How to Play the Expectations Game

July 12, 2010 at 3:11 am Leave a comment

Expectations play a huge part in a job hunt. Well-meaning friends sometimes jokingly advise job candidates to keep their expectations low so that they’ll never be disappointed. Well, there’s something to that. Yet if you only have bottom-rung expectations, you are unlikely to find a job that’s going to make you happy going in — and to keep you satisfied for very long.

So, how do you effectively play the expectations game in a job hunt, and also help manage the expectations that hiring managers have about you? Here are some tips:

*Become realistic, especially regarding pay. Because of all the competition for a dwindling number of journalism jobs, salaries, sadly, have been coming down. And even in new-media and start-ups, pay may not be what midcareer professionals are hoping for — again, all the competition for every position is holding salaries in check. Though the D.C. metro area has more openings than many other cities, employers realize that people want to move here and want to stay here, so they don’t have to offer top-dollar for many jobs. So job candidates need to figure out what organizations are truly paying for jobs, and then to get their salary “expectations” in line pretty quickly — or they are unlikely to be serious candidates for these positions. Even if you have a great deal of experience and have won awards, organizations are not necessarily going to shell out more for you — hiring managers these days tend to have little negotiating room. If this doesn’t work for you in journalism, it’s probably time to start looking at communications or other related jobs in the corporate or association worlds, where there may be more flexibility surrounding pay. Or you may need to consider leaving Washington, though pay scales are not likely to be much higher except in New York or L.A., where the cost of living remains high as well.

*Don’t inflate expectations about your abilities. Though you want to get a recruiter’s attention and make the best case for your candidacy, it’s important not to oversell, especially in the early stages. If you write a terrific cover letter but then can’t deliver in an interview or on a tryout, the hiring manager is likely to feel duped and your candidacy will end right there. Be factual about your previous job duties and about your expertise. Make sure to put things in context so that you’re not overselling. It’s better for the hiring manager to gradually come to admire and respect what you have to offer rather than to become disappointed by you as the hiring process unfolds.

*Keep your expectations in check about whether you’re likely to get an offer. So many times, even when an interview goes well and the recruiter indicates you’re a “top candidate,” you may not end up getting the job. A more experienced candidate may emerge at the last minute, they may decide not to hire for this position right now after all, or they may like you but think you’d be better for something else in the organization in the future. Whatever the case, if you “put your eggs” in that one basket and don’t continue to aggressively seek other positions, you’ll lose valuable time in a job hunt. Put another way, if you count on something specific coming through, you’re running the risk of having to start all over if it doesn’t. So it’s better to go down several paths at once, and not to count on anything until you’ve actually accepted an offer and are talking about start dates with the hiring manager.

*Yet don’t lower your sights too much. I know of several transitioning journalists, who upon experiencing job-hunt fatigue after several months (and in one case a year) of looking, decided to take a position just to have a job. One of them wasn’t thrilled but stayed a year, and the other two were miserable, one got out after just a few weeks and one is desperate to find something else. Be careful about what you’re willing to settle for — and know what elements of a job are important to you. Almost any job involves trade-offs but recognize which would be better for you to make, and be careful about lowering your sights so much that you’re making a bunch of trade-offs. For instance, if you’re willing to take a pay cut to get some experience in a new field for you, that could be a smart trade-off — but then you shouldn’t also settle for long hours and a horrible commute. Determine early on in a job search what you’re willing to give in order to get some important things — and then stick with that as your game plan.

