Why should I network with people?
You should people network for multiple reasons.
1. Locating jobs (before they are posted to the Internet.)
2. Advice you can't find via an Internet search.
4. Trading favors.
5. Helping fellow IT people.
Locating jobs (before they are posted to the Internet)
If you want to find an interesting networking job before it is posted to the Internet, you need to know people in the industry who can tell you about these positions. If you see a position on a job board, it is always good to know people in that company, or to have contacts who know people in that company.
Advice you can't find via an Internet search
Not everything is Google searchable. For example, let us say you want advice about using Extreme or Cisco switches in your wiring closets. Instead of listening to the usual sales pitch from your vendors, you need friends who have these devices in production and can tell you from their experience which product they think is best.
If you are just starting out in the networking field you probably want someone who you can talk to about your hopes, your fears, your career trajectory, the politics in the office, etc. The more people you know in the industry the greater the chance you will have in finding someone who can help you achieve your goals and help you overcome your hurdles.
You never know when you are going to need a favor. It could be 12am in Chicago and your core router failed to fully reboot on a weekend. You don't have any remote hands, but you can ask your buddy who lives in Chicago to do you a huge favor by consoling into it. In return you can send them a gift certificate to the nicest restaurant in the city.
Helping fellow IT people
The old saying is,"You got to give before you get." If you are friendly and assist people in their troubleshooting, people will return the favor in kind some time in the future. It also shows other people (e.g., managers) that you are mature enough to become a leader.
Everyone was a newbie at one time. Making connections can also be about helping a new person in the industry become a better, smarter, more mature network engineer. You never know if some time down the road they become important in your industry.
Who do you know?
It is a really good question to ask yourself. Make a list of everyone you know. Make a subset of that list of people who are in IT. From that subset make another subset of people you know in the networking industry.
How big or small is your networking industry subset? If you have a large pool of friends in the networking industry, you probably do not have a difficult time finding jobs, getting advice, and finding mentors. If you have a small pool of friends in the networking industry, then you need to work on making a few more contacts.
But how do you make more contacts?
Make friends with people in your company
One of the easiest ways to make contacts is to help or train people outside of your networking group. Many times you will be working/troubleshooting with other IT teams - Unix, telecom, database, applications, and help desk to name a few. Having a good working relationship with people you work with will help you in the future when you leave the company for greener pastures.
Create lasting connections with customers
Another way of making contacts is to do your absolute best for the customer. Being good to your customers can mean making a lasting connection with them, long after you have left the company. The customer may like your how you solve their issues so well that they steal you away from the company you work for!
Group meetings - local, national, or international
One of the best ways is to meet people is to go to local, national, or even international meetings. If you are a network engineer, you could locally look up a Cisco Users Group (CUG) in your metro area. If you want to meet network engineer from all over North American, you could go to a North American Network Operators Group (NANOG) conference. If you wanted to go to an international conference, you could go to RIPE, APNIC, or any other numerous meetings around the world.
Who knows you?
While reaching out and making contacts is great, one of the best ways to make contacts in your industry is to market yourself. There are numerous ways you can promote yourself as an expert in your field. You could publishing your writing on the Internet and have Google index you. You can present at conferences in front of hundreds of people. You could teach about technology through short YouTube videos. You could become an instructor and teach classes on Udemy, Skillsfeed, or other online video classrooms. The possibilities are out there for you to grab.
Jeffrey Gitomer's Little Black Book of Connections: 6.5 ASSETS for networking your way to RICH relationships by Jeffrey Gitomer
Dig Your Well Before You're Thirsty: The Only Networking Book You'll Ever Need by Harvey Mackay