Thursday, January 19, 2012

Six degrees of separation is a good game to play in broadcasting; or, why you should be friends with the crash dummy in your newsroom

If you take nothing else from this post, take this: the person at the next desk is not your competition.

Oh sure, the other reporter sitting next to you is gunning for the same anchor job as you are, but he's not the enemy. In fact, he may be the key to your next job.

You all know that "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" game, in which you can connect actors in one way or another to Kevin Bacon by linking them to other actors in other movies. Eventually, everyone is linked. It's a premise used by social networking, but in the case of television news, you need to take it to a personal level.

Example: I have a client who wants to go to Minneapolis. I don't know anyone in Minneapolis, but I have an old News Director who used to work there. I mention that I have a talented client who wants to work there. He tells me he's still good friends with a main anchor there, and he'll be happy to put in a good word for my client. That's several degrees of separation, but just like that my client "knows" someone in Minneapolis that he has never met.

Of course, most of you don't have mentors, agents, or guardian angels looking after you, so you have to play the game from scratch. You start on day one, job one, by being nice and making friends with everyone in the building. Doesn't matter if they're backstabbers or have the intelligence of a crash dummy. The business is unfair, and eventually some of those people will move up the ladder.

So now you wanna move to San Diego. That crash dummy got a job in New Orleans. You keep in touch via email, and mention you want to go to San Diego. The crash dummy mentions that his station just lost an anchor to that market, and he'll be happy to give the guy a call on your behalf.

But none of that happens if you don't befriend the crash dummy.

This business is very small. Sometimes it seems as though everyone knows everyone, especially if you've been in this business awhile. But we're all connected in one way or another. Give me a market and I'll probably find someone who knows someone who knows someone. That's how the game works when you need to "know somebody." You still have to get the job on your own, you still need a great tape, but a helping hand from someone you might not even know can get your tape to the top of the stack. Some anchor in some faraway place could walk into a ND's office and say, "My old News Director says he heard this reporter is really good." And that's all it takes.

And yes, the competition is at the other station, but there's no reason you can't be polite while competing. Making friends with people at the other stations is fine as long as you don't get too close and trade stories. Those people can also help you down the road.

The crash dummy may be the most brainless idiot you've ever met, but the crash dummy may have connections in the future that you can't imagine. Play the six degrees of separation game and improve your chances... just by being nice.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Control freaks

Ever buy a lottery ticket? If you have, you realize that you have absolutely no control over winning or not. If the universe chooses to smile on you, you win. If not, you're out a buck.

But you have controlled the only part of the equation that you can control: buying the ticket. You've done all you can.

In some ways, job hunting is a lot like buying a lottery ticket. But the problem with many of you is that you think you can control more of the process, when, in reality, much of it is out of your hands.

Many people reach a point in a job search at which they ask themselves, "There must be something else I can do. I'm not doing enough or I would have found a job." But in most cases, you're already doing as much as is humanly possible.

Things you can control in a job search:

-The quality of your tape. Granted, most of us will overthink this to death, but you are responsible for the work that goes on your tape. If you've done solid work, it will come through.

-Sending your tape. You're really playing the lottery if you knock out a great resume tape and then fail to put it in the mail. You control where your tape goes. If you have an agent, you work with the agent to determine what desks on which your tape will land.

-Cover letter. All on you. You control whether or not your letter is a standard I'll-be-a-team-player-and-work-hard piece of bull, or if you've put on your creative hat and dazzled the News Director with your writing ability.

-Hunting for jobs. It's not enough to simply read the job postings. You have to work the phones, send tapes to stations even if there aren't any openings.

-Following up on positive responses. If a ND sends you a nice note and says, "Keep in touch," it's up to you to send him a new tape every two months.

Things you can't control:

-What a News Director is looking for. He needs a woman and you're a guy. He needs someone who is a great ad libber and you're not. He needs a feature guy and you're an investigative type without an outgoing personality. He needs young and you're old. He needs older and you're young. He needs a certain demographic and you don't fit. He can't afford you. He needs someone who is local and you're not. The list is endless.

-What the GM or corporate wants. See above. Many times a ND is overruled.

-Timing. A ND needs a reporter right now and your contract isn't up for three months.

Get the picture? Remember, while you are responsible for your own career, certain things are, and always will be, out of your control. All you can do is continue to knock out good work every day and hope the stars align. And also keep in mind that the best person often does not get the job. The person who gets the job is often the best fit. And that's something you can't control.


Monday, January 16, 2012

When job hunting, why not throw a Hail Mary?

If you watched the Giants game yesterday, you saw them hit a Hail Mary pass for a touchdown on the last play of the half. In all the years I've been watching my team, I'm not sure I've ever seen them complete one of those.

Just goes to show you that even when something is a longshot, you should take a shot.

Even if you think you have no chance for a job, throw up a Hail Mary. (In this case, send a tape.) You have nothing to lose, and you might get a great job.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Somebody please hire this man to run a television newsroom

What most of us have been saying all along...