Most of the time I think why people wrinkle up their noses when someone says "networking" is because it is seen as selfish and self-serving. It kind of reminds you about all those used car salesmen jokes.
However, true effective networking means reaching out to people and offering your help. That's what works for me. It would work in a slightly different way depending on your interest areas. As Penelope Trunk says:
So you can be good at networking by caring about other people. And you can’t fake being interested — it’s almost impossible. That means you have to genuinely care about other people.
And as Slacker Manager notes the Golden Rule
Treat other people as you’d like to be treated. If you are an avowed sadist, then you’re not going to have much luck with this (though you may find some cool masochistic people to hang out with). The rest of us will be able to make our own luck with this method.
And no, sometimes networking is no fun...the way I practice it. You get emails and scraps or Orkut asking for help, and if you are busy, people assume you're just a haughty guy and don't reply to emails. Or they send another email that sounds like a boss asking a poor secretary for a phone number, the How-dare-you-take-so-much-time-to-reply routine.
So why do I do it? Because doing it is satisfying to me at an internal level and once in a while you have a conversation that's meaningful and build a relationship that could be professionally and personally rewarding.
Yes, it's a paradox, while networking is not about you, how you do it says a lot about who you are।
Update: Check this post by Jason Warner of Google at the Brazen Careerist on building your network out of work.