When it comes to networking, there are the usual tactics: reaching out to college alumni, tapping your Rolodex and chatting up industry contacts at cocktail events. But they will only get you so far if you're looking for a job. Today's job seekers need to be creative to stand out among a growing pool of unemployed professionals. If you've already attended every conference in your field and cold called all your old college buddies, here are some ideas: Join an after-work sports team: Sports leagues are good places to meet like-minded professionals. For example, there's a softball league for people in the media industry and the Landau Lawyers League in Los Angeles has been organizing basketball, softball and volleyball leagues for more than 40 years. Playing in a league is a fun, casual way to get to know others in your field. Organize an urban hike: Invite current and former colleagues to join you on an interesting tour in your city. Choose a theme that's conducive to socializing, such as a walking tour of historic homes in your neighborhood. Keep the pace slow so participants can chat. Wrap up the tour at a restaurant or bar to keep the conversations going. Give speeches: If public speaking doesn't give you the shivers, contact a local networking group or trade association and offer to give a 15- to 20-minute speech on your area of expertise. Maybe you could talk about creative accounting strategies or lead a discussion on international trade agreements. Regardless of the topic, public speaking shows leadership and positions you as an expert, which could help raise your profile.
Go online: Social networking Web sites have become a routine part of job searching. But most Facebook and LinkedIn users only scratch the surface of those sites' potential. Instead of mindlessly adding acquaintances to your list, search for professional organizations and related groups you could join. These groups might hold events that offer excellent networking opportunities. Start a blog: Blogs can help you show off your expertise and get your name out to potential employers. Put the link to your blog on your business card and resume, and make sure to post updates frequently. Write about what's going on in your industry or draw on your professional experience to offer readers news and advice. Boost readership by letting people know when you've posted new material, and link to other blogs covering similar topics. Blogs are easy to launch and free to maintain through a number of sites such as Blogger and TypePad. Look in unusual places: The most unconventional situations can present networking opportunities, says Hal Flantzer, president of Professional Career Recourses, a New York-based career counseling firm. Maybe you'll land a great lead at your child's soccer game or make a professional connection on a weekend hiking trip. Flantzer says one of his clients recently landed a job lead while sitting in a dentist's chair. "Networking can happen anywhere," he says.