional opportunities is through networking.  Networking is making connections with people who can help you or whom you can help in the future.  Think of it as a means of building relationships.

While you are looking for a new career opportunity, that process becomes your full-time job until you have “landed”.  What I mean by this is every day make a plan to attend a networking event, sign up for a free forum or discussion board membership and email or call everyone you have ever worked with including peers, sub-ordinates and managers and schedule a lunch appointment or a coffee meeting.   Try to limit networking with other unemployed people because they are not likely to be in a position to help you.

Get your business cards ready and be sure to bring them with you to events. Create an email or forum signature to append to your online comments and be sure to include a link back to your website or other contact information.  Keep an eye on your local professional organizations for events in your area. For virtual networking, check Yahoo! Groups for one that falls within your interests, and look around for forums or bulletin boards where you can share information with other users. And of course, don’t forget online networking leader LinkedIn.

Networking is not easy for many of us. It feels even more difficult once you are unemployed, because you may begin to feel like you have less to offer to the persons with whom you are networking.  The only answer here is to stay relevant.  Stay connected to your profession by reading, writing, and commenting on industry blogs and forums, and by remembering to ask your connections to walk you through the business problems they are currently facing.  See yourself as a current leader and subject matter expert, and others will too – irrespective of the paycheck (or lack thereof).