Dear John, (couldn't resist)
In theory, networking in Hollywood is super easy. This is the blessing part. Just step outside and speak to the first person that passes you by. This should take approximately 45 seconds. People here are seemingly more friendly than you would think. Credit is due to the fact that so many people live here that it is practically impossible to live a life of solitude, you must interact with people. If you are wanting to work in the Entertainment Industry you are in the prime networking place. Every coffee shop you go to will have at least one person reading a script, one person writing a script and one group talking about a project they just worked on. Everyone promises to know someone who knows someone who shops at the same grocery store as so-in-so. It is very easy to find people that are going down the same career path as you and you can help each other achieve goals.
Here is the curse. When you are in the Entertainment Industry, especially as an actor, everything about you is a business move. My hair cut, my facial hair, my clothes; its all important. I am a walking business card. Everything you can think of can be a strategic business move including friendships, dating, where you shop, where you exercise and so on. As crazy as that may sound so many people here live life out that way and you can get burned incredibly easy. People are quick to use you for their benefit and move on to the next. The lower on the Industry food chain you are, the more you have to look out. The air is thick, filled with empty promises. There are lots of people who use their connections and power to lure you. They want you to help out with a project and promise you exposure, connections and help. They get the help they needed from you while you end up with nothing more than wasted time. Because of all of this it can be difficult to tell who is genuine and who is playing the game. Its a tricky, slippery, exciting and dangerous game to play.
So far the best people that I have networked with have come from my church, RealityLA and from doing various background work and other gigs. Usually the people who are only looking out for themselves typically throw out some red flags. For example they are usually overly interested in what you can do all the while being a name dropper and trying to impress you.
You just have to have a positive attitude, remember its a game, and keep your eye on the BIG picture that this whole life is about.