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Need advice on a career path, please

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lisa robinson
Need advice on a career path, please
on Sep 29, 2013 at 9:10:02 pm

Hello CreativeCow Users,

I was wondering if I can get some advice... here are the details:

Been freelancing for PBS for the last 4 years as well as running my own production company for the las 12 years in which I'd like to give up. I do not enjoy the business aspect of it and i just want to be creative and work for others.

My dilemma: PBS has a possible full-time position open as an editor but it is not definite as of yet (will know more towards the end of November). I do have steady freelance work from them and am doing quite well up until the spring when production work virtually stops. Then the work picks up again around September.

Today, I have been offered a full-time position with another up and coming production company. I've actually graduated with the owners and have collaborated with them on a few projects in the past and get along with the owners extremely well.

I'm not sure what to do....

The pros of working with PBS:

I am familiar with the people, love the work and the job, I get to work from home,
the pay is reasonable, I'm comfortable working there, they already know if they hire me full time what I expect to get paid and seem to be along the same lines as me.

The cons of working for PBS:

Since it's publicly funded, I could get laid off or fired at any point in time which threatens job security. Limited creative freedom when it comes to editing as they have a format to follow.

The pros of working for this other production company:

I already have a rapport with the owners. They're quality of work is unsurpassed and they've won 4 Emmy's. They have a clear vision of where they want to be in 5 years. I'd have more creative freedom when editing projects.

The cons of working for the other company:

They are a husband and wife team... what if they get divorced? What happens to the company and my job security? Are they able to get enough business to support my salary?

The other production company wants me to come to them with a salary amount... I don't know what to say. I'm asking PBS for $50,000 per year and am willing to take the job for $45,000. Since this other production company is a "mom and pop" shop, if I ask them for $50,000, are they going to faint? I don't know what they have in mind.

In your opinions, how do I weigh the situation?

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Greg Ball
Re: Need advice on a career path, please
on Sep 30, 2013 at 5:59:30 pm

Hi Lisa,

These days there's really no job security no matter where you work. You can get laid off from anywhere at any time. So with that in mind, you really should go where you feel you'll be challenged the most, and where you'll enjoy being, and where you will have the most chance for growth and advancement.

Husband and wife companies often have their own set of challenges, because you'll always be the "3rd wheel" in the company. If business slows down they may need to make a choice on who they keep employed and who they let go. Who do you think makes the cut in that situation?

If the "mom and pop" shop would faint at $50K, perhaps they are not the right fit for you. If their quality is unsurpassed, they should be charging the rates that woud support your salary. Good luck.

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Mark Suszko
Re: Need advice on a career path, please
on Sep 30, 2013 at 6:18:00 pm

Probably should have left off the last couple of paragraphs about salaries; your comments are public record now, and put you at a sharp disadvantage for negotiating.. Google yourself and see.....

You're back, okay.

The PBS job is a possibility but not yet a fact. The mom and pop shop opening IS a fact.

PBS will have good benefits including health/maternity/family leave, which may not mean much to a young person but if you plan on staying there longer, it is important. We don't know what the mom and pop shop has for benefits. It is awkward and usually a gaffe to ask about them in initial conversations; you usually bring this up only after the offer has been made and if there is some difference of opinion on the salary range.

The mom and pop has variety, which you like. I wouldn't worry about the divorce thing as an issue unless you are already detecting some kind of problem. Anyhow, personal loyalties aside, your deal is with their company first, not them personally.

Consider that it could be possible to work for M&P and take vacation time or weekends to edit freelance projects for... PBS. Or someone who wants to submit a show to PBS. That could even be you personally, working on a "passion" project in your spare time. So working for Mom and Pop doesn't 100 percent preclude you from still doing something with PBS occasionally.

As far as negotiating with the couple:

Rule One of negotiation is that you have to make the other person BELIEVE that there's a point beyond which you will walk away. They have to believe that, and it is better for you to also believe it. If they don't believe you will walk, they will own you; they will always dictate the terms and you will only be able to agree, not improve them. So, even if it means short term starvation, you have to have a number in your head that's a dead-stop limit. And for God's sake, KEEP IT TO YOURSELF.

Rule Two is: First person to name an actual figure, loses.

But Mark, you say; they asked for a number.!

