Saturday, December 27, 2008

Time to gear up for the job hunt

If you're like me you're probably sitting around in a sugar coma watching the NFL all weekend.

But if you're looking for a job, you should be getting your stuff in the mail right now, or at least getting it ready for the post office.

Once the holidays are over next week, News Directors will have to deal with changes. Some people will make New Year's resolutions to get out of the business. Some may just quit or move to another station.

And there's that nice little bonus (thanks to television Armageddon, coming February 17th) of an extended job hunting season, since they've moved the February book to March. Two months instead of one. Talk about an after-Christmas bargain.

Note the poll on the right of this page? I expected a few people in the "yes" column but not such a high percentage. So bury the fear and get those tapes ready. Then actually put them in the mail.

Hockey great Wayne Gretsky once said, "You miss one hundred percent of the shots you don't take."

So take your shots in 2009.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Holiday Mailbag: Is PBS reporting good for my career?


I recently saw an ad for a reporting job with a PBS station. Your opinion?

-Penny for your thoughts

Dear Penny,

Well, there's an old saying about public broadcasting. "Years of planning interrupted by an occasional program."

A few things about PBS. There are no ratings to worry about because you're a government employee. There are also very few viewers. Miss a deadline? Eh, whatever.

You're also a government employee who probably has more job security than anyone else right now.

If you like taking your time with your work, it might be for you. If you want the true energy of a real newsroom, fuhgeddaboudit.

And trying to move to a commercial station might be a lot harder down the road.

One final thought... if our new president truly goes "line by line" through the budget, how viable is PBS? Once it was needed, but do we really find it necessary anymore? Congress might decide to let PBS fend for itself.


I just took a new job but literally cannot stand my co-anchor. I've got to survive for three years with this guy, and he acts like I don't deserve the job. (I have much less experience than he does, but I have enough.) He obviously wanted someone else for a partner. Any suggestions?

-New kid

Dear New Kid,

Well, it always helps to just prove yourself. Get off the anchor desk and go knock out a few world class packages. Help the producer as much as you can. Show him you belong.

If that fails, you need a sit down with the ND.

Dear Grape,

I note that you critique tapes for your business, and while I have the usual reporting tape, I am also an accomplished singer. Should I put a few clips of myself singing at the end of my resume tape?

-The Voice

Dear Voice,

Do I look like Paula Abdul to you?

Seriously, go head and slap it on the end. I guess it doesn't hurt for a station to be able to send an on-camera person out to sing the national anthem.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Have a great day, and remember...

In order for the "pay it forward" concept to work, someone has to start it.

There are a lot of good people out of work today. Don't forget them.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Bells and whistles

The Christmas Eve dinner is the event of the year for old Italians. It's known as the "Feast of the Seven Fishes" and features seven different kinds of seafood. It is my favorite dinner, trumping Thanksgiving and Christmas.

You can go to a seafood buffet, but there are a lot of things that make the Christmas Eve feast unique. It's the bells and whistles. The decorated tree and Christmas music in the background. My hilarious aunts arguing over whether the fictional doctors on ER are better than the ones on Chicago Hope. The parade of desserts after dinner when you sit down to watch a Christmas movie. Everyone gets to open one present on Christmas Eve. It's those little bells and whistles that make this night more than just a seafood buffet.

I know at this point you're waiting for the television analogy, so here goes. Are there bells and whistles in your work? Is your package just a bunch of sound bites and voice track, or have you added the flavor provided by nat sound, music, graphics, clever writing, a solid anchor intro? Is your resume tape montage a bunch of similar standups, or have you varied your locations, styles, and types of stories?

I can buy you a Christmas gift and put it in a brown paper bag. Or I can find a nice box, glittery wrapping paper, a pretty bow and a cute tag. If you see both under the tree, which one do you pick?

Television, like life, is all about bells and whistles. Make everything you do interesting, but add some spice. Be different, be daring, try new things.

Think about it... we call a television story a "package" for good reason. Wrap it up in an attractive way that makes the viewer excited and want to open it first like the prettiest Christmas gift under the tree.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Something that many of you need to find in your Christmas stocking

I watch a lot of resume tapes. I see reporters chase down murderers coming out of court without fear. I see reporters knocking on the doors of victims without a conscience. I see spunky, take-no-prisoners reporters who act bulletproof during one hundred mile per hour winds.

And I talk to reporters who turn to jelly when it comes to job hunting. For whatever reason these journalists without fear act as though they've seen a mouse and have to jump on the table.

You know how many resume tapes I've watched over the years? Probably in the thousands. You know how many I remember that I didn't like?


Here are some of the comments I hear when people are reluctant to send a tape:

-Will the ND think badly of me if I start my tape with this kind of story?

-Will the ND think I'm not experienced enough if I don't have enough live shots?

-Will the ND think I'm stupid for applying for this job?

