I came across a great post on Liz Lynch's The Stealth Networker Blog about some of the issues active job seekers sometimes face when networking. Liz reminds us that the time to start networking is way before you are in a job search. People who only start networking when they are in need of contacts and help often lack the authenticity that is so critical to building a viable network. Job seekers often get frustrated with the concept of networking because as Dan Williams says in his book, Tales From the Networking Community, "networking is a process, not an event." Job seekers expect immediate results (often because they need to pay immediate bills) and may give up on networking if they don't quickly get some bites.
Every encounter with another person is a potential networking opportunity. Network to build relationships, not to get a job. Get in the mindset of giving more than you get, connecting people without being asked, actively seeking new affinity groups, exploring on line social networks, blogging, joining professional associations, volunteering, and reconnecting with old friends and colleagues. By doing so, you will build your network steadily over time and will be recognized as a trustworthy and credible connection who is genuinely interested in the well-being of the people in your network. Once this is accomplished, you will reap the benefits of being top of mind with others in your network when you are in need of advice, help, support, and yes, even a job lead.