People will come and go in your professional experiences, but they all make up the fabric of your social network. Yesterday's high school classmate might be today's business partner. Today's teammates and supervisors might be tomorrow's valued contacts and references.
The benefits of your social network don't just end with the people you know. When you have a positive professional relationship with someone, you can put in a good word for that person with others you know, and that person can do the same for you. This could lead to introductions that extend the direct connections you have within your social network.
Look for opportunities to add to your direct social network connections through introductions. You can find face-to-face introductions by attending professional functions like conferences and receptions. There, you can exchange business cards and make a personable first impression. Some career experts claim that your biggest benefit comes not from the number of connections you make, but from these physical connections where you can create a sense of trust [source: Balderrama].
You can also look for introductions online. For example, LinkedIn has a tool to suggest new contacts to people who aren't directly connected to you. This can serve as a type of online introduction. If you see that one of your first-line (direct) connections has someone in his network that you'd like to meet, you can ask him to introduce you through the Web site.
Sometimes, you're the benefit that someone else finds through social networking, as described on the next page.