There’s nothing tougher than looking for a new job: You’re frustrated, you need to pay bills, and you need an opportunity to prove yourself to a prospective employer.

But how do you bypass the Human Resources department to network with those actually doing the hiring? As my grandfather once said, nobody gets a job in this country if they don’t know somebody.

A new website, LinkedIn,com, is helping job seekers network their way to a new employment opportunities.

It sounds old fashioned but it’s true, most people get their best jobs by being referred by someone who already has an association with the company.

Pedro Cesar, a 28-year-old management consultant and recent graduate of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management said he got his first job out of college through a recommendation from a professor.

“In college I used to be a research assistant for a professor and when it came time to find a job I ended up working at an investment bank where he was a consultant,” said Cesar. “The relationships you establish with people become very important for job mobility in the future.”

The last estimate by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, released in May of 2005, said 5.1 percent of Americans remain unemployed. As web sites and human resource departments continue to be inundated with resumes – too many to read, in some cases – your resume along with those of 7.6 million other people get filed away, perhaps even in the dreaded “circular file.”

Ken Gaebler, president and founder of Grand Roads Executive Search, a recruiting company that places management personnel, says traditional online job boards like Monster or Career Builder are no longer cutting it for most employers because they don’t establish enough of a link between the applicant and the company.

“It’s an impersonal process,” said Gaebler. “You get hundreds of resumes all with similar backgrounds and directed to ‘To Whom it May Concern.’ It’s hard to put it all in perspective.”

“The fact is, a referral from someone goes a long way because a third party is vouching for the value of your work and your character,” said Gaebler. “This makes an employer feel more confident in their decision to hire you because there is now a direct connection between you and the company.”

Establishing and keeping networking connections isn’t always easy. Many people do not have high-exposure jobs that require the exchange of casual conversations and business cards. But the Internet is making things easier.

E-mail has overridden the use of phone calls and hand or typewritten letters in the same way that the traditional marketing and advertising industry reengineered itself to include the web world. The advent of social .COM’s like Friendster, Myspace, Orkut, and Meetup have made it easy to keep in touch with friends, colleagues, and associates .

“I am a member of two of these types of sites,” said Josue Munoz, a 22-year-old Aerospace Engineering student at the University of Florida. “They are useful because they help me keep track of people back home I would otherwise not have contact with.”

Sites like Friendster, which boasts a membership of over 17 million people, were originally aimed at transforming the world of online dating by introducing singles with other singles within their circle of friends. Yet, as of March, 2005, a San Francisco based company called decided to expand this concept to help job seekers and recruiters.

LinkedIn tackled the impersonality of job hunting by creating the first referral-powered job board on the web. Cesar, who is a LInkedIn member says it is being used by many of his colleagues and friends as a way of organization their networks.

“One of the huge assets you get from going to Business School is the relationships you gain from being there,” said Cesar. “Even if I am not looking for a job right now, it is a good way to keep track of relationships and how your peer’s careers are developing.”

The site is populated by business executives and human resources personnel from companies as well known as Yahoo! and Merrill Lynch, to those of small start-ups. Though companies pay LinkedIn $95 dollars to list a job for 30 days, membership is free to job seekers.

“I recently became a member because a friend recommended the site to me,” said Yndira Marin, an intern at the Organization of American States (OEA) in Washington D.C. “Coming from Venezuela I didn’t have contacts in this country and I felt it was important to reach out in anyway possible.”

Through LinkedIn, jobseekers are not only allowed to post resumes but also to add to job application forms a one-page summary of referrals from someone who might have a contact at the target company.

“LinkedIn gets you the contacts and recommendation to get you the interview,” said Marin. “You know nobody gets a job in this country without knowing somebody.”