*Here’s some great, step-by-step advice — from the dual perspective of a job hunter and hiring manager — from Steve Buttry, who is director of community engagement at the newly launching TBD, about how to land a job in digital journalism. (My favorite tip of Steve’s is his first one: Connect and stay in touch with people you admire in the business, even if you’re happy in your current job. Networking is not only for when you need a job!) This is also enjoyable reading:

*Here is a batch of leads to check out in the new work week:

*Forum One Communications in Alexandria has an opening for a managing director of user experience and design:
Managing Director of User Experience & Design
Forum One Communications – Alexandria, VA
& Design Forum One Communications Full-time Alexandria, VA Forum One Communications is currently… leave; tuition reimbursements; and ongoing training.
From Authentic Jobs

*The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) in D.C. has an opening for a director of Web and new-media communications:
Director, Web and New Media Communications
Biotechnology Industry Org. – Washington, DC
of projects related to BIO’s websites and online communications strategies to further BIO’s communications goals, support BIO’s advocacy positions…

*TechProse in D.C. is looking for a senior executive communications consultant:

Sr. Executive Communications Consultant
TechProse – Washington, DC
communications assessment to refine communications… in communications strategy and hands-on creation of communications (executive communications especially…
From HotJobs

*The Society for Neuroscience in D.C. has an opening for a director of government and public affairs:
Director of Government & Public Affairs
Society for Neuroscience – Washington, DC
or edit other member communication about advocacy;… verbal and written communication skills, including knowledge of advocacy communication approaches;…
From Society for Neuroscience

*Waggener Edstrom Worldwide in D.C. is looking for a public affairs account director:

Public Affairs Account Director
Waggener Edstrom Worldwide – District of Columbia
and regulation. •Outstanding communications skills (oral and written) and a passion for developing and driving integrated communications strategies are a must… $100,000 a year
From BridgetBits

*Here’s an opening that would allow one to use social media to do some good: the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas in Silver Spring is seeking a full-time social media specialist to work in its communication department:

*Thomson Reuters has an opening in its D.C. bureau for a money and politics correspondent:

Correspondent, Money and Politics

Location: Washington D.C.

The successful candidate will be able to expertly probe the intersection of money and politics, tracking the influence of lobbyists and other special interests as Washington leaders shape national policy. The emphasis will be on building strong sources, combing disclosure statements, and understanding the complex network of favors that exists in Washington. You will be able to produce investigative pieces as well as deliver quick hits of news. You will work with a team of correspondents in Washington, New York and globally to see how corporations and interest groups across America and around the world are trying to ensure their interested are represented. The successful correspondent will report to the Company News Editor in Washington but would also be expected to liaise closely with our Enterprise Editor in New York. The beat will include targeting specific pieces of legislation and reform, including financial regulation, healthcare, climate change and labor laws. The beat will also include unearthing conflicts of interest among lawmakers and other top government officials.


We are looking for a correspondent who has a hunger for being first with major news, who is comfortable with both source-driven reporting and with using databases and disclosure forms to produce stories. The successful candidate will be a journalist with the desire and ability to do dogged initiative reporting, to truly set the agenda, and to dig deep really deep. You must be a team player, show leadership qualities and understand financial accounts.  At least five years experience at a major news organization is required along with strong writing skills and a track record of breaking news.

Required Skills:

  • · Good news judgment.
  • · Strong writing skills.
  • · A track record of breaking news.
  • · Ability to generate smart and incisive story ideas and to look beyond immediate developments to wider implications.
  • · Ability to work well in high-stress situations.
  • · An enthusiasm for the subject matter.
  • · An ease with new technology.

Please apply online at:

*And last but not least today, here’s a free-lance opportunity: RV PRO Magazine has regular work to assign to experienced free-lance writers:

RV PRO Magazine

Freelance Business Writers

Location: N/A

RV PRO Magazine, a national monthly trade magazine serving professionals in the recreational vehicle (RV) industry, is seeking experienced freelancers to write profiles of top-notch RV manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, dealers and other aftermarket retailers, as well as to write multi-source trends stories. We’re looking for writers who can dig beneath the surface to provide insightful features and tell it in a way that engages our readers. Detailed knowledge of the RV industry, or the somewhat related automotive industry, is very desirable.

Average time to complete a feature is 7-8 days. Stories typically average between 1,400 and 1,800 words. Pay varies depending upon the length and complexity of the article, but typically ranges from $250 to $450 per assignment. FYI, we’re looking to add a small group of writers who can contribute regularly to the magazine.

To apply for this freelance listing, send the editor an e-mail at Please include a resume and samples of your work via Web link, PDF, etc.

Happy hunting!



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