We encourage you to think of networking as cultivating a community of people who have similar interests, passions and concerns. Networking is about reciprocal relationship and you should be thinking about how you can help someone just as much as how much they can help you.
The first step is to think about who you know and with whom you are connected. Some potential contacts might be friends and family, while others may be members of professional associations of interest
Effective networking requires you to have identified your skills, values and interests and to be able to freely share them in a brief, concise way. Your personal introduction, sometimes called an 'elevator pitch' is a great way for you to get started.
When you think of a traditional job search, it typically includes reviewing a number of job postings, finding those of interest and for which you qualify and applying by either submitting a resume and cover letter, completing an online application or in many cases both. Fundamentally, this is a passive approach, where you are waiting and hoping that the right position is posted. The first challenge is if your 'dream' job will ever be posted. The second issue is that when a job is posted, you are competing with hundreds of other candidates. Although difficult to measure, it is estimated that upward to 80% of jobs are never posted but filled by internal promotion or referral. This is called the 'hidden job market' (add citation).
From an employer's perspective, you want to hire the best candidate with minimal cost. Promoting internally boosts retention and moral, while reducing the time and cost of training and onboarding.
With this in mind, the most effective way to demonstrate value to an organization would be to contribute as an employee or intern, demonstrating excellence and effectiveness. The National Association of Colleges and Employers cites internships turning into permanent offers 57% of the time (citation). Another possibility is to be successful with one company, and to be recruited by a competing company.
To capitalize on this reality, leveraging your trusted contacts and references is an obvious search strategy. If someone with a positive reputation within an industry or organization is willing to formally or informally refer you to a position, it very often will have a positive impact.