Never assume that casual contacts are worthless, despite how remote they appear to you from your professional goal. Two examples from my former company’s experience make this point:
A Fortune 10 corporation attorney was seeking a new job in the San Francisco Bay area. One Saturday morning while having coffee with a member of her babysitting co-op, she learned of a job at this person’s organization that was about to become vacant, but was not yet advertised. Her co-op colleague, a secretary, offered to take her resume to the human resources director at her firm.
A middle-manager neighbor of mine was very friendly with our regular postal carrier, and happened to mention to him that he had been let go by his employer and was looking for a new job. Several weeks later, the postman asked him for a copy of his resume, which he offered to deliver to another of his postal patrons whom he thought might be interested in someone with the neighbor’s background. An interview resulted.
Networking opportunities can arise in the unlikeliest of circumstances: For example, say you interview for a job, but do not receive an offer. But you see that the interviewer was impressed by your credentials and presentation; circumstances, however, intervened and resulted in someone else being hired. You might have had less experience than the winning candidate. There might have been “external” reasons, having nothing to do with your qualifications, why someone else was hired.
Consider enlisting the interviewer as a contact. The interviewer may have friends or professional colleagues who need someone exactly like you. A contact like this may be too valuable to pass up.
The point of these examples is that everyone is fair game as a potential contact. When you sit down to develop your list, let your mind wander. Leave no potential contact out, no matter how far afield you think you might be going.