Networking is EXTREMELY important in the animation industry! It’s not more important than your animation and work ethics, but it’s probably next in line!
Keep in mind that networking with nothing to show for yourself won't get you anywhere. But good networking with a solid demo reel to back it up is a good way to get your foot in the door and also stay employed.
A lot of people think that networking stops after you get your first job. No way! Networking is an ongoing thing to keep your face and work known. This is a small industry, but that doesn’t mean everyone will know you. So go shake some hands and make some new friends!