I can't emphasize enough how important it is for everyone to have a network and keep in contact with the people in it, but many people don't know how to do this well. Networks aren't something that you build by handing out business cards to everyone you meet. Networks are relationships. Not deep, BFF (best friends forever) relationships that are going to take all your time, but at least something that will ensure they remember who you are when you call. To avoid the inevitable panic that will accompany a job search in which you realize you have no one to go to for information, help, or support when you really need it, ALWAYS BE BUILDING YOUR NETWORK. However, having a resource like a good network will benefit you in good times, too.

No matter who you are, you already have current contacts. These aren't necessarily close relationships-acquaintances are fine. These are people who you have something in common with: you used to work with them, your spouse works with them, you went to school with them, you are/were in some kind of group with them...you get the idea. Make sure you have and maintain current e-mail addresses.

What do you do with your contacts?

1. Every 3-6 months, send a quick e-mail. You aren't asking anything of them, you're just saying "Hello." Your e-mail should say something like, "Hi, this is Peggy. It's been a long time since we've talked. I'm still at _______________, still doing _____________. If you need anything, please give me a call. Here are my phone numbers if you need to get in touch with me or give someone else my contact information if I can assist them." If you can (but you don't have to), offer something-an article you just read, some new industry info, something that might interest them personally. (No e-mail chain letters, please.) This will keep you in their minds so that when an opportunity DOES come up, they are likely to think of you.

2. Get more contacts. Sign up for LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or other social networks. Join specific groups, where you can get posted on current blog posts, or join conference calls where you can give or get information. You also need to be on those so that you can be found by recruiters who might have the perfect job for you. As you add contacts, add them to your e-mail routine.

3. When you leave a company, ask your boss if he will give you a positive reference. If he will, get a personal e-mail address, too. If he leaves the company, you'll still be able to get in touch with him when you need the reference.

4. Be honest with your network. Everyone has problems-we all know that. I'm not saying we need to hear all the sordid details, but being honest about issues you have or situations you're dealing with just might lead to an otherwise missed opportunity. We don't always think of someone who tells us "everything's fine," but we all like to help someone if we can.

For more information, go to http://phcconsulting.com/WordPress

Author's Bio: 

Peggy McKee is the owner and chief recruiter for PHC Consulting, a recruiting firm providing top sales talent, sales management, marketing and service / support personnel to some of the most prominent high growth companies in the medical and laboratory products industry for over 9 years!

We provide top talent (usually the top 10% of sales force rankings) and reduce turnover (through exceptional client knowledge and candidate screening) this in combination with our reputation for smoothly facilitating the hiring process makes us the search firm of choice in this arena.