Whether to hire an agent is an age old debate in the TV News biz. People have strong feelings about agents and their role in the business. As the industry trends toward turning more content with less people, agents are becoming more essential in my eyes. The reason may surprise you. It is not because there are less jobs. Bottom line if you have talent, you will find work. So why are agents becoming more essential? They are advocates for you, not only when looking for work but also while you work the job the agent helped you find.
Here’s what I mean. Of course, agents keep tabs on where the jobs are and what type of skill sets managers want. But they also keep tabs on trends in the industry. So a good agent should be able to look at your skill sets and let you know what elements you need to focus on to grow and become even more marketable. This is a mutually beneficial relationship. The agent should want to help you not only get a good job, but grow in that job so you can eventually move to another, bigger, job. Both of you win. Both of you make more money. Both of you make names for yourselves in the industry.
This is why when you vet an agent you need to make sure that this person will regularly critique your work, and that news managers think this person has a clue about identifying and training talent. Yes, I said training. Over the years, the pitfalls I found with agents were that many had connections to get you a job, but were not respected in the industry as able to help journalists grow. If you want a headhunter to place you, hire a head hunting type service. If you want someone to just look over a contract, hire an attorney. If you want a good agent, hire someone who regularly provides insight into the news business and will regularly critique your work to help hone your skills.
That, my friends, is the one thing you should require of your agent. You want regular critiques of your work. Make your requirement clear before you hire your agent and hold them accountable. There are agents that already do this as a general rule and truly feel they are an advocate for you throughout your career. This is the kind of agent you want. Ask for this upfront, and demand a clear explanation of how you will get these critiques.
So what does requiring regular critiques of your work really mean? It means more than an occasional newsletter listing industry trends and an article or two about things like what to and not to wear on air. It means the agent actually reviews some of your recent work, then sends back thoughts on what you did. It means setting up regular conversations where you decide together what skill sets you want to improve on in the next six months, the next year, by the end of your contract, etc. This person will then review your work and let you know how you are doing at improving those skills. The agent and you should also have conversations about what job you want to have in two years and/or five years. What will you do and what will the agent do to try and make those goals reality? An agent cannot promise to get you to the network in five years. But an agent can help you identify what makes your writing and presentation skills unique so you can build on your assets to increase your chances.
Remember, making sure an agent will provide regular critiques and work with you toward your goals is your responsibility to set up. Agents offer different things. You need to make sure you are getting what you want, when you want it. You need to research and make sure the agent you are thinking of hiring can deliver on your expectations. Then requiring critiques should be a simple matter of scheduling when you will talk next.