From observing the general population in America, I've come to the conclusion that most people are awful at networking. The vast majority of people in this country, especially those who are students or newly entering the workforce, simply don't understand how important one's network of contacts is for their careers. And furthermore, if they do realize its importance, they do nothing about it.
I see this all the time at my college. Most peoplea very traditional mindset: work hard, get good grades, graduate, and the rest will fall into place. Not in this day and age, and certainly not in this economy.
So then you have the folks who have read Never Eat Alone, or have a better understanding of how the world really works, and then proceed to "network." But even then, most of them fail miserably. Usually it's for two reasons...
1) They'll meet people at conferences, they'll meet alumni, and they'll get introduced to potential opportunity-makers, but they won't follow up after the initial meeting.
2) They'll follow up, but they'll be unaware of the dynamics of the relationship, and expect to get much more than they put in.
Following up is easy. We have so many methods of communication today-- you can call them, send them an email, write them a letter, etc.
The second thing is harder to correct, and it requires a huge mental shift. There was recently a thread where a potential analyst was outraged that an MD he had been networking with didn't help secure him an interview. Truth be told, if I was the MD, I would've been even less helpful.
It's incredible to see kids that are brilliant in their Econ majors, and are looking to capitalize on capitalism, who don't understand the economics of human behavior. Human beings respond to incentives. Yes, the people higher up have a duty to recruit... but trust me, you need them much more than they need you.
What you have to do is build a genuine relationship. Instead of calling once or twice a month, take them out for drinks or lunch, and get to know them as people. Send them emails with random articles they might be interested in. Find out if they run or play a sport, and challenge them to a game during their free time.
Genuine relationships cannot be faked. I've found highly successful bankers to be incredibly high-EQ people-- after all, it takes a lot of people skills to get up in the world. Instead of seeing network as a means to an end, see it as the end. The analysts and MDs I've taken out are some of the funniest, most down-to-earth people I've ever met. Trust me, if they see you as someone who genuinely likes them, they'll help you out in ways you could never imagine.