It is generally accepted that networking is an important component in finding a job. But you should have a broader view of networking and that is that it is a life-long method of building long-term connections that can become powerful relationships, based on mutual respect. If done correctly, the partnership should be equally beneficial, and, when appropriate, lead to new knowledge or approaches. Where strong friendships develop, one partner may even anticipate needs of the other person, determine if observations are welcome, and, if so, engage in information exchange and problem solving. In this way, you build a set of powerful relationships and a personal executive committee that can be helpful in issues as diverse as career planning and problem solving.
Networking should be accomplished consciously and systematically, and should be underway long before there is an urgent problem at hand. It should be one of your personal standing agenda items, with stated goals that can be measured on a monthly, quarterly, and yearly basis. Some of your networking meetings will be planned well in advance, but there should also be an opportunistic element to your approach, based on awareness, that enables you to take advantage of unexpected situations.
The sections listed below cover the key aspects of building and maintaining a network whether or not you are currently looking for a job.