I always say, there are as many different ways to get into the business as there are individuals working in the business. But (mostly) it's a combination of having the right skill sets, having the right timing, possessing a strong work ethic and having luck.
Visual Effects Supe Russell Earl is a case in point: ...
... During [Earl's] senior year at the Rhode Island School of Design, he was quick to respond when he spotted a flyer advertising positions available at Douglas Trumbull’s new visual effects company in Western Massachusetts. His friends applied, too. ...
Two weeks later, he was crushed when he realized two of his friends had gotten a callback and he hadn’t. “I walked into the computer room where my friends were, and they all got really quiet,” he says. “I think I wanted the job more than anyone. I went home. There still wasn’t a message on my answering machine.”
As it turned out, his roommate had listened to the message and deleted it. “He was like, ‘Some guy called about an interview…,’” Earl says.
At the end of the day, Earl was the only one who landed the job. “It was as a traditional model-maker,” he says. “At school, they had a Masters program in furniture making, but I was already a fine craftsman. My high-school shop teacher was a Harvard-educated guy who built harpsichords. ...
Russell Earl had large dollops of the pre-requisites needed to get his first job:
* He had luck (his roommate remembered to tell him about the phone call regarding the job interview).
* He had the necessary skill-sets.
* And his timing was right.
Mr. Earl also, as the article points out, owned a robust work ethic.