"It's not what you know, it's who you know." Well, honestly, it's probably some of both, but I prefer to play up the "what" over the "who" because I am a miserable networker.
I'm not unfriendly or antisocial (usually); I'm an introvert, with many of the accompanying personality traits, such as becoming overwhelmed around large groups of people, acting cautiously in meeting people,and communicating best one-on-one. It's probably not surprising that I love to read and work in accounting, a field not noted for attracting extroverts.
However, these introvert characteristics make it a challenge for me to participate in traditional networking activities, although I've tried to overcome it --sort of. I've joined professional organizations, but don't go to meetings. I'll attend a seminar, but I'll bring a book to read before it starts. It's not that I'm incapable of socializing; it's actually become a bit easier for me as I've gotten older. However, I've just never gotten comfortable with it in the context of "networking." I've also internalized a lot of early, and probably old-fashioned, teachings about not being "forward" or "pushy," and waiting to be asked rather than asking - plus, there's an intimidation factor and fear of rejection. Consequently, as you might imagine, I don't have much of a professional network. It's mainly a few people I've worked with who have also become friends, and it's too geographically dispersed to be of much practical use.
And yet, I understand the value of a network, so I keep giving it a shot. It seems that for someone like me, who among other things is more comfortable with writing than talking sometimes, online networking might be a great approach. Work It, Mom! recently compiled some online-networking tips from discussions in their forums, and I've been doing some of these things for a few months now, but they're in connection with my personal blog, which has almost nothing to do with my career (wish it did). I don't even have any real desire to find blogs in my field, unfortunately for me.
Being a member of this community itself offers networking opportunities, through commenting on articles, blogs, and profiles, and participating in the Q&A's and forums, all of which I've done, and some of it regularly. Still, one thing I just can't get comfortable with is flat-out asking someone to be part of my network, even if we've had a number of online exchanges - it's the fear of rejection thing. And I've yet to be asked to be part of someone else's network. Now I understand that ideally, networking is a mutually beneficial relationship, but it may not always be clear early on what exactly those benefits might be. Still, if "who" you know really does matter more than "what" you know, could it be that you sometimes never quite know how or when knowing a certain "who" might turn out to be valuable?