The way of professional networking has been portrayed as 'helping others', for example by supporting them professionally and making them look good, and hoping that someday in the future the goodwill will be returned. I see this as consciously letting myself be used, especially by those higher up in the hierarchy.
But by doing so I sacrifice my energy and time that I could have invested in pursuing my own dreams, e.g. building up my expertise in my field of work (I'm a engineer/scientist in industry).
To me it seems less risky to invest my time there rather than in networking as there is no guarantee that the goodwill would ever be returned. I have seen bosses use juniors to achieve their own ends without supporting the juniors' career growth in turn.
I want to find a way to network without the risk of deviating from my own professional advancement. I'm not willing to go outside of my area of expertise for networking and I'm afraid that networking could bring me more harm than good if I don't do it right.
I do believe in the power of networking. But I'm a bit confused: are there ways to get the best of both worlds? How can I network and at the same time advance my professional capability?