Volunteer work has paid off as a networking tool for Heidi Brennan, public policy director for Mothers-At-Home, a national, nonprofit support organization for stay-at-home moms. "While the idea of giving away your time may seem counterproductive, volunteering is the ultimate networking tool," she says. "It forces you to meet a cross-section of people, and allows them to see you perform without the messiness of contracts and employment. When people observe your skills and accomplishments in a volunteer setting, they are going to tap you for other assignments. Working together in a volunteer capacity can be like a trial marriage for future business associates, to see if you could also work together in a business setting."