In the digital age, most people looking for a new job are tempted to go straight to the internet to find job openings, but the fact is that’s not the best way to find a job. To start with, when you apply online, you’re competing with hundreds, if not thousands, of other applicants who are all looking to fill that one position, so your chances of getting noticed are drastically reduced. Second, posting the opening online is not necessarily the first thing an employer does when looking for someone to fill a particular position.

Despite the many advances in technology we have been enjoying, much of our society is still built on personal relationships, including the office. That means people tend to talk about new openings with their friends and coworkers even before they become available, so if the first step in your job-hunting plan is to browse online, you’re already behind.

That can sound pretty fatalistic if you don’t happen to be in the clique, but there are ways in which you can expand and strengthen your network so you’ll be more likely to be the first to hear about the opening for a new job that would be perfect for you.

1) Be proactive

Don’t wait for them to come to you, because chances are they won’t. You have to be the one to get out there and make sure people know your name. Your local chamber of commerce is a great place to start, as are conferences, business meetups and trade shows.

2) Take full advantage of opportunities

Joining your chamber of commerce or a meetup group is certainly an accomplishment, but you can’t stop there. Once you get your membership, you have to actually go to the meetings. If your chamber is an active one, go to as many events as you can. If it only does events on rare occasions, double up on your networks and join another group that meets more frequently. You should still attend chamber events, but this way you have more opportunities to network, and you can expand and diversify your professional network.

3) Prepare an elevator speech

This is your 30-second pitch to tell someone exactly what you do in the span of an elevator ride. If you work in customer service, you can expand on that and tell them what your specialties are but avoid going into so much detail they start going cross eyed. If they ask you to elaborate, then feel free to do so, but you should always have a quick elevator speech ready to go so you can tell anyone who asks exactly what it is you do. The more ways you can find to differentiate yourself from others who do similar jobs, the better.

4) Make sure to include social media

Nothing can replace face-to-face interactions, but using social media wisely can be a great way to maintain relationships with people you’ve met in person. It’s also an online place where people tend to discuss job opportunities in a slightly less formal setting. Just remember to keep all your social media accounts professional. If it’s not something you would want a potential employer to see, don’t post it.

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