Earlier this month, I explained that my secret to blogging success is giving more than I hope to receive.
I know my general rule is to not cut and paste someone else's words. But I'm going to make an exception because Megan McCardle makes the point so much better than I did, but applies the sentiment to living life in general:
People with great networks aren't people who maniacally collect business cards while pumping every random acquaintance for possible signs of a career advantage. They're people who like other people, who talk to other people because they are interested in them, who seek to help other people because, well, that's just what a decent chap ought to do.Now, go buy something from Megan's list of best kitchen items.
Other peoples' lives are interesting, even if they themselves aren't fabulous raconteurs. A good networker is someone who starts out on the presumption that you must be interesting, and looks for the things that make you so. Along the way, they naturally find out quite a bit about you--and because they genuinely care about other people, they will remember three months hence that you said you wanted to move into new media when their friend the new media consultant starts hiring. Maybe five years down the road, you'll help them out. And you will genuinely be glad to, because they were glad to help you.
In other words, it can't be faked, it can't be hurried, and you can't strip out the part where YOU are a person worth knowing. All the business-card warriors would do themselves a lot more good in the long run by focusing on getting good at their jobs, and helping other people when they can just because it's nice to be able to help.