Networking is a long-term investment in social capital, and the building of mutually beneficial relationships should start when times are good, according to Alice Kaushal, an expert on business etiquette and cross-cultural communications.
"[If] something unexpected happens to our jobs, are there five individuals [family and friends not included] who will deploy a lot of resources and go out of their way to help us?" Kaushal asked her audience at the Speakers Connect Showcase held last Friday.
The first step of effective networking is setting goals. A wish list can include United States President Barack Obama, and someone who can help to revamp websites.
We should also consider the contributions we could make, such as professionals whom we could recommend to others, Kaushal said.
We need to get into the networking frame of mind by asking ourselves whether we are willing to invest time and to help others achieve their goals, she said, adding it helps to block out networking time - three hours per week is recommended - and to diversify contacts.
"More importantly, we need to trust our gut instincts. Think `would I like to work with this person'? With someone you like, the relationship building comes naturally", she said.
Effective networking has also helped Rob Lilwall, adventurer and author of Cycling Home from Siberia, who also spoke at the event.
On several occasions during his three-year, 48,200km journey by bicycle and boat, covering Siberia, Asia, Australia and Europe, Lilwall obtained essential information about individuals from whom to seek help.
Apart from the importance of networking, Lilwall shared insights which can be applied to the workplace. "Take calculated risks and do thorough research, and build up an understanding of challenges," he said.