Dear Matt: Many people I know found their jobs through networking. I really don't have a lot of contacts in my industry. How do people go about finding jobs using referrals and how do they network to find job leads? It used to be that networking meant going to after work industry socials. Has this changed and what methods of networking or referrals are people now using?

Matt: Like the job search, networking has certainly changed. I agree with Ryan Evers, division director of Accountemps in Bloomington, who says that joining professional organizations within your field is still a great way to make contacts. Most of these organizations have websites that list meetings or events, and also an online community of resources to tap for a wealth of information that can help you in both current and future positions. This is a good way to develop and start building relationships. But this is just a start - new online tools have greatly expanded networking capabilities and becoming familiar with them is key. In the past year Katie Carty Tierney, the talent acquisition manager for nGenera, a software company specializing in on-demand business innovation, says 70 percent of her firm's hires came through networking and referrals - only 7.5 percent came through traditional methods (such as an online ad, for example).

Networking is essential for finding a new opportunity that meets your personal and professional needs says Carty Tierney. To build your network and expand your contacts try these now popular methods:

If you're not on LinkedIn, Facebook and Plaxo - join right now. These tools make it easy to reach out to people you know. Once you're connected, you can ask for introductions to other professionals who can help you uncover new opportunities.

Use Twitter to find people who are discussing items of interest to your career (, follow them on Twitter, and then work to develop a relationship through Twitter.

Join an online social network tailored to your profession. For example, if you're a recruiter, join the Minnesota Recruiters network ( and start reaching out to other members.

These methods provide access to industry professionals throughout the country. Use these new online tools to your advantage - but remember, it's a two-way street. Be willing to provide information and be a resource to your contacts as well. Don't expect them to help you if you won't do the same. Networking is about relationship building - not a short-term, quick solution.

Matt Krumrie is a freelance writer from Inver Grove Heights, and has nine years of experience reporting on the employment industry. This column will answer readers' questions. E-mail questions or subject ideas to