Developing your networking skills can help put a job at your fingertips.

Sending out dozens of electronic and paper resumes seems useful, but networking for jobs through your social and professional contacts is often the fastest route to employment.

Once you start your job search, enlist your network to help spread the word. You never know who might pass the message to someone that needs a new employee! Start networking for jobs through these 5 key communities:

1. Family and Friends

A great place to start networking for jobs is at home with your family and neighbors. Let them know that you’re beginning your job search and mention your desired field, past experience and desired location if you know it.

Your family and friends are great networking contacts because they already care about you and want you to succeed. Plus, they will probably know best the types of opportunities that might interest you as you start networking to find a job.

2. Professors and Advisers

Especially if you’re interested in a job related to your area of study, your professors and academic advisers can be extremely useful networking contacts. They’ll be able to put you in touch with people in many related areas – not just those in academia – to help find your first job after college.

Talk to your professors about your intended career path, or brainstorm together possible professional fields that are related to your subject. Your professor will know your skills and be able to give you some people to start networking with – and might even become a resume reference for you in your job search.

3. Your School’s Alumni Network

Your college or university has a keen interest in keeping their graduates employed, and it has many services to help those networking for jobs.

Colleges often maintain an alumni networking site that allows you to search for past graduates by location and professional field. Look for a few graduates that have jobs you might enjoy, and ask to meet them and discuss the profession.

Your college might also offer job networking events or career fairs. Ask your career services center about upcoming events at your school to help you start networking for jobs.

4. Past Activities, Internships and Jobs

Your past bosses, coaches and coworkers are perfectly positioned to help you network and find a job in your area of interest. It might be that there’s a job opening in their own company, and your prior experience within the business can be a huge asset!

But even if they aren’t hiring at the moment, many of the contacts in their network will be in the same profession and will be interested in the same things you are. Plus, staying in touch with past employers will help them keep you in mind when there is a future opening in the company.

5. Networking Events in Your Area

If you’ve narrowed down a location you’re interested in looking for jobs, there are many networking opportunities that focus on connecting job seekers within a specific region.

Most cities have networking events that are free or cost a small entrance fee, and some cater only to young professionals and recent graduates. Because people at these events are attending specifically to network and find jobs, you can leave all shyness at the door and bring a bunch of business cards.

Tips to Start Networking for Jobs:

  • Keep resumes and business cards on hand at all times. If you have them, these important networking aids could help introduce you to someone looking to hire. If you’re a recent college graduate or a graduating senior, have an up-to-date resume with you.
  • Ask for information, not for a job. Asking your networking connections for a job right away can appear pushy and make people less willing to help. Suggest meeting to talk about the industry and your contact’s experience in the field. You might learn some useful tips, and your contact will be more inclined to give you tips for getting a job interview.
  • Follow up. Keep your networking contacts informed on the status of your job search every month or so, even if you haven’t heard from them lately. Your message could jog their memory about an opportunity that is right for you.
  • Know what you’re looking for when you’re networking for jobs. Be prepared to describe yourself and your career goals in a networking meeting. If you know what you want, it’s easier for your networking contacts to help you find a job.