This is such a big and deep question. As an artist you really need solid perspective and direction to make sure all your work is not spent in vein. You need constant guidance as to what is good and what is bad. I feel like my perspective on this is constantly evolving, especially as I work on projects that really challenge me. You need to put in a TON of time. You need to make mistakes and (1) learn to get feedback. You need to (2) learn to use feedback constructively to grow. You need to figure out what makes you improve when nobody else is around. And among many things, you need to (3) learn to persevere optimistically until you land that dream job you've wanted since you watched Aladdin get his three wishes. Kevin Yang is a good example of how to get into a feature animation studio.
When I first met Kevin, he came to my table at CTNx 2012; He asked me to look through his portfolio. I don't know how many portfolios I looked at that year but there were many. A few things stood out to me right away with Kevin.
He was extremely polite and considerate. He recognized whilst we spoke that I was still selling my own work. I had a business to run. He respected my time and kept the visit short and sweet. His portfolio looked professional. It was slick. It was filled with interesting images that made me think and my blood move quick. I could see lots of thought behind each page and its layout. He had done his homework to focus it in one direction. When I gave Kevin feedback, he already had a pencil and paper ready to write down notes. I could see that this guy (1) learned how to get feedback. After each critique, I could see him digest the information in his head and write a note to remember. Even things I'm sure he's heard before were still re-digested and written. He was thorough. When we finished, he shook my hand and bought a large print...not a bad idea to end on :)
Kevin kept in touch with me. He often sent me updates with his artwork, commented on my social media, connected via professional platforms, and asked very direct, specific questions when he had them. Each time I saw an update on a painting or a revised sketch, there was a solid improvement. Principles we had discussed were being applied. Action was taken to create solutions. Kevin (2) learned how to use feedback constructively and grow. He didn't just get feedback from me either; he gathered a well-rounded opinion from industry professionals to analyze where he was at. After all, many eyes are better than two.
Soon thereafter, Kevin was graduating. He landed an interview with Blue Sky during a recruiting visit and it went great! Not only did he score brownie points with a rockstar portfolio, he showed credibility mentioning I'd been looking over his work giving feedback. From there Kevin didn't wait around for an answer, he started working on the Dam Keeper short film. Here is a perfect example of (3) persevering optimistically until you land that dream job. Soon after, Kevin got a call from Blue Sky offering him the summer internship. He came, kicked some butt and got offered a full-time position.
There is so much to learn from Kevin Yang. Among many things, here are three that I believe are key to landing your dream job:
#1 learn to get feedback
#2 learn to use feedback constructively to grow
#3 learn to persevere optimistically until you land that dream job...then keep growing:)
Make sure to check out Kevin's personal blog here: http://kevuart.blogspot.com/