Good networkers must almost maintain a dual personality.
The first personality is the strategist and the manager. That personality figures out what the ultimate goal of the networking should be — more business, a new job, contributions to a cause, etc. It then determines which groups and events to attend based upon these goals. The determination can be because members of the target market will be there, or people who serve the target market, or some other criteria specific to the goals in mind. It sets the networking goals for a particular event. It’s also the one that forces us to go to the event, even when we don’t want to.
The second personality is the giver — the provider of value. This one takes over as soon as the activity of networking involves another person. This personality is curious about other people and is always looking for ways to help. It is not concerned with any return on the investment of time and money. It implements the event goals with the idea that the more connections and relationships it can create, the better life will be. This is the personality that enjoys attending events, coffees, lunches, etc, because those opportunities allow it the chance to help more people.
In order to be successful at networking both personalities must be present and acting in the correct sphere of effort. Those who let the boundaries blur inevitably end up unhappy. If the “strategist” personality remains in control when interacting with other people, the result is a salesman with “commission breath” who is trying to wrestle everyone to the ground in order to sell to them. If the “giver” gets involved in the strategy, then they tend to spend too much time networking. They belong to too many groups. They attend too many events. They spend all their time emailing, calling, tweeting, posting, etc.
The only way to have success in networking is to keep in mind that the planning and strategy must be kept separate from the interactions with your network. Good networkers always give without expectation of return. They also expend their energies where they can serve those who are most likely to be able to help them in achieving their goals. Maintaining that division is the real challenge.