No one loves the idea of “networking.” It’s a horrible word, actually. I mean, it has the word “work” in it! But fact is, there are few investments as valuable in your life and work as your relationships. But that doesn’t mean the idea of cradling your purse in one hand and a warm chablis in the other isn’t daunting.

Jenny Powers is the founder of Running With Heels, a women’s networking group in New York City, and creator and host of the podcast, BroadCast: Broads Building Businesses. And she says that one of the biggest misunderstandings about networking is that it’s a room of desperate salespeople exchanging business cards, trying to meet a quota.

“Networking isn’t about closing a sale,” she says. “When done purposefully, it is the exact opposite; it's about opening a relationship. If we approach networking as a vehicle to build, cultivate and strengthen relationships we would not only get more out of it, but enjoy it a lot more.”

Plus, Powers says networking is far more than a nice thing to do on the side if you have time. “It is critical for women to step out from behind their computer monitors and closed office doors,” she says. “Demonstrating your ability to connect with others can make or break a career. We always hear about our male counterparts playing golf with clients, taking in a sporting event with a colleague, even socializing with competitors. As women, we need to increase our visibility in the networking arena.”

Here’s what Powers suggests for getting more out of your next networking event.