Having (finally) finished the first book on my summer reading list (God's Politics), I have moved on to reading, with my dad's strong encouragement, What Color Is Your Parachute? by Richard Nelson Bolles. It's arguably one of the best job-hunt guides out there, and it has been very popular for many years. I'm not much for self-help books most of the time, but Dad really likes this book and he said it really helped him, so I figured I may as well read it this summer (skipping over the chapter about job-hunting for 50+ people of course). I'm a pretty good chunk of the way through it, and I find myself actually enjoying it.
Bolles has a great sense of humor, and it comes across in his writing. The book is written as if he was talking to you. It's down to earth, understandable, and engaging. He uses two different font colors, and abuses italics and grammar- and- punctuation- related issues in such a way that would make an English major cringe, but that most of the rest of us just interpret as his voice. He writes like he talks, which is perfectly fine in my opinion because he talks in a very intelligent yet comprehensible manner. Anyway, even though I'm not really looking for a job right now per se, it's certainly useful to start thinking about this sort of thing, and I think it's good to get the job-hunt into your head as something you work at, and something that you can enjoy rather than dread. And of course, it's important to learn one of the most-emphasized pieces of advice he gives you: always write a thank-you note.
But what I've found most helpful and interesting is the way he talks about networking-- or the "building your grapevine" as he calls it. Bolles points out that everyone you know is a contact. Everyone. Therefore you should try to meet people, as many people as possible. Get their contact information. Then, when you're searching for a job, don't be afraid to call them and ask if they can help you out with whatever you need at the time.
To be upfront about it, I hate networking for the sake of networking. I see it all the time in DC-- people trying to meet people just for the sake of getting ahead. I understand that knowing people is a tremendously useful way to get jobs. But the point is that rather than networking for the sake of networking, you should meet people because you enjoy meeting people. The fact that they could help you get a job should be a side benefit, not the main attraction. Other than that, I agree with Bolles. Why not get help from the people you know? Could be the most helpful thing you ever do when searching for a job.