I am something of a natural networker (minus my teenage years when I was a loner/introvert). I always have business cards (I had them in college, after college, graduate school, etc). I like to connect people to each other. I like to edit resumes. I have plenty of friends (in real life and on Facebook).
So, when it came time to look for a job after graduate school, I felt confident. I started early, I applied for jobs, I networked, I networked in different international cities, I wrote thank you cards, I thought out of the box and, most importantly, I followed through.
I finally had 5 interviews for 5 different jobs this past spring. 3 of those 5 interviews I got through networking. I also got all of my part-time-to-survive jobs from networking. So, I'm a pretty big fan of networking.
I am happy to help people when they contact me for ideas, and connect them to people who are in the field/position/sector/whatever they need. What I am NOT happy about, is when I put my own contacts out there (introduce person A to person B) and the person who wanted help, doesn't follow through.
I feel like that person is not only wasting my time, but hurting my network. My reputation in my network is a big part of the success of that network. So, if Person A flakes out on Person B, that reflects poorly on me.
So, if someone goes out of their way to help you, you should:
a) thank them and
b) don't waste their time.
If they introduce you to someone, even if you don't want to talk to that someone, write a polite note (including Person B!!), saying hello and explaining that, upon further thought, you want to pursue something else and thank you for your time.
I have had dozens of experiences where I introduce two people, and the person that wanted the introduction doesn't even reply for weeks or months. It drives me crazy.
If you ask someone for help and they give it to you, it's a slap in the face if you don't follow-through. Don't waste people's time if you're not going to do the work.
Thanks for listening!