Making Friends and Helping People is True Networking
Networking feels disgusting. Going to a job fair, presenting your resume, icebreakers with strangers in your field. I just threw up in my mouth.
Even after the discomfort of these awkward events, I'm still never going to reach out to these people. People I met for 5 minutes at a job fair aren't actually my friends and I'm not theirs. They have no social incentive to help me and I wouldn't feel bad for not helping them. Even after meeting these people you have about as much priority in their mind as someone reaching out to you on LinkedIn only because they went to your high school. You're still just commodities to each other, and there tends to be little real connection. I have found that meeting people in the EA community 1 on 1 does feel significant and unlike this. One on one conversations may be a version of true networking, even with strangers. But there has to be some real vulnerability and connection. If it's convenient and easy for me to help a weak acquaintance from high school I'll do it, but I'm not going to go out of my way.
But my good friend's friend needs help? I'm on it.
Your networking only has value if your connection is real.
Your connections on LinkedIn are worthless unless you would actually enjoy helping that person and vice versa. This is basically only true of your friends, people who you've worked on projects or in classes with, and maybe friends of those people.
Outside of making friends there's helping others. Karma is basically real because people are consistent, and if you help others they'll want to help you.
I will never reach out to my high school classmates that I never talked to for opportunities, because neither of us ever did anything for the other. But the freshmen I led orientation for, my past campers, people on I worked on volunteer projects with, my friends, even my friends of friends -- of course I would love to help all of them and would reach out if I needed help.
Conventional Networking is useless. Your network is the people you'd actually enjoy helping and the people who'd actually enjoy helping you, not your entire high school class.
If you want to actually grow your network, don't go to job fairs and networking events, make real friends and help people.
Trying to build business relationships well in advance of doing business is a complete waste of time. I have a much more comfortable philosophy: “Be a maker who makes something interesting people want. Show your craft, practice your craft, and the right people will eventually find you.” -- Eric Jorgenson, The Almanack of Naval Ravikant: A Guide to Wealth and Happiness, loc. 898-900