If you've exhausted your efforts to find people or need to start from scratch, professional associations are a good place to begin. Associations give you access to other professionals who may work for or have contacts within companies you want to work with. Finding a local chapter is as easy as plugging your industry and the word "association" or "society" into a search engine, says Laura Hill, a career coach with The Five O'Clock Club in New York.
Once you find the association, join up and look for events the local chapters are holding. It's an opportunity to network with people who will speak your industry language.
If you've been in a more senior executive position, consider volunteering to speak at industry and trade conferences or offer to serve on committees for professional associations, says Ms. Seidman. Volunteering to work at professional events like speaking occasions, luncheons and networking affairs are also great ways to meet people, says Ms. Hill.
Back to School
Alumni associations can also be helpful. In wake of the financial crisis, many colleges are ramping up their alumni services and even holding career fairs and networking events for alumni, says Ms. Lynch. Contact your alma mater's alumni-relations office to get access to their online database. Once there, you can search for old friends by name or class, or search for alumni at different companies or industries you are interested in working in, says Ms. Hill.
Informal networking can also help. If you find yourself standing in line at the bank or grocery store, strike up a conversation with the person behind you, says Susan Guarneri, a career coach based in Three Lakes, Wis. "You should network with everyone you meet because you don't know who they know," says Ms. Guarneri, who once got a job after receiving a tip from her exterminator.
And remember, networking is a give-and-take experience. Figure out what you can offer -- whether it be a contact, a lunch or a favor. "It gives the signal that you're in it for the two of you," says Ms. Lynch.
By DANA MATTIOLI