Give them someone ELSE'S number, then. What I mean is, do your research and show them what other editors in your experience and talent range are charging in similar markets. This shows you know what you are worth, without having to name a figure that you'd be stuck with.

"Are you offering me the job?"

"Well, maybe; ( NOTE that "MAYBE" IS NOT AN OFFER, don't feel obligated to name a number until an actual offer is made) how much do you want?"

"If you offered me the job, I know that the average annual take-home in this market for someone with my skills, according to industry surveys, is (name figure slightly above that average). Of course, that's only the salary itself, without the other intangibles. And I bring some extra capability to the group with my extended skills in (whatever you are an ace in), so you're getting an editor but also a colorist, and a good compositor/animator, in one package (THIS IS YOUR 'ADDED VALUE' PROPOSITION) So, are you offering me the position?"

(pauses) "We had in mind (number dangerously close to your pre-determined, secret floor figure)."

( DON'T SNAP THIS UP JUST BECAUSE IT IS ABOVE YOUR FLOOR NUMBER, YOU COULD BE LEAVING MONEY ON THE TABLE) ".... I am very good at building rapport with clients and making them happy. Does that figure reflect any commissions or bonuses if I help bring in new or repeat customers for the company?"

"We hadn't considered that; we really want you as an editor first, not a sales person."

"Well, I look at everything we do as a team effort; I like your way of doing business and I know my contributions can make your clients happy and bring them back over and over, and build good word-of-mouth in the community. I have a great track record on that score. But I am somewhat flexible on how we balance the pay versus the intangibles. I'd love to know more about those."

"Well, we don't have any bonus program for our editors, how would you propose that would work?"

"Let's say, if in the course of an edit, if I can up-sell them on doing additional billable work, like a color timing session, or a custom animation, or some DVD authoring or renders for web streaming, beyond what they initially came in for, that's getting extra business for us."

"Figuring commissions might be too much extra paperwork for us, but we could do a review and raise after you get thru a probationary period."

"Do you have a figure in mind for how much of a raise I could earn if I come thru for you?" (re-stating that your higher pay is conditional on performance, so there is wiggle room )

" We'll take a look at what we're billing and see if you bring in more work for us, we can consider that. On top of the salary, we have health insurance and dental. There's no retirement; you're on your own for that."

"I feel pretty good about all of this. I was wondering, if you have a budget for occasionally buying training materials or going to Industry events where I can keep learning the newest stuff that I can then use for our clients?

"We hadn't considered that. How much and how often is that?"

"It could be pretty modest, a few downloads or DVD packages, I would run them by you first for approval of course, but I think you want clients to think we are always on the cutting edge of what can be offered, compared to the competition."

"I like that better than trying to figure out bonuses or commissions. Let's say (same figure as before) but a performance review twice a year, and we'll pay for some training materials, but that has to happen in a way that doesn't affect the client scheduling".

"I'm ready to agree to all of that if you can round it up to (don't get greedy here, modest improvement) (figure)."

This was just one way the talk could go. Let's try the worst case.

"We can offer you 38 k to start, with a bump after two years."

" That's a bit less than the average for this market, and I can bring a lot of skills to the table for your clients. Really, you're almost getting two people in one."

"38 is what we can afford to do here"

"Well I'm sorry that I can't go quite that low; your place is great and I really do wish you continued success, But I have to choose what's also in my best interest. But no hard feelings. Maybe we can do another kind of deal sometime, if you ever need some freelance help, just for a special project, on a temp basis. It's been great talking to you, thanks for your time!"

(one week later)

"Hi, we got your thank-you note after the interview. Are you still looking?"

"I've had some good talks but haven't accepted an offer yet."

"We'd still like to have you here, if you can take 40"

(to be continued)

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Lisa Robinson
Re: Need advice on a career path, please
on Sep 30, 2013 at 9:28:12 pm

WOW!!! THank you for all the insight! This really helps tremendously and I think I have a great start at negotiating a salary in either case . I appreciate it!

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Mark Suszko
Re: Need advice on a career path, please
on Sep 30, 2013 at 9:46:53 pm

You're welcome. Others will likely chime in as well.

Be assertive, not aggressive. The difference between them is: Assertive people know what's what and have the confidence that comes from having done their homework, so they can't be intimidated.

