Dear J.T. & Dale: I was working in HR before I was displaced due to the economic downturn almost two years ago. I have been doing temporary work or living on unemployment. My situation has become nearly desperate, although during this interim I have gotten out of debt, and my fiancee and I bought a house. Recently, however, my fiancee has become completely frustrated with my lack of direction, and thinks I should go back to school or just take a crappy job simply to be doing something. What can I do to build a network? I'm even willing to do volunteer work. I'm in a horrible rut, and I feel alone. - Chris

Dale: To be married or engaged to someone who's out of work, and to remain upbeat and supportive for an extended time, takes a saint. The truth is, most of us aren't saints. It's almost inevitable that doubts and suspicions will creep in. I explore this subject in the free e-book/audio called It's A Wonderful Job, available at www.dauten.com.

J.T.: Do read that book. And do build your network. However, networking is about quality AND quantity. You need to establish and then deepen relationships with people who could have an impact on your ability to get hired. To make this happen, start by identifying just 10 companies you particularly admire and would like to be part of. Then, use social networking to find contacts at the companies and work on creating allies in those companies

Dale: Meanwhile, put yourself in a position to get some good luck in your life. That's where volunteering comes in. Start with your local HR organizations. For example, if you volunteered to be part of the Program Committee, you'll have a wonderful chance to contact and meet influential HR people. But don't stop there: Volunteer at a homeless shelter or other charity. This will make you feel better about yourself, give you something to discuss with your fiancee besides the job search, and you might just tap into the right kind of karma. (By the way, speaking of having something else to talk about with your fiancee, you might propose to her that you two do NOT talk about your job search. Instead, ask her to trust you to do everything possible, then give her updates once a month, ones that will impress her with how much effort you are putting out.)

J.T.: We know, Chris, how hard it is to motivate yourself when you've been out of work for an extended period. It helps if you keep reminding yourself that every contact you make is getting you one step closer to your future employer.

Dale: Meet people, learn from them, give back, and you'll continue to make yourself more valuable, knowing that sometime soon, someone will be grateful to have you.