One of the most essential tools for job seekers is LinkedIn. My buddy Kreblog wrote an excellent post about it (click here). I'm here to tell you it actually works. I've had two situations in the past few weeks where people have used LinkedIn contacts to commuicate with a person at a company they were targeting, in both cases with two people in between them and the contact. In the first case, I was the first one in the middle. An associate I met at my outplacement wanted to get a message to a woman who was a connection of a connection of mine. LinkedIn produces a nice graphical view of the chain so you know whose in it and which link you are. I emailed (via LinkedIn) my contact asking him to forward the message to his contact, vouching for my associate. He did this and they connected.
In the second case, I was the second one in the middle. A woman I had linked with from my outplacement (a career counselor who taught a course on LinkedIn) forwarded me a message from a contact of hers to reach a contact of mine. I framed my message appropriately and passed it on. Very easy and all done through the service.
Finally, yesterday I used LinkedIn to research a person with whom I was going to have a phone interview. I found that two of my connections were directly connected to the interviewer. I emailed them both asking for information, and one of my connections turned out to know him very well. He gave me permission to name drop and during the course of the interview, I did so. It was like getting a seal of approval. I'm sure it doesn't always work out this way, but it was very helpful in this case.
It's not dating, but it is a great way to build and maintain relationships. I encourage even people who are not job seekers to sign up. Why not build your network now, before it becomes essential? We used to have to do this stuff on the phone, which is hit or miss. LinkIn now, babeee.