Hidden References: Why You Must Expand Your List

Everyone knows that in a lot of ways this is a small business. But many journalists today think that likely means you just need a few peers and a boss, maybe two, to root for you or serve as references. This is simply not true.

What “this is a small business” really means is there is a high probability if you decide to chew out that producer who you thought was clueless, or cuss out the “snooty” anchor or just walk out because you have a new job and are sick of these (insert expletive); that will be the person the hiring manager for your dream job calls because they are buds. Don’t believe me? Wait and see.

Most companies ask for a reference list. But those references are not the people they actually call. They call their pal from back in the day. Or they call a friend of their pal from back in the day. Why? Well, your references think you are great, right? Hiring managers know this. The more important question is: What did most of the newsroom think about you? Or maybe that hiring manager thinks the ND on your list sucks. “I’m not calling (insert name). I used to kick that person’s &** when we competed in (market) X years ago.”

So, with all this in mind, you need to expand your list of references. How? First, don’t act vindictive when you leave a station, even if you feel totally justified. I promise, at some point, it will come back to bite you. It can happen YEARS after the fact. But memories are long. Next, do your job and don’t whine. Seriously. You just have to save the griping sessions for your mom, spouse or friend outside of the business. And understand that the best reputation you can have is that of a team player. It’s your best shot at preventing a bad reference.