Just like the game, except in this case you only get three degrees of separation instead of six. First of all, let's explain why the six degrees of separation typically works: take 250 (your personal network) to the sixth power. I know, it's higher math. But do the calculation. The answer is 244,140,625,000,000. That's over 244 trillion potential contacts in your network at the sixth level of separation. And that's how Kevin Bacon could network with the Pope.
As we talked about in The Strength of Weak Ties, the actual number of potential contacts is reduced by overlap. But the formula is still a strong one—the greater the number of levels of separation, the more likely that your network will include your target.
So if you have a specific contact or an employer you would like to target, use your network to reach out to up to three degrees of separation to make a connection. Why three? Because the network connections lose strength as the degrees of separation increase. Three is the practical limit for job search.
Let's take a practical example. Suppose you are interested in working for IBM, but you have no contacts there and they are not recruiting on your campus. Tap into your network, especially those who are professional networkers, such as those in the Career Center or Alumni Office (first degree of separation). They may be able to put you in touch with a previous graduate of your school who works at IBM (second degree of separation). And that person may be able to put you in contact with several Hiring Managers at IBM (third degree of separation).
It's actually quite easy to work your way through the degrees of separation. Just like the game, you will be amazed at the connections that can be made.