Whether you just graduated from college and are trying to get your first “real” job or have been in the workforce for a while and need a change, finding a great job can be an overwhelming experience. Couple that usual angst with a stagnant economy, and it’s a recipe for stress and frustration. The good news is there are ways you can speed up your job hunt.

Know Your Strengths
This isn’t the same as knowing what you’re interested in. You know you’re interested in marketing, for example, but what aspects of marketing are you good at? You need to have a good grasp of your strengths so you can sell yourself on your resume and cover letter and, ultimately, in an interview. Start by asking friends and family to tell you the strengths they see in you. You may hear things like, “You seem at ease in any situation” or “I’ve always been so impressed by how organized you are.” Take these things, along with what you know to be true about yourself, and craft a resume that highlights these strengths by category. Under “Organizational Experience,” for instance, you can describe how you developed a new organization system for your company that lowered the administration budget by 15%.

Make Contacts
There’s truth to the old saying that it’s not what you know, but who you know. Developing a large, active network of professional associates is a huge factor in landing a great new job. If you’ve let your contacts fall by the wayside, start by getting back in touch with former colleagues, clients, and employers just to catch up. You never know when you’ll hear something useful about a new opening. Phase two is to develop new contacts, which is as simple as talking to people wherever you are. Chat up the parents at your son’s baseball game, make small talk about careers at your next cocktail party, etc. Don’t angle for anything; just be your natural, charming self and mention that you’re thinking about moving into a different job. When a job opens up at their companies, these new acquaintances may very well think of you.

Schedule Non-Interviews
You can’t force hiring managers to interview you, but you can turn the tables and request fact-finding meetings with people who work in the job or company you want to break into. It’s helpful if you have an “in”—perhaps you have a friend in common or you attend the same worship center. But even if you don’t, most people will be flattered that you’re interested in their work and will be happy to accept an invitation for a casual conversation over coffee or lunch. Gather information about what skills and qualifications you would need to break into their field and ask advice about landing a job at their company. Don’t forget to pick up the check, and thank them profusely for their time.

Express Gratitude
Take an organized approach to the contacts you’re making and fact-finding meetings you’re having by creating a spreadsheet on your computer. Everyone who agrees to an informational interview should get a thank you note or phone call within a couple of days, and every person added to your network should get some kind of contact within two weeks—something as simple as a note saying, “I found this article and thought you might enjoy it.” People want to help people who are gracious, rather than demanding.