“Second Acts: The Late Bloomer”

Here is a lovely article from Careerbuilder.com, written by Kathryn Joosten, an actress I’ve always enjoyed. It’s all about her eclectic career path from being a nurse to an Emmy-winning actress. Hopefully her story give you a bit of inspiration!

Julie Mendez
Second Acts: The Late Bloomer
By Kathryn Joosten

Some people in Hollywood think of me as a model for dramatic midlife transitions: suburban housewife to Emmy-winning actress. But I never plotted out a master plan for following my dreams. My career arc seemed perfectly normal to me as it evolved over time. Each phase just seemed to grow naturally out of the one before.

I started out as a nurse. As a teenager growing up in Chicago in the 1950s, I worked part time at a local hospital, where I spent my off hours hanging around the pediatrics unit with a friendly nurse. She inspired me to go into the profession. After graduating from high school and completing a training program, I landed a job at the Psychiatric Institute at Michael Reese Hospital. I was there nine years, eventually rising to head nurse of the largest psychiatric unit. Then I married one of the staff psychiatrists and gave up nursing for a new life as a housewife in suburban Lake Forest.

Ten years later, he got the mistress and I got the children. As a divorcee with two young boys and not enough child support, I had to go back to work. But I couldn’t go back to nursing after so many years away from it. My skills were no longer current. So I got a job with a “Welcome Wagon”-type company that advertised local businesses to new residents. To supplement that, I hung wallpaper for people who were redecorating their homes, and served as a location manager for photographers and industrial filmmakers doing shoots in the Chicago area.

All this kept me very busy, which is one reason I signed my boys up for the children’s program at the Lake Forest community theater. (It was the cheapest baby-sitting I could find.) Eventually I auditioned for a small part in one of the theater’s productions.

As a kid in elementary school, I had loved performing onstage in school pageants. But my high school was too small to have a drama department, so I had never acted in a play. That all changed in June 1980 when the Lake Forest theater put on the musical “Gypsy.” I made my theatrical debut in the role of Tessie Tura, a veteran stripper who offers career advice to Gypsy Rose Lee. “You’ve gotta have a gimmick,” I sang, “if you wanna get applause!”

I got applause, and I liked it. That experience led to me doing a second show in the next town over, then to another show in another town and finally to a show in a nonunion theater in Chicago. I was totally hooked. I wanted to pursue acting and see where it led me. But I was 42, with two kids and three jobs. Not the most auspicious of circumstances for a person just starting out in show business.

I thought about my mother, who had died of cancer years earlier at the age of 49. She spent her last months bitterly regretting that she had deferred so many dreams, which now would never be fulfilled. It impressed me deeply, and I had vowed that I would never let that happen to me. So I knew I had to give acting a shot.

I laid it out for my sons, who by then were 10 and 12, and asked for a year to see if I could achieve success, which I had no real definition for. I did theater while hanging paper, selling advertising and finding locations. Eventually I got an agent and landed my first professional TV job, as a pingpong ball for the Illinois lottery. I had moved from community theater to semiprofessional theater, and I wanted to go further. After my year was up, I asked the kids for an extension, and they said yes.

All I wanted at this time was to achieve some recognition in theater in Chicago. I kept making progress. A big step came when I got my Actors’ Equity union card while doing a play at the Goodman Theater. But I still wasn’t making a living from acting.

Then in 1992, Disney-MGM Studios held tryouts in Chicago. They needed street performers for their Hollywood theme park in Orlando, Fla. After standing in line for five hours, I auditioned and won a job as a “Streetmosphere” player. By now my boys were older and on their own, so I could accept the offer and move to Florida. I played Annie Hannigan, cleaning lady to the stars. The contract only lasted a year, but it convinced me that I could make a living acting.

After the Disney job ended, I went to bartending school in Orlando so I could support myself while doing local theater. I also worked in catering. But after two years, I realized that my acting career wasn’t going anywhere in Florida. One of my sons was now living in Los Angeles, so I went out there and spent a couple of weeks sleeping on his couch while I checked out the scene. I thought, “Well, I’ll come out and try it for six months.”

