Thursday, January 21, 2010

Required reading: The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution

In light of the Massachusetts election, we've heard more in the last few days about the parliamentary procedures of Congress than ever. We've seen lots of experts on the subject who can iron out what seem to be a whole bunch of scenarios available to those who make and pass laws.

We've seen experts, because most reporters have never even read our nation's two most important documents.

Trust me, it won't take you long. Our founding fathers were certainly not long winded, nor did they have word processors at their disposal to take things to ridiculous lengths. They also didn't pack things with legalese and write bills more than two thousand pages.

Trust me, it will be worth the read, and perhaps open your eyes about some of the stuff that happens in Washington.

If you're still interested, you might start looking into the procedures by which bills are passed. Never has that knowledge been more important. It's imperative that those in the news business become more familiar with the way our country works.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The magic formula

My other half is a math teacher who deals with absolute formulas. Two plus two always equals four.

That's not always the case in television news when it comes to your career.

People are always looking for the magic formula in order to find that perfect job. After one of my clients gets a good job, new clients frequently ask me, "Can you do for me what you did for her?"

There's no way to answer that question, because every person, every situation is different.

In math terms, you guys are all mutually exclusive.

This coming Sunday, the Jets will play the Colts. The Jets always seem to choke late in the year, the Colts seem to do so when they rest their starters after they clinch a playoff spot early.

History means nothing in this game. It is mutually exclusive.

Your career is the same. There is no reporter with your exact style, with your look, your background, your experience, your voice, your demographic. You may see someone who seems to be a carbon copy, who has made it to the top, but that doesn't affect you.

There is no magic formula. An agent cannot wave a magic wand and produce a job for you because said agent got a job for someone like you. I can teach everyone the same set of skills, and people will end up in very different situations.

When looking for a job, when planning a career, the only thing that matters is you. Sure, your classmate may have shot up the ladder while you're stuck. Someone you know may have just gotten some dumb luck. And some dumb people may just be lucky.

I've known very talented people who never got a decent break and crash dummies who ended up in a major market or a network. Life's not fair. Broadcasting is really not fair.

So what's the best thing you can do? Do your best. Trust in your abilities. Work hard. Send out your tapes. Hopefully you'll find the right formula that works for you.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Your timetable is not on a News Director's agenda

Several years ago I went on a job interview. The day was a Friday, and as the ND dropped me off at the airport, he told me he'd call me with a decision one way or another on Monday.

On Monday I jumped every time the phone rang. He never called. I figured he may have been busy, major breaking news might have happened in his market, or he just forgot.

Tuesday, no call. Same with Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. By the weekend I figured he'd moved on to someone else and was like many NDs who hate to make calls and deliver bad news. So I moved on as well, focusing on the other opportunities out there.

Three weeks later I got the job offer.

What happened? Well, in a News Director's life all sorts of things can delay the hiring process.

The one thing you have to keep in mind is this: Unless filling your position is absolutely critical by a certain date, that task sits on the back burner. Job hunting may be first and foremost in your mind, but filling the job you want might be number 22 on the ND's priority list. There are numerous things that can push back that phone call you were expecting; breaking news, newsroom drama, orders from the GM to drop everything you're doing, orders from corporate to drop everything you're doing, etc. And in many cases a ND who absolutely loves your tape might get overruled by the GM or corporate.

So if you're promised a call and it doesn't come, it doesn't "mean" anything. Trust me, a ND has a hundred things on his or her mind at any given time. The ND is not sitting there all day long thinking about one job applicant.

Relax and stop watching the phone. You may still get the job, but it rarely comes in the time frame you expect.