"Networking" has become a bit of a dirty word for some people, who perceive it as a purely self-interested act.

That's undoubtedly the way it is for some. However, networking is really just forming connections with others for the professional and personal development of both. Done right, it can be an extremely valuable and high-leverage activity that creates mutual benefit.

For example, at the end of each day, Bill Clinton would make a flashcard for every person that he met, including information about how they met. By 1980, he'd amassed 10,000 flashcards. Those flashcards drove his ability to connect with others, which helped him dramatically in his presidential elections.

Fortunately, you only need an hour a week or so to grow and develop your network. Here are six specific reasons why you should never stop expanding that network, no matter how busy you might be:

1. New perspectives help you take a step back and see the obvious.

The daily grind often slides into such intense levels of focus that you forget to lift your head and look around. This isolation can become a habit if you're not careful -- one that's detrimental to your success.

When you meet new people, engage them in conversation. Talk to them about the personal or professional challenges you are facing. Their questions and responses can provide you with fresh perspectives.

For example, I once spent two weeks struggling to build an automation flow at work. Then, while catching up with an acquaintance, I mentioned my problem. They suggested using a specific tool. I tried it out, and solved the problem within 30 minutes. That's a solution I'd never have found on my own, and all I had to do was mention the challenge to a friend.

2. Networking increases your range of opportunities.  

You may love your job and what you do, but how do you know what you don't know? There could be a job that's a much closer fit for your goals, plans and interests. And you might not even know that job exists.

By continuing to network and meet new people, you become exposed to new ideas, professions and opportunities. For instance, just recently I've met people working on trucking regulatory compliance, automation in bankruptcy filing, and customized acne medication sales. The range of problems people are working to solve is endless.

And if you genuinely dislike what you are doing and want to leave, networking is even more critical for you. Networking helps you develop a group of people you can reach out to for both career advice and potential new opportunities.

3. It keeps you asking the right questions about your life and career.

When you network, people will ask you some pretty big questions, and they're questions for which you need answers. Why are you doing what you are doing? What challenges are you facing? What do you envision next for yourself?

Each conversation uses different words, but engaging in those conversations forces you to reflect on your life and decisions. This helps you think more productively and clearly about your goals, your challenges and the way you talk to others about yourself.

4. Networking complements your hard work.  

You never know when meeting new people will impact the quality of your work, sometimes deeply. Many times I've happened to mention a hiring need on a networking call, only to get a referral who turns out to be a good fit for my needs.

Even hearing about other people's challenges and how they approach a problem can provide much-needed support for your own struggles. This is especially valuable when you're meeting others in your industry or working in a similar position in a different vertical. You'll learn about new technologies, channels and creative strategies you can then bring to your business.

5. It helps you provide more value to everyone in your life.

Recently I was talking to a friend who was looking for sales help. I had just made a connection with a respected sales consultant, so I was able to connect the two of them.

Making these introductions adds significant value to both parties. I can also attest from first hand experience that it's a gratifying experience for the person making the introductions. It's fulfilling to introduce two people who wouldn't have found each other otherwise, and then go on to improve each other's prospects.

6. It's fun and energizing.

Meeting new people is an intrinsically rewarding experience.

Humans are inherently social creatures. Even though sometimes I'm introverted, I truly enjoy meeting and connecting with new people when I have energy and I'm prepared. It gives me confidence about my own direction and energizes me.

When I'm feeling pessimistic about the world, I'll often chat with a new acquaintance who is passionate about their work. It's hard not to leave at least somewhat reinvigorated.

Published on: Aug 17, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.