A piece I wrote a few years ago. It still applies.
Why should you network? I'm speaking about interpersonal networking, not the bits and bytes in the ether kind :)
It's an interesting question and one I've been thinking about a lot since reading Andy Warren's posts on the subject. He thought it was interesting enough to engage Don Gabor for his business and spend a little money to learn how to do it better. After having a few sessions, Andy thought it was helpful enough to get a pre-conference session at PASS on this topic. It's a short pre-con, 2 hours, and won't interfere with anything else you've booked. It's an additional $60, but I've paid my fee (it's a business expense) and will be there.
Whether or not you attend the session (it's limited in size), I think there is value in learning to network better. Andy has reviewed a few books, and I'm sure I'll have some quick techniques to give you after PASS, or even during it. If you see me during the conference, please don't hesitate to come up and say hello to me. It's always great to meet new people.
Back to me question: why network? I'll give you a few examples in my life. I involuntarily networked myself into this field. When I was in graduate school searching for a job, I saw an internship at the power company. There were a few positions, but one of them was in the EE department, slightly out of my field. The guy in charge, however, was an alum of the University of Virginia, and I applied, and he gave me the job because we were fellow graduates. I had asked him a few months later and he said I got preference for that reason.
In 4 other cases later in my career, I've heard about consulting jobs in various places in the US. I haven't been interested in any of them, but I have passed them along to friends that I've gotten to know over the years from SQLServerCentral. These were people that had taken the time to say hi to me at some event and then correspond with me a little. Many of them were authors, and as I got to know their skills, I became comfortable with recommending them for work. It didn't benefit me other than a little goodwill and the feeling of helping others.
I have heard about similar situations all the time, where people have built a friendship, or some other bond, and then referred work or helped someone get a job. As much as it may upset technical people, it's still often who you know that matters much more than your technical skills. Networking is a great way to grow your career by knowing more people.