Whether you are a job seeker or not, free is free. There's no such thing as a free lunch, but we've found some really cheap suggestions to help anyone trying to save a buck and stay connected.
1. A cup of coffee
Depending on where you live, coffee can run 50 cents to three dollars. But where you get this cup of coffee is key. Doing homework on a company you'd like to work for is essential. But to get some inside information, you can hit the nearest coffee place near the company. These days, many companies don't serve free coffee anymore. Employees stop at delis, Starbucks, McDonalds, or Saxbys on their way to work. Sometimes they chat on line about the business, goings on, or even just gossip. You can gain some great knowledge just by keeping your ears open. (This works even better during lunch, but like we said, lunch is rarely free!)
2. Business Cards
Business cards are still an important networking tool for face-to-face interactions. You might want to make a couple different ones if you are looking at different industries or want to send different messages: one more formal, one more casual. At Vistaprint.com, 123print.com you'll pay less than $10 for 250 cards.
Many salons will have "Student Nights" where newer stylists will fashion hair for free in exchange for the practice. Students are watched by experienced stylists, so you rarely have to worry. Cost? Just the tip, which is at your discretion, but figure around $10. BumbleandBumble salons call it the "Model Project." Cosmetology schools offer free haircuts too. But with that opportunity, if you have a complicated haircut, you might want to leave it to a graduate.
4. Free Networking
Organizations like NetParty.com arrange events that are FREE to attend. The company has chapters in 23 cities nationwide. The catch--make sure to RSVP or you will have to pay a cover charge at the door. Different cities have their own websites with events, such as AtlantaEvents.com. Lectures are your friend--there is usually a discussion or mingling opportunity afterward, a perfect opportunity to meet people. And no, there's no free lunch here, but you might find a free hors d'oeuvres or two.
5. A college library at your fingertips
If you are researching industries, companies, and places to relocate, of course any search engine will return thousands of sites. But the Internet Public Library filters subjects for you to use your time more wisely. Information is well organized on a very user friendly site. In fact, you can ask an actual librarian questions to help you find what you seek. Another bonus--periodicals all available free through the site. Nine colleges and universities pool their resources to keep it current.
If your wallet is a little lighter after buying presents or making charitable donations, these are cheap ways to make some progress, look great in person and on paper, and shake things up.