If you have been searching for jobs online, you are probably already familiar with LinkedIn and other professional online networking platforms. Chances are you already use these tools. But you may not be using more specific options to continue expanding your professional networks. Since you are already online looking for your next work venture, make the most of your time by harnessing every possible networking option.

Find industry-specific networks

Large networks, like LinkedIn, are valuable because they broadcast your information to millions of people, but this also means that there are millions of people competing with you to get noticed. One way to optimize your online networking time is to seek out networks in your industry, as recommended by AMEX Open Forum.

For example, if you are in the finance industry, consider an online message group like the Wall Street Journal online community. By targeting your networking to more specific sites, you can improve your chances of finding a new opportunity and maximize networking. Join an active networking group and start participating in their chats and meetups to build your online network.

Sometimes you may not find industry-specific networks to join, especially if your industry is highly specialized. In this case, look for professional networks that offer more than standard networks. Ryze Business Networking offers the chance to join network groups. While Ryze is not industry-specific, the site has several industry-specific groups. Use these groups to find local events to attend and grow your professional network in your local area.

Network with classmates

If you are pursuing a masters degree or you’re enrolled in another advanced degree program, don’t neglect the opportunity to network with your classmates through social and professional networking sites. They may have information about openings that are ideal for your skill set, or they may be able to put you in contact with individuals in the companies where they are working.

Even if you are taking online classes, you may still be able to network with your classmates. Join online discussions related to your coursework to begin building these professional connections. Add classmates to your networks on the various sites you participate in. Do whatever you can to connect with these professionals, even if you never meet in person. They connection you have through course work that may prove to be invaluable in the future.

View network contacts as people

One of the fastest ways to alienate your network is to view the people in the network as a tool to an end, rather than as people. Social Edge recommends building quality relationships online with key players. Be willing to give a little to those in your network, and you can receive benefits in return. At some point, these relationships can begin to benefit you by bringing work your way, provided you have been providing a benefit to them.

Your time is valuable, and you need to be certain that you are making the most out of your time online while looking for a job. Sending resumes, applying to ads and crafting cover letters are all important, but building a successful set of online networks can lead to opportunities you didn’t even know were out there. Spend a few minutes each day tending to them, and you will reap great benefits.