I used to hate "networking". It sounds so sleazy.
One day, I had this insight: every coworker is a potential friend or business partner, every friend is a potential coworker or business partner, and every business partner is a potential friend or coworker.
I've always enjoyed making new acquaintances and building those relationships into friendships.
With that in mind, networking got to sound a lot less sleazy: it's just building relationships. The importance of building relationships really came home to me at that moment: I would always rather hire a roofer whom I know or who is recommended well by someone I know. It reduces the risk that he'll run off with my money. Likewise, employers love hiring by referral. Businesses like to assign contracts to known contractors. People prefer to build businesses or partner with folks they know. It's safer, more enjoyable, and more likely to succeed.
If you struggle to find a job, there are a number of reasons. One of them may be you just don't know who's hiring. Another might be that the folks hiring don't know you.
A few things can keep relationship-building from being sleazy:
- care for the other person
- building the relationship rather than just milking its present state
- thinking more about what's in it for them than what's in it for me
A fun thing about networking is that you can do it deliberately, consciously, and in a way that suits your personal style. Intraverts can do it 1-on-1 by listening to the other person; extraverts can go to subject-matter meetups and chat up a crowd.