Some believe that it is simply an excuse to schmooze, eat, drink and possibly feel important. Others are of the opinion that networking is an essential part of business development and growth.
When done correctly, networking can be a powerful tool for creating strong relationships and new business opportunities, as well as establishing a presence within a certain community. People talk and vouch for one another, and the way that a person presents him/herself has a huge impact on the way others portray him/her and, thus, how much they would be willing to help.
That said, however, some people still don't know how to network properly. It is more than a simple case of showing up and exchanging pleasantries, business cards and smiles. There is actually an art and eloquence to it. Indeed, there are many ways to go about it, and one can argue that there there is no specific set of 'best practices. Whatever your approach, however, there are some things that you just shouldn't do.
Often, many smart and talented people do not receive the recognition they deserve simply because they are not adept networkers. Similarly, there are people who miss out on amazing opportunities because they didn't take the time to meet and interact with those who can help them. Of course, it also depends on how you go about the process. After all, it is largely a game of give and take, as well as trust. Show yourself to be a valuable and trustworthy asset and then people will want to help you.
At the end of the day "Is networking important?" Only you can decide that for yourself. If you are happy with what you have and/or confident that you do not need the support of others, then it might not be. However, if other people lever the bridge between you and your objectives, which is often the case, then networking will certainly be a key factor to getting you there.