You’ve always known that networking is a necessary part of any career path, and it’s even more important when you’re searching for a job. But you don’t want to waste your time and effort on meaningful contact with everyone you know or come across in your search, because you don't want to apply for just any company with a job opening. For your best results, you want to focus your efforts on a few individuals at a few great companies. It’s a precision strategy to land the job you really want.

How to find the best people to contact

The best place for you to find the specific people you need is on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is, hands down, the best online resource for job seekers. Search for company pages, find the relevant managers at those companies, search their individual pages on LinkedIn, and see what they’re up to. Find the groups that those people participate in, and participate yourself. Provide valuable content a couple of times a week so that they get to know your name—and feel like they know you.

What do I mean by content?

• Great books you’ve read
• Conferences you’ve attended (or are coming up)
• Blogs or websites you’ve found
• Some relevant information/resource that can help them solve their problems (Put yourself in their shoes and think “if I were in that spot, what would I be interested in seeing?”)

How to communicate so that you steer your networking efforts in the right direction

After you’ve posted within the group for a few weeks, then you can contact the individuals you’re interested in, using LinkedIn, and ask if they would be interested in staying in touch with you on LinkedIn. Connect with them and build them into your network. Maybe find them on Twitter. Your goal is to interact with them in a social way, and then at some point, you can say, “Hey, I’m really interested in your company. I understand that you occasionally hire people like me, and I would love a chance to pick your brain about that.” Most people will agree to meet you, especially if you offer to buy them a cup of coffee (or even lunch).

How focused networking can get you referred into your next job

Here’s the best part: if you’ve done your job and laid the groundwork for a good networking relationship, it’s entirely possible that if they don’t have a job to offer you, they’ll know someone who will—and you’ll get referred into your next job.

Author's Bio: 

Peggy McKee has over 15 years of experience in sales, sales management, sales recruiting, and career coaching. Her website, Career Confidential (http://www.career-confidential.com) is packed with job-landing tips and advice as well as the practical, powerful, innovative tools every job seeker needs to be successful.

Craig Fisher of A-List Solutions, (http://www.alistsolutions.com/) a recruiting firm specializing in placing management and technology professionals, collaborated with Peggy McKee on this article.