Friday, July 20, 2012

Anne Hathaway, white courtesy phone. Your hair is calling.

Let me say that I have always liked Anne Hathaway. I think she's a fine actress, very versatile, and is attractive in that Julia Roberts sort of way.

And then I saw a picture of what she had done to her hair.

Miss Hathaway hacked (and really, that's the only way to describe her cut) off her hair for a part in a new movie. I realize she doesn't need to look glamorous for a part in Les Miz, but surely those Hollywood magicians could have put her hair in a bun and hid it under a wig instead of having the woman run around like she'd had a run-in with a weed whacker. The pixie look doesn't work for her in a major way.

Alas, my reaction was that of a typical man.

Which brings us to the always touchy subject of women's hair in the television news business.

While females have come a long way when it comes to equality of the sexes, hair still remains a lot more important for women than for men. Let's face it, guys pretty much stick with the same style our entire lives. The only changes occur when it either falls out, turns gray, or both. (Thank goodness for Just for Men, bringing a different kind of equality of the sexes to the peroxide aisle at Walgreens.)

But even though it is 2012, the glass ceiling still exists when it comes to women's hair. You might be the best journalist on staff, but if your hairstyle or color doesn't meet with management's approval, all of that talent can be overlooked.

Over the years I cannot even count the number of discussions held by management regarding a woman's hairstyle. In one case we had a GM who basically started every meeting with a comment about the hairstyles of the women in the newsroom. He felt every woman on the air should have a pixie cut. The women we had on staff would have looked ridiculous, and thankfully they refused the constant suggestions to hack off their locks.

In another case we had, according to the ND, "too many blondes" on staff. He asked one gal of Nordic descent to dye her hair brown. She, too, would have looked ridiculous.

Finally, I once had a recent grad drop by for an interview. She had gorgeous strawberry red hair and was actually worried that her hair color could hold her back since she wasn't blonde. I told her to leave her hair alone, and she went on to a solid career as a copper top. (Full disclosure: I'm married to a redhead, so I'm biased in that regard.)

Bottom line, we're still working in a very superficial business, and women are held to a higher standard than men when it comes to appearance. Have you noticed that a certain network shoots a certain female anchor in soft focus? That a certain network has an abundance of brown-eyed blondes who dyed their roots brown?

Several years ago someone did a study and found that ten percent of the women in the US are natural blondes, while seventy percent of news anchors favor the Goldilocks look. The study did not say how many of those seventy percent got the color out of a bottle. But it illustrated the superficial nature of our business.

Perhaps it is because there are more men in management positions, perhaps it goes back to that old commercial which asked, "Is it true blondes have more fun?" But the bottom line is still there. I often find myself telling female clients to cut their hair or get a new style. Not because I think it changes their credibility, but because I know it will help them in their job search. (I never tell anyone to color their hair, by the way.)

What does all this mean? Basically, that some things haven't changed and probably never will. So ladies, go out and kick ass on a story today, just make sure you don't have a hair out of place.

Meanwhile, the timer just went off and I have to wash out the Just for Men. It targets only the gray, you know.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

How to make your old school News Director smile in one easy app

Okay, this one will bring happy memories to those of us from the era of wite-out, carbon paper, and orator typeface.

It's an app that makes your computer sound like an old fashioned typewriter.

Everyone download this and you'll hear what an old newsroom used to sound like. You may note a faraway look in your News Director's face when he hears this.

Meanwhile, get the intern to change the damn ribbon.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Reverse engineer your career

Back in the days of sandlot baseball before parents lived vicariously through their children, we played ball every day with no adult supervision, and never an umpire. In all the years I spent on a baseball diamond, neither of my parents ever saw me play. We simply didn't want adults around, and took care of things ourselves. On many occasions there was a dispute as to whether a ball was fair or foul, whether a runner was safe or out. When nothing could be resolved, kids used the wisdom of Solomon and called for a "do-over."

In other words, the ball that may or may not have hit the foul line never happened. We'd go back in time, so to speak, and do the whole thing again.

Ah, if only we had a do-over on some of our career decisions. If only we had a time machine that allowed us to go back to that fork in the road that sent us down the wrong path.

So today I'm going to ask you to look back at your career, not forward. Even if you're looking for your first job and haven't set foot in a real newsroom.

You're going to reverse-engineer your career.

Companies do it all the time. A great invention comes out, a company assigns a bunch of geeks to take it apart and figure out how it works, then put it back together using their own components. Hence the "knock-offs" that permeate our society. Those great inventions multiply like rabbits once the reverse-engineer process is done.

How can you do this with a career that's just beginning? Well, in this case, you have to use the time machine in your mind to go forward, not back.

Start at the end, at where you'd like to end up. It doesn't matter if you're a rookie or someone with experience, just imagine where you'd like to end up. In this case, let's say it's the network.

Now, how do you get there?

Let's say you're in your first job and and two offers have just come up. The first offers a lot more money but the situation isn't very good. The News Director is a screamer and the product doesn't look all that great.

The second offer is with a station that offers a little more money,  but the ND is a great guy and the station is committed to quality, with world class photogs.

Step back and reverse engineer your resume. Which of these jobs will help you get where you want to go?

A lot more money may be more appealing, but the second offer would improve the quality of your work. Which job will lead to a better third job? Which will help you end up at the network?

Look forward in time again. A network executive is looking at your tape. Does he care how much money is in your paycheck while he watches the first package, or is he only concerned with the quality of your work?

Looking back in time from the future (I know, it sounds like a wild sci-fi movie) is a way to reverse-engineer your career. When making decisions, try to think long-term. Which jobs will get you where you want to go, and which moves are made out of desperation to change your situation?

Trust me, I wish I had a do-over on some of my career decisions. Too many times my "get me the hell out of here" attitude only landed me in another circle of hell.

Look forward, then look back.