This was incredibly naive of me. I was in my mid-50s. I had no agent, no contacts and no track record likely to impress a Hollywood casting director. Then again, what did I have to lose? Five months later, I landed my first TV job–two lines in a scene with Jaleel White, who played Steve Urkel on the sitcom Family Matters. I played a grocery clerk in the episode, which aired on March 17, 1995. That job got me an agent, and I was off to the races. After that it was one job after another.

I went back to Florida, sold my house, packed my stuff into a truck and drove it to Los Angeles, where I’ve lived ever since. I’ve made guest appearances on dozens of TV shows, including Frasier, Monk and Grey’s Anatomy; I’ve had recurring roles on Scrubs, Dharma and Greg and Joan of Arcadia; I played Martin Sheen’s secretary, Mrs. Landingham, on The West Wing; and since 2005 I’ve had a recurring role as Mrs. McCluskey on Desperate Housewives, for which I have won two Emmys.

I didn’t start out saying, “Gee, I think I’ll try to win an Emmy.” I just kept aiming down the path that seemed to shine before me. I’ve always adjusted my work life to be able to follow that path. Each step I took was a natural progression, and I always arranged that I could go back and resume my previous life if I didn’t get to the next step.

I’ve come to realize that I cannot arrive at success. There is no “there” there. It is a continuum. I don’t advise anyone to give up an assured life for a fling at a dream. Be flexible enough to envision what the future may hold, but also realistic enough to hedge your bets. Then you can follow the unknown path, one step at a time.

FedEx Office Provides Free Resume Printing Today!

FedEx Office (formerly FedEx Kinkos) will provide FREE résumé printing, today only – March 10, 2009. See below for complete details!

Free Resume Printing

(Thank you to my colleagues in the NRWA for passing this information along!)

Julie Mendez
JSM Career Coaching

Watch What You Post On Facebook! It Might Get You Fired!

Folks, you have no idea how often stuff like this happens. From Facebook, MySpace, bulliten boards, blogs, etc. – employers ARE watching. It’s even worse when you’re applying for jobs. So EVERYONE, please watch what you post online. The anonymity of the Internet is a fallacy. You will get found out!

Facebook Post Gets Worker Fired” – http://www.espn.com/

“A Facebook post criticizing his employer, the Philadelphia Eagles, cost a stadium operations worker his job, according to a story in Monday’s Philadelphia Inquirer.

Dan Leone, who the Inquirer said worked as a west gate chief, was unhappy the team let Brian Dawkins sign with the Denver Broncos in free agency. According to the newspaper, Leone posted the following on his Facebook page: “Dan is [expletive] devastated about Dawkins signing with Denver … Dam Eagles R Retarted!!”

Despite deleting the comment, Leone told the Inquirer the Eagles fired him by phone days later.
“I shouldn’t have put it up there,” Leone said, according to the Inquirer. “I was ticked off, and I let my emotions go, but I didn’t offend any one person or target a specific individual. I was just upset that we lost such a great guy. Dawkins was one of my favorite players. I made a mistake.”
Leone said he was shocked to lose his job of six years.

“I apologized for it,” Leone said, according to the paper. “I apologized 20 million times. I never bad-mouthed the organization before. I made one mistake and they terminate me? And they couldn’t even bring me into the office to talk to me? They had to do it over the phone? At least look me in the eye. To get done dirty like this, I can’t believe it. I’m devastated.”

The Eagles confirmed that Leone was a part-time staff member, but didn’t comment further.”

USAJOBS is Breached

Here is the article from from Washington Post in its entirety. To find it online, please go to: “Federal Job Database is Breached.”

By Joe Davidson
Saturday, January 31, 2009; Page D02

The federal government’s online database for job seekers has been hacked.

As if Uncle Sam’s hiring process is not in enough of a mess already, now comes word that the pocket where he keeps job applications has been picked.

USAJOBS, the government’s database, is powered by Monster.com, the Internet employment service.

A “special security alert” posted by USAJOBS says “certain contact and account data were taken, including user IDs and passwords, e-mail addresses, names, phone numbers, and some basic demographic data.”

The information accessed does not include resumes,” the statement continues. “The accessed information does not include sensitive data such as social security numbers or personal financial data.”

