Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Caveat emptor

That's Latin for, "Let the buyer beware." (They made me take Latin in high school. Ugh.)

Anyway, you can't be too careful these days, especially when someone promises you a shortcut to a better career. There are some great people out there who truly want to help young journalists.

And there are some that simply see you as an open checkbook.

Full disclosure: I charge for my mentoring services. If you've ever checked my rates you can tell I'm not getting rich off this.

On various television news websites you'll see ads for resume tape services, mentoring, agents, talent coaches, you name it. Some will help you a great deal, others will not. Some will promise the moon and tell you that you'll be in a major market if only you'll sign up as a client. Others take a realistic approach and tell you that while they can help, most of your success will come from you.

When you're young and trusting (if you're not from New York) you're often a salesman's dream. Those blue skies seem appealing, and it's so simple to have someone else take your raw talent and do all the work.

News flash: You still have to do the work yourself.

I hear comments all the time about people who are in the business of helping careers. I've heard about the great agents who take a personal interest and those who sign up clients never to be heard from again. I've heard about resume services that turn out a terrific product and others that will give you something that looks like it was shot by a fifth grader. I've heard of some companies that charge a reasonable fee and others that make some of the loan sharks in my old neighborhood look like amateurs.

If you're shopping for help, do your homework, and treat it as you would the biggest story of your life. If you're going to put your career in someone else's hands, make sure that person has your best interests at heart. Get references, talk to previous and current clients, look at samples of their work. Find out if you're going to be a name, not just a number.

By the way, if you're hiring someone to help you, you're the boss. If you're paying the bill, that person works for you, not the other way around.

Remember, you are ultimately responsible for your own career. Be extremely careful when hiring anyone to help.


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