I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again – networking is how 70-80% of the best jobs are filled. But in today’s economy, don’t expect a plum position to fall in your lap. You must network smartly and more creatively. “Try calling on vendors and suppliers who know of companies that might be hiring. These include your local banker, CPA, lawyer and real estate agent. These people all have a great deal of knowledge,” says Bob Picha, founder of San-Diego-based Ideas At Work, a company dedicated to the release of human potential in individuals and organizations. When you call or meet networking contacts, ask for names of growing companies who could use someone with your experience. Ask for a contact person at the target employer(s), but avoid the HR department, since they often act as gatekeepers and may shun you. Action Step: Call people who may owe you a favor for past business you’ve done with them. This makes them more likely to assist by helping you find companies that are hiring.