Quick question. I've been working at my first job, in a 140's market for just over a year now. I do love everyone I work with and I love the station (weird, huh?!), but I know I don't want to stay here forever. I'm no lifer! Do you think having an agent is a big boost in finding jobs? Or do you think it's too early on for me to even consider that route? I read your blog all the time, and I know you'll say it's not necessary, I guess I just don't know where to start.
Nice that you found a good place to work for your first gig. Don't worry, you'll get over it. (Kidding!)
While you answered your own question (you don't need an agent yet, in my opinion) let me elaborate on exactly why.
Most agents get a minimum of six percent commission, so we'll use that number for this example. Let's say you're making 20k in that first job and would hope to make 30 in your second. An agent's commission on you would be $1800. Nothing to write home about if you're an agent. But you also have to consider that agents have overhead; office expense, phone, dubbing equipment and a whopping postage bill to name a few things. So if you're an agent, you'd have to place an awful lot of people at 30k to even come close to making a decent living.
It is really not worth the time or expense for agents to take on clients who aren't going to make at least 50 thousand dollars.
There are agents who do take on young people like you. While some are reputable, I've run into a bunch who simply send News Directors boxes of tapes featuring every client they have in the hope one will get hired.
I've had experiences dealing with good and bad agents. On the good side, I like an agent who will (politely) call and say something like, "I know you're looking for a male co-anchor, and I've got someone in mind who might be a nice partner for your current female." NDs love agents like this... people who actually know their client's strengths and weaknesses and have an idea what you are looking to hire. This is the kind of agent you want.
On the bad side (in my opinion) is the hardball agent who won't budge on money and hasn't realized the business is flooded with talented people who have been laid off. I remember one anchor I really wanted to hire, but her agent was so totally obnoxious (even for this New Yorker) and unwilling to negotiate I finally moved on. And I made it a point never to deal with clients represented by that agent again.
When shopping for an agent, check references. You can easily find the names of people placed by agents by reading the trades. Just check the "moving on" section of tvjobs.com, or the agent's website. Then just call them up and ask if they were happy with their experience.
Finally, when you do get an agent, don't drive the agent crazy with constant phone calls asking if anything is happening. Agents get really tired of "get me outta here" phone calls. Every minute of the agent's time you take up is a minute the agent can't beat the bushes working for you.