Monday, March 18, 2013

Game face

I've likened the process of negotiation to a car dealership, a poker table and a chess game. The absolute worst thing about this career is the part where you have to sit down and hammer out a deal. They don't teach you this stuff in college, and, let's face it, creative types aren't well versed in the Jedi Mind Tricks of salesmen. Because that's what a lot of News Directors really are.

But let's get back to poker. You all know the term "tell" when it comes to playing cards. It's a little twitch, a narrowing of the eyes, a hand running through the hair that tells your opponent what you're thinking and what your hole cards are.

The "tells" in negotiating a job in broadcasting aren't that subtle. In fact, for young people, they're often so over-the-top it makes the News Director push all his chips toward the pot before the cards are even dealt.

Example: I remember one young lady who had just graduated and had dropped in for an interview. She wanted a job, any job, and would do anything if hired. She'd sweep floors, take out the trash, make coffee runs, whatever. So pumped during the interview she reminded me of a puppy so excited it wets on the rug. I liked her, so I offered her a job and she practically jumped over the desk to give me a hug.

I didn't even tell her the salary. At that point, I could have offered minimum wage. (I didn't, but that's besides the point.) She played all of her cards the minute she sat down at the table. I could have said, "You'll have to pay me to work here," and she would have said, "Where do I sign?"

While you have to show genuine interest in any job for which you've applied, you must maintain a game face. Be excited, yes, and let the ND know you're genuinely interested in the possibilities. But don't come off as so desperate he'll know you'll take anything for a salary and do anything to get the job.

The same goes for any phone interviews. Let the ND hear your smile, but don't get all gushy like a girl being asked to the prom.

If a News Director knows you'll take anything, he'll lowball you with an offer. If he can't completely read you, you've still got cards to play.

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