For humans, networking is actually just chatting--having a simple, meaningful conversation that creates a hum between two people. Relationships--and we're talking real relationships here, not just a bunch of names in your Rolodex that you've "collected"--begin with "hello" and are built on a series of Chats.
Once you've established a nice hum with someone, she becomes your chum, and you become hers--notice that nice reciprocity part? Getting the hum going assumes that during your chat you formed a mutual interest in each other. Don't just focus on the Big Whigs who can hand you your dream job. Really, isn't everyone you know good to know for some reason? Even if it's just that they make you laugh?
You've already got a bucket of chums--it's called your address book. All of those people--family, friends from high school, people in your office, parents of your kids, neighbors--found their way into your little black book for some reason. You might not think of these Chums as valuable assets in your Option Arsenal but they are: they all have their own connections to other potential CHUMS that could quite possibly change your life.
It's endless how many people make connections through a friend of a friend. The point is to start broadcasting in a chatty, non-desperate and positive way, to anyone you meet, what you do, and where you think you would like to go next. Because you never know who you may meet that can help you.
When I was a senior in college, while I was waiting to get into the ladies' room at a bar, I struck up a conversation with the woman in front of me. After a quick little blah blah blah on where we both lived, I casually mentioned that I was a communications major and was looking for an internship at an Ad Agency. Turns out the lady on the loo line just happened to be a senior manager at an Ad Agency, and before the two of us could even see the stalls, she gave me her card. The moment I got back to school, I dropped Ms Senior Manager a note reminding her of our conversation and she arranged for me to get a fabulous internship for the summer. This can translate to a big fat corporate job as well.
When things are humming, productive work is getting done. So you chat to get that nice Hum going between you and a wide and diverse crowd of people. Think of it all as music in the background of your work life. Whoosh.
The best jobs many people ever cruised into, and the best professional connections that most of the people I know landed, were the direct result of chatting & humming. It's a fact: most people get the good professional relationships the same way they get good dates--because someone "fixed them up" with it.
People's willingness to help each other can be amazing. People like to make good things happen because you are giving them Power to do so--the Godlike influence to change your life. Plus, when someone helps you get a job--you owe her, and the person that she helped out by referring wonderful you owes her.
So chat and hum your way to chum and you'll be 'net'working in no time.