Hindsight is always 20-20. Over the years there have been plenty of times I've looked back and said to myself, "Why didn't I see that?" or "How did I miss that in the contract?"
So you need 20-20 foresight when dealing with management, especially when you're about to sign with someone new. Remember, any deal you take is always in management's favor, even though you may think it isn't. But you can make it a more level playing field with 20-20 foresight. It's your own little time machine designed to help you avoid problems in the future.
1. Have a lawyer read your contract. More people get screwed by the fine print in contracts than by everything else combined.
2. Remember that everything is negotiable. You may hear "We don't give outs" or "Everyone signs a three year contract" but that doesn't mean anything. Every person's situation is mutually exclusive.
3. Do your homework. Find out all you can about the ND, the station, the staff. Watch the product online before you send a tape. Track down former employees and contact them.
4. Make sure you're clear on EVERYTHING before signing. When do the health benefits start? Will you pay moving expenses? Do I get a hair and clothing allowance? Will you put me up in a hotel while I look for a place to live? Remember, you've got one chance to sign a contract, so make sure everything you want is in it.
5. Ditch the rose-colored glasses. Yes, you desperately want to get the hell out of Dodge, but taking anything can often land you in a bad situation. If you hear a lot of bad things about a station, just keep in mind that where there's smoke, there's fire.
6. Be clear on the job description. If you're applying for a reporter job and you hear, "You might have to produce once in awhile," run like hell. That's a classic bait and switch and you'll probably end up as a full time producer with no way to make a new tape.
7. Don't be afraid to ask for more, but do so politely. You don't have to take the first offer, because, it's just that, an offer. If you'd like more money, a shorter contract, etc. don't be shy. However, if you're looking for your first job, your bargaining position is pretty limited.
8. Don't sign a three year deal for a first job. Just don't. Please.
9. Consider the shift, especially if the job is for the morning show. If you're a night person like I am, trust me, the morning shift will kill you. And keep in mind that morning show reporter is the worst job in television because you rarely get to do stories of substance.
10. Make sure the job is one that will help you reach your ultimate goal. Think long term, not short term instant gratification.