A match made in Hollywood

A match made in Hollywood

Alumni mentor helps aspiring performer think out of the box in job hunt

Photo of alumnus Barry Gordon and student Ben Caron discussing issues at a table in the student union.

Cal State L.A. student Ben Caron and his mentor Barry Gordon ’86 catch up about summer work opportunities in the entertainment industry during their regularly scheduled Alumni Mentoring Program meeting.

Tips on career transitions

  • Plan ahead. If you know you are interested in a certain field or career and you have time to intern or volunteer in that industry: do it.

  • Thoroughly research the industry to find out all the available work opportunities — and not just by looking online.

    “I think that the most important thing is to talk to people who have done what you aspire to do,” said Barry Gordon.

  • When you are ready to apply, develop a clear strategy and use a variety of sources to locate job leads. The most effective source is networking (talking to people you know either through associations, school, internships and clubs).

    The Alumni Association offers industry—specific networks for members interested or involved in business, education, engineering, nursing and entertainment and the arts. You can also find job posts for CSULA students and alumni online by visiting the Career Development Center’s Eagle iJobs.

  • When networking, remember: be yourself. As student Ben Caron noted: “If you try and force yourself on people, it won’t work. People will be turned off by that and your abilities won’t matter.

    “If I had gone into my meeting with Barry and tried to be the cool guy who knew everything and was just there to get something from him — we probably wouldn’t be talking today. You have to be honest, be who you are.”

  • After exploring all your passions and interests in school or in life, hone in on one area or field that you want to pursue.

    “That is the one thing I keep talking about with Ben. He has so many options — acting, writing, directing, music — but which one do you want to do? At some point you have to make that decision,” Gordon said.

After spending several decades in a career, you might start thinking you have learned everything there is to know about a field.

You’ve mastered the skills you need to succeed. You know how to market yourself and where to look for the next opportunity. But what if you were just starting your career today, would you know where to begin?

That is a dilemma that many of our students, graduates and even alumni who are transitioning to a new career confront each year. And in today’s economy, knowing how, where, and when to start can be more important than ever.

Well, the CSULA Alumni Association has a solution for easing the transition. Through its Alumni Mentoring Program, students and alumni who are on the move are matched up with experienced, professional alumni who can help guide them through the process.

“You have to have a real sense for what the world looks like. You have to talk to people who have been in it,” said Barry Gordon ’86. “And that’s what the mentoring program is all about.”

Gordon, the current vice president and former president of the CSULA Alumni Association, was one of the first mentors to be paired up with a mentee, past president of the Student Alumni Association Ben Caron. A theatre and music double major who plans to graduate next spring, Caron is interested in pursuing a career in writing, directing and acting — all areas of firsthand expertise for Gordon, who began his career in the entertainment industry at the age of 3.

Since then, Gordon has worked in film, television, produced a CD and worked as a radio talk show host, among other things. He was also the longest—serving president of the Screen Actors Guild, holding the position from 1988 to 1995.

“It’s a great relationship we have cultivated,” Caron said. “Barry has all the inside information on the industry.

“Not only do I get the chance to network, I have someone to use as a sounding board and answer all my questions — about auditions, agents,” said Caron. “I always tell other students: ‘Wouldn’t you like to have someone to talk about your resume with or practice for an interview?’”

The mentoring program, up and running since 2008, has more than 150 students and alumni participants. Matches are made through a careful selection process that looks at each individual’s career goals and interests, and program expectations.

For more information, or to get involved as mentor or mentee, you can download an application or call the Alumni Association at (323) 343-ALUM (2586).