The more you like your job, the more you should network. If you have a great job, you probably have a lot to offer people. Do all your favors now, when you don’t need any in return. The problem with networking to get a job is that you are not that attractive when you need a job. Who wants to network with unhappy people?

Recently I interviewed a bunch of recruiters for my column, and they were absolutely gung-ho about social networking. Recruiting advisor John Sullivan told me that referred candidates have a 50% higher retention rate than candidates who come to the company via a job site. To land that referral, he recommended, among others, LinkedIn.

This surprised me. In the past, I have delete emails from people who ask me to be in their network. I never considered that the networks were so useful.

So I took the advice of the recruiters and I checked out LinkedIn. I was immediately impressed. To get a job, if you are qualified for the job, all it really takes is a third-party connection. I was shocked at how quickly the world opens up to you with a social networking site. And I was surprised by how much we can help each other by offering up our networks to friends in a searchable, useful way.

My first instinct was to search for who has the most contacts, but I couldn’t figure out how to do that. So I filled out a cursory profile, which the recruiters say is a no-no. (You should fill it out in great detail so people know what you have to offer.) Then I started trying to figure out who I knew that would be on the site.

The first few names I tried did not work. But that was because I tried the people I’d be most comfortable asking to be in my networks (it’s a request that seems a little weird to me, still). Instead, I started trying the email addresses of the people I know who are comfortable with technology and good at networking, and the first four names I tried were listed.

One is Dylan Tweney. After about an hour of dealing with LinkedIn, I had four contacts. Dylan has 150. I asked him how he does it, and he said he sent email to everyone on his email list. I had contact envy. There were some people who have more than 500 contacts. I wondered how they did it.

Then I heard that the CEO of Linkedin — who has more than 500 contacts — will not speak to analysts unless they can get to his network. One senior banker at a top firm has been trying for months. It gives me hope: It seems that people who have large networks are not those who make the most money, it’s those who offer the most to their friends.