Friday, November 12, 2010

How to politely back out of an offer: don't burn the foot bridges

It never fails. You send out a bushel of tapes and post your work on or medialine, and after months of hearing nothing you get multiple job offers at the same time. Or you get a call from a station that doesn't really appeal to you.

This is such a small business that you can actually burn a bridge at a place without ever working there.

I'll give you an example of something that actually happened. Reporter sends me a tape. I really like it, so I call him up. Then he tells me he really doesn't want to live in that part of the country. (Then why the hell did you send a tape here, McFly?)

I remember that guy and his condescending attitude on the phone. It was obvious he had another offer, and he could have been more polite or at least come up with a decent excuse. I'd be reluctant to hire him anywhere else.

And that's the key: News Directors move around as much as reporters and anchors. So if you're gonna turn down an offer, you need to use some tact in doing so. Because if the ND liked you once, chances are the ND will be somewhere else in the future and like you again.

So, how do you tactfully get out of a job offer, or brush off some interest? There are all sorts to ways to do this, the key being that you are polite in doing so.

-The location excuse: You're from Vermont and get a call from a station in Arizona. For whatever reason you have no desire to live in Arizona, so you might say you need to remain closer to family.

-The significant other location excuse: You would love to work in Arizona but your spouse or significant other can't deal with blistering hot weather.

-The significant other job excuse: You would love to work in Arizona but your spouse or significant other has a great job with a maple syrup company, so you need to stay close to the Northeast since there's no maple syrup being produced in Arizona.

-The better offer excuse: You're talking to another station which has made a better offer.

Get the picture? There's no rule that says you have to accept any offer. But in turning down any offer or interest, it's imperative that you keep those bridges in place, because you may want to cross them in the future.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Don't forget to thank a veteran today

Over the years I've had the privilege of working with many fine veterans, most of them photogs. Occasionally, a few of them even told me war stories that gave me chills.

Recently I worked on a project for the military that dealt with some of the things military people have to deal with out in the field. It was about as frightening as the opening scenes of "Saving Private Ryan."

Over the years this country has been involved in unpopular wars. There was great anger in America during the Vietnam era, and there are plenty of questions regarding our involvement in the middle east today.

Even if you don't support a war, you can support the military. These people put their lives on the line every day. And if you're covering any kind of Veterans Day function, you'll see some of the results. People in wheelchairs and those with missing limbs are obvious victims, but there are plenty of unseen wounds, like post-traumatic stress and broken families.

You can give your life without dying.

It's perfectly appropriate to thank a veteran for his or her service. Not just today, but any day.


Monday, November 8, 2010

The meanings behind job postings

The most classic job posting story goes back to the early 1980's, when videotape was replacing film. 3/4" tapes were expensive back then. One station was known for running bogus job ads when there were no openings. The reason? To build up a stock of videotape without having to pay for it. Tacky, huh?

Of course that doesn't make sense in the era of DVDs, but the mystery behind job postings continues. What are the rules, what do the postings actually mean, what does it mean when they disappear...and re-appear?

You can drive yourself nuts trying to figure this stuff out, and the big piece of advice here is...don't try to figure it out. Because there are no rules, and postings mean different things at different stations.

Postings fall into all sorts of categories, and I'll try to give you some of the more common ones:

-The job posting with an expiration date: The most common posting, and often reflects the rules of the corporation. For instance, the beancounters in charge may have dictated that jobs remain posted for two weeks. So let's say the job posting reads November 1-15. Does this mean you can't apply after November 15th? Of course not. Does it mean this particular station adheres to the hard and fast rules of the dates set forth by corporate? Maybe, but probably not. So send a tape.

-The blind ad job posting: Usually used by small markets in undesirable places to live, but sometimes by News Directors who are trying to avoid phone calls. So send a tape.

-The now-you-see-it, now-you-don't job posting. You've been watching one particular station and a job that you've applied for. Then, one day, the posting disappears. Does this mean the position has been filled? Maybe, maybe not. In many cases postings have expiration dates. Sometimes the ND has gotten enough tapes and pulls the post. Sometimes the budget changes and the job no longer exists. Sometimes a secretary screws up and deletes it by mistake. So send a tape.

-The I-sent-a-tape, the-posting-disappeared, then-came-back job post. So you're thinking, "Okay, I sent a tape, they didn't like it (or anyone else's) so they re-posted the job." Again, not necessarily. Maybe corporate has a rule to keep the job posted until the new person starts the job. Maybe the ND is still looking. Maybe the secretary screwed up again. So send a tape.

-The posting for the job you applied for months ago. So, you sent a tape and didn't get the job in the spring. There's an opening in the fall and you don't send a tape because you figure, "I didn't get the job last time, why would they hire me now?" Hello, McFly! Every situation is different. Did it ever occur to you that maybe you came in second for that last job and might be the first choice this time around? Maybe they wanted a lifestyle reporter and you did hard news, but they want a hard news person this time. Maybe they needed a guy last time and now they need a gal. So send a tape.

-The posting requiring a ridiculous amount of experience for the market size. Do you really think News Directors in tiny markets get a lot of applicants with three years experience? If you're right out of college and have talent, you've got a good shot. So send a tape.

Get the picture? There's really no way to figure out what's behind every job posting.

So....wait for it.... send a tape!