A very talented anchor friend of mine recently asked me this question: How do you shop yourself, when you are six months or so out from your contract end date, without ticking off the ND and/or GM? Is posting my stuff on Collective Talent okay? Or, is it likely to make the boss start looking for my replacement?
No doubt you have to tread lightly when deciding to shop yourself, especially if you do not have an agent. My gut instinct was to put your stuff on Collective Talent, MediaLine or MyAirCheck type websites, only if you are pretty sure you are about to be “on the beach.” But I wanted to be sure, so I contacted former news director turned agent, Micah Johnson with Media Stars Worldwide. There’s good news job seekers! His take is: Your ND and/or GM expects to see you “putting your work out there.” Why wouldn’t you want to better your situation? It’s all about leverage. Two things Micah said to keep in mind before posting on these type of sites though:
1) If your ND wants to keep you, this will speed up the negotiation process. You will only get 60 to 90 days to hunt for a new job. Then either sign with the current station, or know you will be let go and must find another gig.
2) If you really like your job, and where you are, you will quickly find out if the station likes you as much as you like the station. If you post and there’s no push to negotiate, management may not be as eager to keep you around as you hoped. Keep in mind the ND will see your work on these sites. They routinely check to see who at the station is potentially looking and who’s on the sites from competing stations.
Not doing anything guarantees your ND is going to try and get you at a bargain. This is important to keep in mind as well. When your contract is coming up, if you possibly can, you want leverage. If you do not have an agent, this is riskier. It is still doable, but you might want to start networking well before the last 6 month mark on your contract.
So how do you network without an agent when you are considering a move? For starters, head back to Collective Talent, MediaLine and MyAirCheck. Check where the people with postings are from. Chances are this talent is at least casually looking, so their job could come open in a place where you would like to live. Might be a good time to send the ND at that station a link to your work and an email or letter and disc introducing yourself and letting him or her know when you will be available if a job came open. Do not write that you saw anchor so and so on Collective Talent and you want that job. That doesn’t look good. Keep it more general. Wait a couple of weeks, then follow up with an email asking if you can keep in touch and occasionally send links to some of your current work. Now earlier I referenced sending a disc and letter. It’s not because I am a dinosaur. Email is a great route as well, but I like sending hard copies because ND’s get flooded with email. It can be easy to miss yours. An assistant will hand deliver that letter. Sending a letter, then following up with an email gives you the best of both worlds. Be sure to include a copy of your resume and link to your work when you do the follow up email, just in case the ND did not get the letter.
If you have a dream market, make sure you make multiple connections with those stations. Do not limit yourself to the ND’s. Tweet with producers, reporters and anchors in the market. Like them on Facebook and check in once in a while. If these people end up feeling connected with you and can mention you to the boss, it makes you both look good.
Now let’s address the idea of job hunting without ticking the current boss off. Without an agent, this is obviously a more slippery slope. Again, if you really like where you are the key is to be subtle. You are playing a leverage game. But agent Micah Johnson told me something else that really stuck in my head. When I repeatedly asked what to do, in order to not tick off the ND, he said, “I’m shocked you believe it’s an issue.” He kept repeating that ND’s expect talent to look. They usually don’t hold it against you. If you seem to be getting nibbles, this is actually flattering to the ND’s. It validates their own feelings about your talent and potential. If the ND or GM is vindictive about it, you probably don’t want to work for this person long term anyway.
Thank you Micah Johnson for your insight on job searches. For more of his views on the TV news biz, follow him on Twitter at @TV_Agent. His agency is Media Stars Worldwide at www.MediaStars.tv.