Networking is often about giving so you can get more. Ethically dubious. Read More
I think that you, and the modern networkers/networking tasks you describe are missing the point of networking -- namely making a connection. Not all introductions will lead to a connection, some will. Networking is a way to make more introductions to connections, not a way to get favors from people who have what you want. I also think that targeting the job (before the opening is advertised) rather than targeting the hiring manager (as a networked source) is still one of the best job seeking efforts. Once a job is advertised, even the 'best for the job' candidate gets lost in the flood too often.
I agree with you that any good relationship is not simply a trade agreement.
Because you teach networking I am guessing that you perhaps think of the different ways people network. Networking can be beneficial in the exchange of ideas and understanding better what assets a person might have to offer. I think it should be done with the idea that both parties have potentially something to offer the other. Sometimes a person seeking a job might not know themselves what they have to offer or skills they had. The person searching for a candidate might have new ideas about what he/she wants. One can perhaps argue that networking can become time consuming but there are always ways to make it more efficient, productive eg with perhaps a customized online platform?
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Who says marriage is where desire goes to die?