You can view networking as a process of developing marketing representatives for yourself. If people know more about your capabilities and interests, and you have impressed them with your communication skills and ability to clearly articulate your value, then they are likely to
• Funnel opportunities in your direction
• Share your credentials with colleagues who generally could use someone like you
• Refer your credentials to colleagues who have specific openings
• Represent you well to others
• Think of you if an opportunity develops around them
However, you really need to manage your networking interactions well. Too many people just don’t understand how to conduct an effective networking meeting. Therefore, many of their meetings are unproductive, and valuable time is wasted. I’ve had hundreds of people network to, and through, me over the years. I have to say that many of them have failed in some way to maximize the interaction. Most people start with the obligatory “I’m not expecting you to have a position for me or even to know of one…”. However, they then proceed to sit back and act like “go ahead, interview me”, instead of actively managing the session by outlining what they would like to do, what they’d like to get from the meeting and otherwise providing some structure for doing so. Why should I do all the work if you’ve set up the meeting under the premise that you are seeking advice, information and possible referral.
At times I became so frustrated that I took control of the meeting, explained to the person what they should be asking, what outcome they should be shooting for, and how to better plan for and execute on subsequent meetings. This is not how it should be.
As the requester of the meeting, you should have an agenda planned ahead of time, you should introduce that agenda (I don’t mean a typed out agenda document) and by so doing, set the stage for the meeting upfront. In this way, your network contact knows what’s going to happen, and can anticipate how to help. And, you should MANAGE the meeting, taking reasonable charge of its flow, pace, direction and outcome. This presupposes that you know what you want to get from the meeting.