Networking is, at best, widely misunderstood. If you really want to advance your career, don't just shove business cards in front of people. As prolific actor/productive mad man James Franco suggests, build a team of people you can routinely collaborate with.
Photo by The Natural Step Canada
James Franco is hardly the first actor to use this strategy. You can find loosely connected clusters of talent throughout Hollywood's history, from Joss Whedon's stable of actors all the way back to the Rat Pack in the 60s. These groups form because people who work well together tend to want to continue working together. Building a group like this is harder than going to mixers and passing out cards, but it's immeasurably more rewarding because it frees you from the constraints of waiting on the industry to notice you:
Part of me was probably really frustrated by the fact that I really trained as an actor but I was still dependent on all these other people to work, to really apply my trade. Like I would have to get cast in something or someone would have to write something that I liked or even if they did write something I liked, I would have to be lucky enough or whatever — prove myself enough to actually get it.
So one of the things that I do at my — I also have my own schools in New York and LA — one of the things that I really try to emphasise there is community, finding your people, so that you're not just dependent on the gatekeepers in the insular industry. But you have your people that can make movies and that's very much what this movie [Yosemite] is a result of. And really just go ahead and go do it. You can pursue traditional inroads to the industry but at the same time you can still be making your own things because you either know how to do it all, like you're a Seth Rogen who can write and act and direct or you have your group and you work with them.
Some fields require less collaboration than others (for example, I don't need a team of 30 every time I write an article). But having a core group of people you can work with on projects when they come up can give you the flexibility you need to get started, rather than just waiting for a company you cold-called to hire you based on your resume alone.