Here's a newsflash. There are no "resume tape police" who are going to hunt you down if you send a bad tape, a tape that shows rookie mistakes, a tape that shows a lack of experience, or a tape that has editing mistakes.... or a tape the ND, for whatever reason, didn't like. I'm guessing that a lot of you think a News Director sits there with a clipboard and watches each tape carefully, then jots down notes on every one that gets ejected like this:

"Oooooh... Joe Reporter didn't have a walking standup in his montage. Let me write down his name so I'll never, ever hire him."

That sounds pretty ridiculous, doesn't it? The point is, NDs whip through tapes pretty fast. The ones they like get put aside. The ones they don't are forgotten. Forever. If your tape got ejected and you sent another tape three months later, the ND won't even remember that you sent one before... and more importantly... won't care. The only thing that matters is your work at the present time. Not what you looked like six months ago, not that you were a raw rookie two years ago, not that you changed your hairstyle since your last tape.

News Directors only remember the people they like, even if they like them just a little.

So, you have NOTHING TO LOSE by sending a tape to any job opening, do you?

Look at the good things that can happen if you send a tape.

-You can get the job.

-You can make the short list and get the next opening.

-The ND moves to another job and has you in mind for an opening at his or her new station.

-The ND might not hire you, but passes your tape on to another ND who might.

-The ND sees talent that needs to be developed and tells you to keep in touch. You might get a job in the future.

-You stop playing the "what if" game, as in "what if I had sent a tape?" (This always happens when you read that a person in your market got the job that you thought you weren't qualified for.)

So I'm hoping to put a big dose of job hunting confidence in your Christmas stocking. Send the tapes. Everywhere. You have absolutely nothing to lose but two bucks in postage. Nothing bad will happen.

Only good can happen.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Why you didn't get the job

I have a big whiteboard in my office, with the names of clients, their locations, and where they want to go. Some are extremely talented; some are raw, but growing by leaps and bounds.

This year some got jobs, some are still looking. Is there a common denominator? Nope.

I know that many of you are frustrated as we come to the close of the year. Your goal may have been to get out of dodge by 2009 and you might still be there. We have just gone through a truly bizarre year, filled with layoffs, cutbacks, and every cost cutting measure you can think of. But things run in cycles, and it will turn around.

Still, none of that may have had an effect on jobs for which you applied that were filled. You may have been the most talented, you may have had a kick-butt tape, but you still didn't get the job.

While we can file many of these under "life is not fair" there may be other reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with the quality of your work, or you.

-You're not what the ND is looking for. The ad may read "equal opportunity employer" but in many cases the station has a target demographic in mind. They may want a female anchor to pair with their male anchor who has blonde hair, so if you're a blonde woman you're out of luck. They may want a bi-lingual male and you're a woman who only speaks English. They may want a female meteorologist and you're a guy. They may want old and you're young, or young and you're old. You can be the wrong age, sex, ethnic background, you name it. In other words, sometimes you're not in consideration before you send the tape. And you'll never know, because any ND who reveals something like this will get himself sued.

-You live too far away. Okay, so I'm an ND and I've got two equally talented reporters. One lives down the street and the other lives three thousand miles away. I pay no moving expenses with the local reporter, so that's the one I choose.

-You're not as versatile. You were the best reporter but someone else can fill in on weather or sports.

-Someone else will work cheaper than you will.

-You made a phone call when the ad specifically read, "No phone calls." I know a few NDs who will not consider anyone who cannot follow simple directions.

-The timing of your contract didn't work, and someone else's was perfect.

-The ND doesn't think you'd make a good fit in the newsroom. Maybe the whole place is Ivy League and you're blue collar, or the other way around.

-This one will make you mad. You're too talented, and therefore you'll leave in a year or two. Maybe the local reporter with no big market ambition will stay forever.

-You're single and easier to relocate than someone who is married with kids. Or you're single and therefore more likely to move on than someone who is married with kids.

Are you getting the point? It's like someone breaking up and saying, "It's not you, it's me." Many times there is absolutely nothing wrong with you or your tape. The stars simply didn't align. So don't beat yourself up trying to re-think every single rejection, because in many cases you weren't really rejected... you were never in consideration. There is a big difference.

That's why I continue to tell you to send tapes everywhere. It is truly a numbers game. The more hooks in the water, the better chance you have.

The "Do Not Call" list

Rule number one of job hunting: Send the tape and fuhgeddaboudit.

Yes, as news people we're told to always follow up and be aggressive. But in the case of job hunting, it is best to send it and forget it. News Directors get dozens of interruptions each day, and they don't include the phrase "No phone calls" in jobs listings without a reason.

The only time to call a ND is if you are instructed to. Otherwise, no calls, no nagging emails, candygrams, etc. I know that waiting can be painful, but a call isn't going to speed up the process.

And if that's not enough to make you stop, consider this. If you are in consideration for a job, every time you call your price will go down. You'll be seen as desperate, and then a ND will know you can be gotten on the cheap.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Hanukkah!

Best to all my Jewish friends today!