Going to networking events of local professional organizations or chambers of commerce can be tedious at best. They are not exactly events where people go to have fun. However, with the right attitude, these events can become the springboard you need to find a new job.
When you're standing in line at a restaurant, you have some time. Introduce yourself to the person next to you in line, and make small talk. At the end of the conversation, exchange business cards. Offer to let your boss know you met a candidate that is perfect for the job opening within your organization.
Here's the trick: when you get back to the office, actually do what you said you would do for that person. Shoot an email to your boss offering to put her in contact with the person you met at the job fair. No, you didn't get anything out of the deal initially, but following up on your word establishes you as a credible and trustworthy person.
A lot of people would just look at this situation as being something they could do that would benefit them directly down the road. With this kind of attitude, however, you become a person that anyone can see right through. They know what your ulterior motive is. It makes you seem less honest and uncaring.
When you help other people out, however, you eventually gain a reputation as someone who does the right thing and who genuinely cares about helping others. This reputation can even precede you when you go in for a job interview down the road. All your networking activities may not have alerted you to the job opening, but the interviewer may have heard about your assisting others through the grapevine.
Even before you enter the lobby of the building, the interviewer already has a positive impression of your personality and sense of professionalism. Who knows' Maybe one of the networking activities will lead to a reciprocal act of kindness that lets you know about an opening, but it's best not to count on it and to just work from the heart.