To begin with you need to understand what you want to get out of networking.
Are you looking for a job?
Are you looking for investors for your start up business?
Does your interest lie in building your business? Or in building your employers business?
Would you consider your self an introverted networker or an extrovert networker?
Yes, these are all very different kinds of Networkers, with very different views on networking.
In the next few weeks, I hope to address these as well as what kinds of Networks are out there?
For the Job Seeker: Yes, Networking is a very necessary evil these days. You could always rely on the 'cattle call' of a Job Fair, but you just do not have time to connect with a recruiter at them. If you are fortunate enough to connect with an H.R. person, please remember that he or she will be seeing many others and you need to significantly stand out from the crowd.
Quite often, when you find a Networking group that focuses on job seekers and prospective employers, there will be a publicised list of participating companies. Don't just focus on a single company (unless they hold your dream job and you have an 'in'), corporate personnel will attend similar events, so if you are looking at ACME Financial, you might also find Other Financial attending as well. Chances are good that Other Financial will have a similar position in the near future.
A note on Social Networking for the Job Seeker: Be wary of connecting your Twitter account to your LinkedIn site, Companies are looking at LinkedIn sites for information on you, are you sure you want them to read everything you tweet about?
More on Networking Basics next week.