Whether you are just beginning your job search, looking to expand upon your existing network, or are somewhere in between, you know how difficult it can be to find new people to connect with professionally.

A few months ago when I first started looking for jobs, I felt completely lost. I knew what kind of job I wanted and where I wanted it to be located, but I couldn’t seem to find many people that were able to help.

As the weeks progressed, I started to notice that the problem was not a lack of people who were able to help me, but it was that I was thinking too literally about whom to network with. I believed that the only people who could understand my professional goals would be those who worked in the exact position I was looking to enter into.

When you think too narrow-mindedly about who can help you in your job search, the chances of you finding people to talk with becomes smaller. When job hunting, anyone can be considered a potential professional contact.

Most of the professionals in my network were not found in a traditional way. In fact, I can only think of a few who I met that way! Instead, I have found contacts in places and situations I never thought possible. Below are a few different places to network that might not come to mind right away:

  • Twitter. Without a doubt, Twitter has been the number one place where I have found professionals to network with. Through my own blog posts, sharing and commenting on others’ blog posts, weekly Twitter chats and more, I have found hundreds of people in my field who are more than willing to help with my job search. If you’re a job seeker in today’s social media driven world and you’re not on Twitter, you’re probably not making as many connections as you could be.
  • Family and Friend Connections. Pretty much everyone I know is aware that I am looking for a job. This isn’t because I’m friends with them on Facebook or because my mom calls them each week to fill them in on my life. It’s because I have personally told them and asked for their help and guidance. I’ve made a lot of connections through crazy family connections and friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend situations. These types of networking contacts are great because the person you ultimately connect with trusts you off the bat since someone they are close with has referred you to them.
  • Cold Calling. Creating these types of connections takes a lot of guts, but in the end they can become some of your strongest contacts. It’s easy: find a company you’re interested in and email the person in your desired position and ask to speak with them for an informational interview. I’ve used this method a few times, and every time the person has been so friendly and willing to help me in my search. Best of all, many of them have sent me a list of other people to contact. Since the person sees how dedicated you are to your search and that you weren’t afraid to seek them out, they feel comfortable enough to refer you to those in their own professional contacts.

You see, dear job seeker, networking doesn’t happen in cookie-cutter ways anymore. Instead, you must always stay on your toes and take any chance you can get. Everyone you meet has the potential to be a networking contact—you just need to be unafraid to make the connection!

What are some other non-traditional networking tactics you’ve used in your job search?

Emily Hankinson is a senior at the University of Pittsburgh where she majors in Communications and is working toward a certificate in Public and Professional Writing. She also served as the PR and Social Media Coordinator for her service sorority, Gamma Sigma Sigma. Emily Tweets regularly and blogs.


Resume image courtesy of Michael Nutt