But the government warns that the stolen data could be used in phishing schemes. This is a type of electronic fraud in which crooks use e-mail messages, pretending to come from legitimate organizations — potentially the U.S. government in this case — to secure sensitive information from those whose e-mail addresses were stolen.

People with USAJOBS passwords may soon be required to change them, according to the announcement.

“USAJOBS will never send an unsolicited e-mail asking you to confirm your username and password,” says the alert, “nor will Monster ask you to download any software, ‘tool’ or ‘access agreement’ in order to use your USAJOBS account.”

The hacking of USAJOBS was part of a larger intrusion into Monster.com. A “security breach official alert” on that site says “we recently learned our database was illegally accessed and certain contact and account data were taken.”

A mandatory change of e-mail passwords for company clients goes into effect today, according to Nikki Richardson, Monster’s vice president of corporate communications. The company is “monitoring any illicit use of information and so far we have not detected the misuse of this information,” she said in a telephone interview.

In addition to changing passwords, Richardson recommended that Monster users be vigilant for suspicious e-mails and review the Monster security page, which can be found at
http://www.monster.com./ More information also is available at http://www.usajobs.gov./

30 Fastest Hiring Federal Agencies of 2009

Julie’s Top Five Reasons to Work for the US Federal Government

(Since I’m married to someone who does work for the Federal Gov’t, I feel pretty comfortable sharing my list!)

  1. Job Security – Once you’re “in,” you’re in. This is unheard of nowadays. Unless you do something really stupid and steal or something of that nature.
  2. Steady Paycheck – When the economy is good, then you might kick yourself about the greener grass in the corporate sector. But right now, while everyone else has sleepless nights wondering if they’ll be able to make ends meet, or even if they’ll have a job in the morning, we’ve really been appreciating that steady paycheck.
  3. Benefits -The medical benefits and retirement are excellent.
  4. Vacation – In addition to your regular vacation package (depending on your specific job of course) you get all federal holidays off. I never really thought about that before “joining” the ranks of the Federal Government, but this is a perk that can’t be understated.
  5. Even in this economy, they’re still hiring! Someone just let me know of this fabulous article, “30 Fastest Hiring Federal Agencies of 2009,” and I thought it was a fabulous idea to share with all of you. So if you are in the market for government job, please check it out!

‘Tis the Season. . . to Network for a Job

This is THE WEEK. It seems like every holiday party on the planet is happening this week. If you were thinking of skipping any of them, THINK again!

Contrary to popular belief, December is one of the best times to be job hunting! It’s only perception that might make you think that hiring slows down in December. That hiring managers and or decision makers will be taking the month off for vacation. Or just mentally checking out while surfing the net (and hopefully reading this blog).

Trust me, no one in their right mind is “checking out” this year. Everyone is quietly freaking out about the state of the economy and wondering if the ax is going to fall. What does this mean for you? It means there are plenty of folks sitting in their offices working feverishly hard trying to be as productive and “indispensable” as possible. Great news for you, because all of these decision makers would love to end their year on a really nigh note; i.e. finding that star performer who’s going to save their company from ruin and themselves from losing their job. (Okay, maybe not literally. But I promise you that underlying current is just floating under the surface this year.)

So here are my tips to make the most of your job search during this holiday season.

If you are jobless and hunting right now:

You have got to get into the game! You need to go to every association function that you can possibly find this month. If there are two events in one night, you need to HIT both. I also recommend looking for the Chamber of Commerce or similar functions nearby. You need to strike up conversations with everyone you see that night. The idea is to come across as friendly, outgoing, and the knowledgeable expert in your field. And you have got to have business cards to take with you, and you HAVE to get business cards from the folks you speak to, so that you’ll be able to follow-up on those conversations come January 2nd.

I’m hear to tell you that if you have one free/empty night this week – YOU ARE SLACKING. If you can’t find a business related association event to go to one night, get creative. Look for philanthropic volunteer-related events you can attend. Of course, I’m not recommending spending tons of money for any of this. But you should be able to find networking functions for a very reasonable price (many association functions are free for members). I do not recommend wasting your time at “jobseeker networking events” this month unless you’re in a complete pinch to find an event to go to that evening. These are usually a bunch of other people out of work just like you. How are these folks going to help you get into contact with decision makers? I would only suggest going if you are sure that recruiters or hiring businesses will be in attendance as well.