Frame your choice problem in the broader overall context of what your personal life plan is, on the five and ten-year scales. If you really want to become an independent film maker at some point, showing on PBS, keep that in mind when you make other choices, ask if they in any way serve that ultimate goal, or take you away from it. You don't necessarily have to be a PBS employee to eventually have a show air there.

But beware: being a successful indie producer yourself is all about those "business" aspects you hated and wanted to get away from.

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Lisa Robinson
Re: Need advice on a career path, please
on Sep 30, 2013 at 9:57:10 pm

This is probably the best advice I was ever given... besides the advice my mother gives.. :) Thank you for your time. I am so grateful!

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Bob Zelin
Re: Need advice on a career path, please
on Oct 4, 2013 at 12:17:54 am

my aggressive and stupid 2 cents -
as others have told you - there is no job security. I know an editor that is FANTASTIC, with incredible experience, and an incredible resume, that knows all the hi end products - and he worked for a BIG company that is on the stock market that makes tons of money - and after 12 years, they just "eliminated his position" - but somehow, his department is still there.

So the moral of this, is that if you just want an easy life, where you can go to work, with nice people, do creative work, and have a normal life, with security, that you don't have to worry about anything - FORGET IT - those days are over. Business or job - you ALWAYS have to worry - how will I pay my rent, mortgage, medical insurance, vacations, etc. The end is near, and you must always be prepared that at a moments notice, that you will have to be looking for another job. I just saw this happen to two senior guys I know at Sony Broadcast in NJ as well, who have been with Sony forever.
This is the modern working world of 2012 - 2013, and it's not going to change.

Sorry if this is so depressing, but it's the truth. Some people build underground bunkers because they think "the end of the world is coming". I try to always be prepared to be dropped by my clients, and have to get new ones, and to do so, I have to keep up with my skills, even if I don't like them (like learning new editing software, etc.) because this is the "survival" knowledge that you have to have, to stay in this business - and probably any business today.

Remember one thing - employers are looking out for themselves - not you, and not your family. Always remembering that will help you keep your sanity, and minimize the depression when and if something bad happens (like they let you go).

Bob Zelin

Bob Zelin
Rescue 1, Inc.

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Scott Sheriff
Re: Need advice on a career path, please
on Oct 7, 2013 at 12:18:50 am

Worked for PBS when I first got stated back in the 80's. Endless production revolving around fund raising, and that same dull PBS look to everything that can be seen from outer space. Worked with some nice people, but don't miss it at all.
If I were you, I'd avoid PBS. IMO the commercial broadcast industry is dying a slow death, and under huge amounts of consolidation (LMA's & JOA's) but it's still better than PBS. And if you go the PBS route, and later want to escape to commercial TV, very little of what is produced at PBS that you will put on your escape tape, or resume will be of interest to a commercial broadcaster. Your mom and pop shop will likely generate much better material for your reel when you decide to move on.

Scott Sheriff
Multi-Camera Director, VFX and Post Production

"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur." ---Red Adair

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Lisa Robinson
Re: Need advice on a career path, please
on Oct 7, 2013 at 1:20:58 am

Hey Scott! How are you? I hear what you're saying... Problem is, I live in an area where there really is no broadcast TV unless I commute to Philly (which is not what I want to do... usually a two hour drive with traffic). My choices are limited, but yes, I know what you mean about the "boring" factor of public TV... especially the local stations. Hope all is well with you!

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walter biscardi
Re: Need advice on a career path, please
on Oct 15, 2013 at 12:28:21 pm

[lisa robinson] "In your opinions, how do I weigh the situation?"

Do what's best for you in this time and place. I've worked for CNN, Foxwoods Resort Casino, Primerica Financial Services and since 1998 for myself in two companies. Each job decision I made along the way was based on my needs and desires at that time.

If you feel you deserve $50k/year, then ask for it from the other production company. If creative freedom matters but you're ok with less salary, then you go with the production company. I will say it doesn't matter how many Emmys they have, they're only as good as their last project.

One thing I will tell you is I didn't over think anything. Once I knew what I wanted I made the move. That's how I run my company today. I look at pros and cons, make a decision and move forward. Lingering on the decision only makes it harder.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Editor, Colorist, Director, Writer, Consultant, Author, Chef.
HD Post and Production
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