I am going to simplify networking for all the non-believers out there. We do it all the time, but don't really consider it networking. According to Webster's, the definition of networking is "the exchange of information". That's it.
Here are the 3 steps:
1) Ask a question or put information out there
2) Take action
3) Follow up
Networking isn't always about us. Sometimes it is about helping others. There is no better feeling.
Here's an example:
I was delivering a workshop and found out that one of the participants worked at Channel 10. I asked her is she knew my friend who works there. She responded: "Yes, we sit next to each other and I was in her wedding this summer". After chatting a bit longer I found out that my friend's grandfather had just passed away. I then contacted in my network (my dad) so he could inform all of his friends. I also sent a note of sympathy to my friend.
See, it's not all about me. It's about nurturing relationships. Here is another "extreme" example. I say extreme because most people aren't comfortable doing this for a variety of reasons.
Deidre was visiting her dentist. The first question the dental hygenist asked (right as her fingers went in the mouth) was "What's new?" Once the hygenist's fingers were out of her mouth, Deidre responded: "Well, I am a bit frustrated, I've been sending my voiceover demo tape all over town and no one is calling me back. I really want a gig with a radio station." The dental hygenist's eyes twinkled as she said, "Deidre, run home after your appointment and get me your demo tape. Brother Wease is coming in this afternoon and I will give it to him". Deidre did and went on to be a special co-host with Brother Wease.
I love telling stories of how networking works. It is about exchanging information, plain and simple.