FORTUNE -- Dear Annie: I'm graduating from college in a few weeks, with a major in English and minor in film. I grew up in southern California and have always wanted to work in the movie business, eventually producing and maybe directing, and I've written a couple of screenplays that my screenwriting professors (who are also movie industry veterans) have said are good. I've also done a couple of internships at production companies, so I have some hands-on experience.
My question is, how practical is it to pursue a film career? I know I'd have to start at the bottom and work my way up, but my parents keep telling me that show business is hyper-competitive (which I know), success depends too much on luck and timing (ditto), and I should get a teaching certificate and a "real job" and just keep writing screenplays in my spare time as a hobby. I'm afraid if I do that, I'll never get the career I really want. What do you think? — Lost in La Jolla
Dear L.L.J.: Far be it from me to contradict your parents, who are only trying to spare you what could be a painful struggle in a notoriously tough business. But before you decide to settle for second best, you (and they) might want to check out a new book called I Got My Dream Job and So Can You: 7 Steps to Creating Your Ideal Career After College. It's a practical, down-to-earth guide to going after a career you can get excited about -- and incidentally, most of the tips and insights in it apply equally to any job seeker, not just those with newly minted diplomas.
MORE: The vanishing law degree
Says author Pete Leibman, "Most people give up far too easily on getting the job they really want." His advice, and his current work as a career coach, is based on his own experience. As a senior at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore in 2003, Leibman wanted to work for a professional sports franchise. At the time, unemployment was the highest it had been in 10 years, and "there were plenty of naysayers telling me to forget about it and go after something less competitive," he recalls.
Leibman ignored them. That spring, he heard about a career workshop where a senior executive from a sporting goods company was scheduled to speak, and signed up for it with the goal of meeting him and asking for advice on breaking into sports marketing. Of the many students who approached the speaker with questions, Leibman was the only one who followed up by staying in touch when the workshop was over. More
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