There are many steps that can help you to break into the industry. A short and sweet demo reel with your best shots first will help. A reel that shows talent with plenty of upside and potential is going to get you a job.
Having contacts and good word of mouth will help, but the reel reigns supreme. Once you have broken into the industry, to continue to succeed takes plenty of work as well.
Never change your mindset and start thinking, ‘I’m done, I made it, time to relax and set some mindless keys and pay off my student loans.’ You always need to have an open mind and continue to learn proactively.
Make friends with all the great animators. Treat each shot like an assignment you had in school. Ask your peers and supervisors for feedback on how to improve. Even if you have people telling you that you are a great animator and they love your shots, keep the ego in check and be humble. You never know when that next shot you get will be something you have never done before, and will be a challenge.
That’s what makes animating so much fun! Success is simply taking all you have learned and combining it with feedback from your fellow animators, leads, supervisors and directors.