Thursday, January 24, 2013

When they play poker, you play chess

The absolute worst part of this career is the negotiation process. In college, no one teaches you the skills you'll need when you enter what I call the "virtual dealership" of the newsroom. That's when the News Director's office can turn into a used car lot and his suit becomes one made of polyester. But in this case, he's trying to sell you on a job for less than its true market value. "So, little lady, what's it gonna take to put you behind the wheel of this newscast?"

But it's different than buying a car, because when you're shopping for an automobile you can always walk off the lot and visit another one. In this case, you're there because you want something, the ND knows it, and the tables are turned.


Most News Directors, especially those who hire rookies, don't think too far ahead when it comes to negotiations. They'll use a sledgehammer, with a phrase like, "If you don't take this job right now, I'll give it to someone else tomorrow." They like to go "all in" and shove their chips to the middle of the table to see if you'll blink.

In poker, the ability to bluff is key. In chess, you need to think three moves ahead.

And to do that, you need to do your homework.

Before your interview, you need to know a lot about both the station and the company. Knowing the salaries of the average reporter or anchor will certainly help. Another key point is to find out the company policy on contracts and out clauses. So when you hear, "all contracts are three years" or "this company doesn't give outs" you'll know if he's bluffing or telling the truth. If you know for a fact there are people in the newsroom with shorter contracts and outs, you suddenly have more to play with.

He goes all in, you take his queen.

Remember, the word "check" means one thing in poker and another in chess.

Just like a car lot, everything's negotiable. The first offer is always the worst one. A News Director doesn't want to leave himself without any wiggle room. And, if he sweetens the pot, it makes him look like a good guy in your eyes. In reality, he's had that best offer in his pocket the whole time. He was just hoping not to use it.

When heading to an interview, strategy is important. Taking the time to do some research could mean the difference of several thousand dollars, a much shorter contract, and the out clause you want.


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