1. Find one or more groups that interest you and volunteer.

It could be an alumni group, a professional organization related to your current job or the career you aspire to, or even a civic organization. Offering to assist will get you engaged and give you an opportunity to showcase some of your skills while cultivating relationships, says career coach Donna Sweidan.

2. Use the Internet to your advantage.

Sign up for discussion forums on professional organization's Web site, register with business networking sites like LinkedIn.com and Ryze.com, or search sites like Meetup.com for groups that interest you or even start your own. Search the sites you join for contacts and invite people you meet to join. After you establish online relationships, move toward trying to meet new contacts face-to-face.

3. Develop a plan to market yourself that goes beyond your resume.

Research the field you're interested in or the companies you'd like to work for, and use that information to ask questions when you meet people in the industry. Try to come away from any meetings with the name of someone else to contact.

4. Ask for advice, not a job.

If you meet someone who works for a company you're interested in or a field you'd like to enter, The last thing you want to do is ask for a job, Sweidan said. You want to ask for advice. Send an e-mail and ask for a brief meeting to discuss the best ways to work toward your goal. People don't necessarily have a job for you, so they'll feel helpless and they can't help you, she said. If you're just looking for advice, they can help you.

5. Don't badger people.

Persistence is key, but some people might not be interested or able to help you. Sweidan suggests sending a follow-up query to someone who did not respond to a first request to meet about a week after the first, and then just one more some time later. If they don't get back to you, move on.