When it comes to new networking, think of an onion. Like the aromatic onion, your networking strategy works best when you peel back a layer at a time. When you network effectively, you ‘peel back’ layers and layers of people to get to the heart of what you’re looking for – if you stop at the first layer, you may not get what you need.

With that brilliant analogy, I will assume that you’ve already peeled back the first layer of your job search onion and that your friends and family already know what kind of job you are looking for because you’ve told them. However, unless one of them has pulled a nifty job out of a hat for you, it’s time to move on to the next layer. In other words, think of layers of circles of people with whom you’d like to connect. Your layer system might look like this:

Layer 1: Contact friends, family.(and their friends)
Layer 2: Reach out to alumni from undergraduate, MBA programs. (and their friends)
Layer 3: Contact referrals from professors on campus.(and their friends)
And so on…

Words to live by: You may spend several days, weeks, even months ‘working the layers.’ The fact is, people are busy, and we simply aren’t their first priority. Don’t take this personally or feel bad when your calls don’t get returned or people don’t get back to you. It happens to the best of us!

But don’t wait around for people to call you back. Remember, most of us have to pull back multiple layers in order to land opportunities – you may have to peel back more layers than you think, since onions tend to be big in tough economies. By working from a ‘layer’ system, you’ll (hopefully) be in the position of never having to make a cold call. Some of your calls may be lukewarm, but you’ll always have a connection between you and the person you’re reaching out to.

Author's Bio: 

Elizabeth Freedman is an expert in career and workplace issues. She is the author of Work 101: Learning the Ropes of the Workplace without Hanging Yourself and The MBA Student’s Job-Seeking Bible, and was a 2005 finalist for College Speaker of the Year, awarded by the Association for the Promotion of Campus Activities. Elizabeth runs a Boston-based career-development and coaching firm; clients include PricewaterhouseCoopers, Thomson Reuters and The Gillette Company. To bring Elizabeth to your next association event or workplace meeting, please visit http://www.elizabethfreedman.com.