Notice, I didn’t title this entry “How to NOT look for work,” as that’s a completely different tray of fudge. Nay, nay. This is “How NOT to look for work, as in, “Hey, bub, you’re doing it wrong.”
I’ve been wrapped out of the series I was recently working on and have been looking for work the last few weeks. I usually land somewhere else quickly, so I haven’t been too balled up about it. The interviews keep coming, and I hope to have some solid offers over the next week or so.
You may be a master job hunter, but on the off chance that you’re not, I thought I’d share with you a few things that could keep you from finding YOUR next gig.
THE EMAIL BLAST
Thanks for the hugely impersonal email that doesn’t even start with my name in it and also compromises my email address to everyone else you know because you don’t know the difference between cc’ing and bcc’ing the entire Realityverse. I was wondering how you were, as I haven’t heard from you in a couple of years, and at least now I know that you are looking for work. I might have had you on my mind last week while I was helping a buddy staff her show if you’d been doing your contact maintenance and dropped me a congrats on Hollywood Game Night or the last season of Basketball Wives just as I did for you for your last shows, giving you a quick shout-out on facebook and linking to your new season tease. I might have thought, “You know who’s really been thoughtful and encouraging? You. Maybe I should bring your name up.”
People you only hear from when they’re on the hunt or need something are usually a real drag.
PLAY THE DESPERATION CARD
I see in your email blast that you are “desperate” to find something. Including this word in your email is the professional equivalent of sending someone a picture of a dog that is about to be put down if “someone” doesn’t step up and adopt it. Not only do I feel like I’m letting you down, I’m feeling like maybe there’s some weird thing going on with you that’s been keeping you from finding something. Like maybe you’ve developed a penchant for showing up to work drunk forty five minutes late while wearing a lampshade and word has gotten around to everyone but me. I understand the concept of being desperate to find a new gig, but telegraphing it in a query is a mistake. It also tells me that I can take advantage of you and lowball on the rate offered, because, well, you’re desperate!
MAKE DEMANDS IN THE INITIAL QUERY
Let’s go to the other side of the spectrum. You’re not desperate. You’re confident and firm as a rock on what you’ll consider. Your email says “Supervising Story Producer or above, must pay at least $2500/wk.”
Now, look… I have a rate. I don’t like to work for less than that rate. I also have a certain title that I’d prefer to have. But I never open with demands as that’s something I discuss once I’ve got the potential employer on the phone.
You need to make what you need to make. I get it. And sure, I’ll turn down stuff if the rate is insulting or if the title’s too cruddy for the amount of work/responsibility, but right now you’re unemployed and should be taking the meetings, considering offers as they’re made, not just telling me flat-out that you’d rather sit at home than take anything less than you usually do. What if the salary cap I’ve been given to work with is $2400/wk? I might call, but I’d be less inclined to if you “must” make $2500.
Does it matter to you THAT much if I can get you your rate but not the title? Plus, if I have $2750 a week in my budget to bring you on and you say “must pay at least $2500 a week,” you just saved me $250.
DON’T BOTHER TO LEARN ANYTHING ABOUT THE PERSON/COMPANY
So someone you email blasted couldn’t find you a gig but passed your resume on to someone else. And you managed to get an interview for the job. Nothing impresses like not giving enough of a damn to Google your potential employer in order to sound like someone who’s paying attention to the industry.
There’s an old business adage that says that people love to hear the sound of their own name. Imagine how different meeting someone would be if you could walk in and say, “Pleased to meet you. I watched a few episodes of your show online last night, and it looks like a lot of fun.”
THE IMPOSSIBLE / IMPROBABLE SALARY
So the meeting goes well and it’s time to talk about an offer. What’s your rate?
If you give out an inflated quote, it’s not only going to put you at the bottom to the list of similarly qualified people, it’s also going to brand you a liar if the line producer calls your last employer and finds out you were making $500 a week less than you said you were in the interview. Yes, this happens all the time, and yes, it’s legal for a potential employer to call a previous one about your salary history.
A side note on salary: I once took a short job at just over half my rate and with a lesser title during a brief period in which I really needed to keep the money coming in, and not only did I survive, but the show was an enormous hit, the producers felt like I was doing them a favor, and the whole thing kicked a few more doors open for me.
Even the worst conversations with a potential employer, the kind who offers well below industry standard or have reputations for high turnover, should end with a graceful “Sorry we couldn’t work it out. Keep me in mind down the road if you have anything we might be able to work together on, though.” A bad offer is no reason to burn the house down, and that person you just spoke to on the phone about the position might be a week away from deciding to move on to another company. Don’t get haughty or show how insulted you are by an unacceptable offer, as it serves nothing but your ego and no one learns from it. Be gracious and hope they’ll think of you when they’re doing something with a real budget later.