By Dino Londis

You've heard of speed dating:  Single people meet as many people as possible in a round robin looking for a partner. Well imagine you've just got a two week notice and you don't have a network of people to help find a new job. You need to build one fast. With social networking sites, fresh desperation, and some imagination you can quickly build a list of useful contacts by meeting as many people that can help you as possible in a very short time.

Why Don't You Have a Network?

You've obviously neglected networking for a reason. You may think you are not a people person, that you're strictly tech junkie.Well you are a people person because you are a person.You're one of us and you need to get over the idea that you can't do this. Just jump in. Like anything else, it gets easier the second and third time.

Before You Start

As always, define your goals so you can quickly communicate them to your new contacts in a slug line. Of course your goal is a job, but are you willing to relocate, take a thirty percent pay cut, work nights, temp, or commute two hours? Answer these questions before you begin so you can deliver it into the tiny slice of time that a newly networked person will give you.

Getting Started

Create a visual representation of your network. Using a graphics program such as Visio, draw a circle in the center and put your name in it. Draw spokes out to other circles. Those are your immediate contacts, such as colleagues, supervisors, previous employers and recruiters. Personally I prefer a poster board mounted to the wall and a pen. The chart is for a broad overview. Write the specifics in a spreadsheet where you will include as much detail as possible: Who referred, date of contact, what the conversation was about, general impression, when to contact again, etc. You will deal with so many people in such a short time; you will need this level of detail to remember it all. Google these referrals for blogs, a tweets, and Web sites. The more engaged a person is the more likely he has some useful contacts. As you draw your network, you may discover some common interests with that person, or some cross references and mutual friends. You're tapping into others' networks with their permission.

Now take your contacts' contacts and continue to build out from there. Don't be afraid to reach out. Some spokes will terminate, while others will intersect.

Tread Carefully

Don't fool yourself into thinking you're productive when you are just e-mailing strangers. Building a faux network of who-knows-who does you no good: Pick up the phone, send follow up with e-mails, and thank-you notes. The true art of networking is being personable.

You must be forthright in this entire effort. You'll need full permission to use someone as a reference. Any kind of impropriety such as claiming to know someone who you only discovered through a search and the whole effort will implode. Ironically, because you are building a network and the entire thing is linked, one bad move will ripple throughout that net and your name is mud overnight. 

Don't be aggressive, or appear desperate. You have very little collateral with these new people in your network and they must always feel that they have an easy out.

A New Paradigm

This technique of rapid networking really works and can be employed elsewhere. A few years ago I relocated my life from L.A. to New York using this technique. As well as using recruiters and a handful of contacts from friends, I was also able to tap a whole new pool of professions when I was house hunting.  The four month process yielded an instant network that I stepped into when I moved East. And this was before social networking sites reach ubiquity.

Now That You Have Your Network, Maintain It

Thank-You notes are a must. Do not use online cards or buy them a digital cupcake. Use real honest-to-goodness paper notes that thank them in a personalized way. Today a note stands out as much as an e-mail did fifteen years ago. Going forward, note everyone you meet and add them to your contacts.Pay it back by proactively helping people in need. Connect jobs with people. Offer to help on resumes. Build a favor bank while times are good. It's just also the right thing to do.

Dino Londis is an applications management engineer in New York.