When networking first became a thing lots of people loved it. (Here's a definition by the way: Interact with other people to exchange information and develop contacts, especially to further one's career.) Sure, this type of thing has been going on since the beginning of time. I visualize an early hominid chatting to a fellow hominid about matters that generally concern both of them before enquiring whether his new friend had discovered a new way to make fire. Something that didn't involve waiting for lightning to strike a tree.
Friends have always helped friends and nepotism (the practice among those with power or influence of favouring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs.) has a long history. These are people with whom you have a known for a long time and they would be your friend (sister-in-law, cousin, co-worker) even if did not have any useful job leads.
But have you ever been introduced to a charming and attractive person at a social gathering and had the suspicious feeling that you were being evaluated, not for your character and sense of humour, but to see if you could be useful to them at some point. Do you own a truck that could be used to transfer a garden shed? Do you work for a large corporation that always has job openings in various departments? Are you a computer nerd who could be called upon for network meltdowns? Are you a good prospect for their home sales party next month? Or, is your conversational partner's interest starting to wane as to your future usefulness? Are their eyes starting to scan the room for more promising prospects?