Your job, until you get one that hands you a paycheck, is to be looking for work. If you can’t get in to meet with an HR manager, recruiter, or hiring professional right now because someone actually is actually taking vacation time, then set up appointments for the first week of January. Take someone from your local association group to coffee – ostensibly to catch up, but really to pick their brain about what’s happening and who’s hiring in your industry.

If you’re receiving a paycheck right now:

Count your many blessings. AND GO TO THE OFFICE HOLIDAY PARTY. Use this time to chat up the powers that be. The work party is also a great time to, without a$$kissing, strike up a conversation with a boss-type and complement them on something they did throughout the year. The idea is to be the guy/gal whose name pops in their mind when that new project begins in January and they are looking for people to work on it.

Remember, that most folks think they don’t want to talk about work during an office party. A complement is a nice low-key way to be friendly and open and nice, without looking desperate and pathetic. Build the relationship, so you’ll be able to go to them in January and work your way into their graces and into new and more responsibilities. And hey, even if you’re getting a paycheck, it’s important to attend any networking association meetings this season as well. So go back to the paragraphs above and re-read them.

Does everyone see the pattern emerging now? December is a “gift” for the networking individual. You’ve got low-pressure, ready-made, networking functions just waiting for you to attend. This month your goal is to build relationships with everyone you meet. You just never know who might be the gatekeeper to your dream job. You can’t sit back and wait for your dream job to come to you. It just won’t. So this month it’s time to dust off your fancy shoes and party like it’s almost 2009.

Calling all job search/career related questions!

I am looking for material to write about. I would love the input, so please email me any resume, job search, interview, or career related questions you might have! (JulieMendez@jsmcareercoaching.com) (Feel free to pass this along to anyone you think might be interested. I’m looking to get a wide range of questions so the blog will be busy and interesting!)

I can’t promise that I will answer every single question, but I will be using the majority as my starting base for the next few months — at least until I get rolling with enough of my own. Keep an eye out for your question!

Julie Mendez

100 Days Left in 2008

This morning I received an email in my inbox, stating that September 22nd marks 100 days until the end of 2008. I’m a big fan of goal setting, and each New Year’s Day I write up a detailed list of goals for myself. So, reading that was quite a wake-up call for myself (and I hope for you too!).

I love the idea this email was advertising — a “Finish Strong” challenge. (“The 100 Day Finish Strong Challenge is a structured performance improvement program where challengers compete against themselves to achieve a number of challenging goals and finish the year strong.”)

I encourage each of you to think about what finishing 2008 strong would mean to you and your career. You don’t have to pay fees to jump on the bandwagon and join this challenge on your own!

1. First of all, decide on your goals. Be specific, be realistic, be focused.

2. Write them down. Goals mean nothing unless you commit to them on paper.

3. Now you need to commit. Are you willing to buckle down and focus on these goals, so you can achieve your dreams? Be honest and serious with yourself. Perhaps your goal is slightly too large, so revise your list to what is truly possible before December 31st.

4. The next step is to make your plan. You now have less than 100 days to complete these goals, so no monkeying around! Are there outside resources you need to make these a reality?

5. Pull out your calendar/datebook, and start marking down personal deadlines, to-do lists, and chart your path through the rest of this year. Yes, this might feel like you’re cutting off all spontaneity, but in my experience organization=freedom. The organization you do now will keep you focused, and allow you the freedom of truly working through each step and successfully achieving your goal.

6. Commit again. Okay, you’ve make your plan and written everything down in your personal organizer, but that means squat unless you actually do it. So that’s why I say that once you’ve gone through all of these steps, you’ve got to commit once again to your goals. Review them one more time. Is this what you really want? Yes? So go for it!

7. Post your goals and your plan everywhere! Share the with your support team. Telling others about your goals it like the earlier step of writing them down. Make yourself accountable to others makes success much more likely.

Keep me in the loop! I look forward to hearing all about your success stories, and writing about them here at the end of the year!