Everyone knows there’s no business like show business. It’s also a notoriously difficult industry to break into. But there might be a way into the biz that doesn’t involve spending years in the mailroom or organizing your boss’ fridge. There’s just one requirement: genuine passion.

Welcome to How I Landed My Job, a series of stories about graduates who took an unconventional approach to landing a job they love. As part of Fifth Third Bank’s Brand of You campaign, $1 million in one-on-one career coaching scholarships is being given away to recent graduates. Head here to learn how you can enter for the chance to win job search training worth $1,000.

Kelly Ballester went to college knowing her heart was drawn to entertainment. “I was unsure what specific career I’d ultimately pursue, but I knew I wanted the arts to be involved,” she remembers. While she didn’t realize it at the time, her enthusiasm would eventually help her stand out in a tough job market — but first, she needed to explore the industry she found so alluring. Theater Arts Management, a flexible major, seemed like a step in the right direction. “We were encouraged to research and write about what interested us most,” Kelly says. This academic freedom led her to a course in the Legal Environment of Business, which spurred her to take an introductory Entertainment Law class. “It was the first time I remember being eager to do my homework, and I excelled at both,” she says.

The Student Becomes the Intern

When she graduated, Kelly was eager to jump into a career in television. She used the insight gleaned from her classes to guide her job search. But studying entertainment and landing a rewarding job in the industry are two very different things. “It was difficult at first to compete,” Kelly says. “Its the type of industry everyone wants to break into, so it’s over-saturated with bright-eyed 20-somethings.” But Kelly wasn’t deterred. “I plastered Craigslist and career listing sites with as many [of my] resumes as I could, and by hitting the pavement and contacting any companies that had appeal.”

Kelly’s persistence paid off in the form of casting and marketing internships. They weren’t all ideal positions for her personally, but they did teach her an important lesson: learning where your passion doesn’t lie can be as valuable as determining where it does.

Eventually, she got lucky: her internship at an entertainment management firm led to a full-time job. While most of her official duties were centered around making commercials, she says, “I found myself reading various contracts and agreements while maintaining files.” Kelly realized that her attraction to the law went deeper than the college courses she’d loved: “I’ve always considered myself a problem-solver, and as a middle child, conflict resolution seemed to come naturally.” The only way to fully explore her attraction to the legal side of entertainment was to jump in headfirst. She set her sights on law school.

Passion Under Pressure

Once she got into school, Kelly focused on entertainment law, and clerked at a well-connected firm during the summer. But the competitive environment took a toll on her perspective. She began to question the reason she’d pursued a law degree in the first place: her love of the arts. As the pressure to secure a promising offer mounted, Kelly added tax law to her course load. But this meant she had to confront a difficult decision: should she pursue a demanding but impressive finance job or a rewarding but less lucrative position in entertainment?

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“I think what I struggled with the most was choosing between my brain and my heart,” Kelly says. Watching fellow students accept prestigious jobs didn’t make things easier. “I was still trying to sort out where my interests were...I ended up taking a position in wealth management with the largest firm.”

Before long, Kelly discovered the flip side to the Confucian adage, “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Work was her life and her heart wasn’t in it. “When I took a step back, I realized I was miserable, and unhealthy, and needed a change.” she says. Instead of viewing her predicament as a failure, Kelly used it to motivate and guide her next move. She had learned a lot about herself through her jobs in wealth management and entertainment: “They weren’t for me,” she says, “but I would never have known that if I hadn’t been open to them.”

As she looked for her next opportunity, Kelly recognized the value of her imperfect path: she’d developed her legal reasoning and creative perspective, strengthened her work ethic, and broadened her network. But most importantly, she was ready to trust her instincts.

Sense of Direction

Kelly wasn’t going to make the same mistake again. “This time, I knew there was no room for B.S.,” she says. “It wasn’t necessary. I was truly interested in television.” She soon found a job listing that aligned with her skills, experience, and interests: working in the legal department at ABC. So Kelly did what any young job applicant would do: she hopped on the internet. “I wanted to make sure I was as well-prepared as possible without seeming rehearsed... It’s amazing what a Google search can reveal.” She applied online and was contacted by a recruiter shortly thereafter.

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In addition to online sleuthing, Kelly reached out to the recruiter who had posted the listing. “I asked if she knew what specific qualities they were looking for and I tried to highlight those on my resume and during the actual interview.” Armed with these insights, Kelly worked to present herself as a compelling candidate: “I was able to articulate how my skills in negotiation, analytic thinking, and reason would allow me to excel.” Her time in wealth management had earned her impressive legal experience, and her education and entertainment internships had produced a network that helped her connect with the ABC team. “We’d worked on many of the same shows, with the same directors, or knew the same contacts,” she says.

Back to Basics

Kelly’s job search confirmed her strongest advantage: “I was truly enthusiastic about the position,” she says. “I’ve found that employers can see through a lot of the smoke and mirrors. Honesty is usually the best policy.” Looking back, her strongest strategy also seems like the most obvious: “I presented myself as a human being,” she says. Not everyone recognizes the value of this transparent approach, but Kelly knew it was her best chance of standing out in a sea of cookie-cutter, dehumanized applications. She put her personality up front by referencing her personal hobbies and interests (Star Wars included) in her application. This down to earth approach sparked a direct, comfortable, and memorable dialogue during her interviews. “I think it’s crucial for people to see you not only as a candidate, but as an actual person who they’ll enjoy working with on a day-to-day basis,” she says.

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The simplicity of Kelly’s approach paid off. She got the job, and her heart (along with the rest of her) couldn’t be happier in her new role. “I’m on set, in action, working with people I love doing work that I love,” she says.

You’ve heard Kelly’s story — now it’s time to share yours. How have your personal passions influenced your professional life? Which impulses do you value most professionally? What’s the craziest thing you ever did to get an interview, make an impression, or land a job? Share your career stories in the comments!

As stories like Kelly’s prove, a college degree doesn’t guarantee a full time job offer. Most graduates don’t know how to develop and promote their strongest asset: their personal brand. That’s why Fifth Third Bank teamed up with NextJob to create the Brand of You campaign. As part of this initiative, Fifth Third Bank is giving away $1 million in personalized job search coaching to help recent graduates navigate the job market as they deal with paying student loans.

All it takes to enter is a simple Tweet. Visit 53.com/BrandofYou to learn more about how you can win a job search training package worth $1,000, or tell us why you deserve a scholarship by posting a Tweet with #brandofyou and #53enter for a chance to win. Fifth Third Bank. Member FDIC.

This post is a sponsored collaboration between Fifth Third Bank and Studio@Gawker.