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THE QUESTION

I am 35 years old, currently living outside the country with my parents. I have two master's degrees from the United States and London in fine arts and media relations. I want to work in the business side of the entertainment business in the U.S. or Canada. I have had a number of short-term positions over the past five years, and 16 interviews over the past 10 months for full-time positions with no job offers. Am I overqualified, or do I not have enough long-term job experience? What do I need to do to land a position?

THE FIRST ANSWER

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Bruce Sandy
Principal, Pathfinder Coaching and Consulting, Vancouver

You need to find out specifically why you were not selected for any of these positions. Ask for specific feedback from the company or human resources officials about what they liked about your interviews and what you need to change in your presentation or your references. Ask if they think you are overqualified and what you need to do to land a position with their companies. Take note of their comments and recommendations.

If there are identified problems with your presentation and interview style, consider working with a career coach or counsellor to refine and hone your communication, presentation and relation- ship-building skills. Practise interviews and videotape them. Get specific feedback on your communication style, body language, tone and connection with the interviewer. If there are problems with your references, find new ones. They should have a recent copy of your résumé and copies of the job ads for which you are applying. You need to know whether they can fully support you and what they will say about you during reference checks.

Go to the U.S. and Canada and start networking with key officials in entertainment companies. Attend local entertainment business events. Build your network. Set up information interviews with key company officials. Remember to ask them what they are proudest of and what the key challenges are for their companies instead of just focusing on you and your need for a job. If they feel you are a good listener and someone who can help them, they will want to find out more about you and how you might fit.

THE SECOND ANSWER

Billy Anderson
Founder, the Courage Crusade, Toronto

The best feedback for you is in the heads of the 16 people who turned you down. Did you ask them why you didn't get the position? It's even better to ask at the end of the interview: "Now that we've spoken, do you see any gaps between what I offer and what the position requires?" It takes courage because we don't always want to hear the answer.

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Roughly 80 per cent of jobs are found through connections. Have you fully leveraged yours? Not just who you know, but who those people know.

Have you exhausted opportunities in the country you're residing in now? The more experience you can get at home, the better your résumé will look and the more connections you'll make.

You have a lot of education, but is it applicable to what you're applying for? What type of position or company would it most align with? Start there.

You could call some colleges in North America, tell them you're thinking of taking some courses to improve your odds and ask what the industry typically requires. Tell them your situation.

Can you afford financially to start as a volunteer if need be, and slowly work your way up once you've proved yourself?

Got a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that mine field? Let our Nine To Five experts help solve your dilemma. E-mail your questions to ninetofive@globeandmail.com

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