Updated: Dec 20, 2019
Not long ago, a former colleague asked me for a favor for his boss. I immediately said, yes. A few months later, when I was job hunting, I reached out to him, and there happened to be an open position at his company that was a good match for me. He went out of his way to facilitate and I ended up getting the job.
There's an old joke that there are three critical factors to a successful (brick and mortar) business: Location location, location! Well, I'm pretty comfortable saying that networking is the most important thing you can do to lay the foundation for finding a job. This holds true your first job or if you're a seasoned veteran.
Two types of networking will help you. Social networking, mostly via LinkedIn, and real-world networking where you're meeting people in person.
For in-person networking, here's an excellent video on how to do it from a former colleague of mine, Liz Wolf. For LinkedIn networking, there are three things you can do today to increase your networking opportunities.
1. Connect to every business person you meet. If you network in person, try to connect on LinkedIn with every person you spoke with. While interviewing with a company, I would not try to connect via LinkedIn until after the interview process has completed. After that, it is fair game to reach out. I would not refer back to the interview process or otherwise stalk them. Just try to make a connection for the future. Another opportunity could come along for which they think you're the perfect candidate, even if you didn't get the job you interviewed for.
2. Reach out to connections on LinkedIn via personal message and let them know that you're in job search mode. Mention that if they have any suggestions for anyone you can speak, you would greatly appreciate it. Use as few words as possible.
3. Do favors for people. As much as you can, whatever you have to offer, if someone asks for help, try your best to help them. If you see a connection where two people you know might be able to help one another, try to facilitate.