Career Lessons from TV

Because TV Doesn't Really Rot Your Brain

Posts Tagged ‘Burn Notice

“Burn Notice” – You Can Work For The CIA Too

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Jeffrey Donovan as Michael Westen in "Burn Notice"

Jeffrey Donovan as Michael Westen in "Burn Notice"

Yes, “Burn Notice” is still on mid-season break, but a spy organization who hasn’t taken a break from hiring is the CIA. They’re not just hiring Michael Westens, but for everyday jobs as well.

The Agency Is Looking for You

Michael Westen is more than qualified to work as a spy for the CIA. Military training, strong sense of morals, and an ability to lie at near pathological levels. While the Central Intelligence Agency is always looking for people like Michael Westen, there are other positions the agency is also trying to fill that may be suited for people like you and me. Eve Tahmincioglu writes about the agency’s hiring increase and about life working as  an undercover and non-undercover employee of the CIA in “Top Secret Jobs at the CIA“. If you don’t have a 2 black belts in martial arts, that’s OK. Tahmincioglu writes the agency is looking for college students, former wall street workers and people with language skills to fill a number of administrative and analyst positions.

Not Easy Getting In Or Staying In

Tahmincioglu also writes that it’s a highly competitive hiring process with extensive screening and background checks. Should you make the cut, your family life may suffer depending whether or not you position is undercover. You’re also still subject to background and security checks after you’ve been hired.

Believe in What You’re Doing

From my experience working in government, I think the difference between a rewarding government career and a hellish one with little pay and a lot of bureaucracy is just how much you believe in what you’re doing. If you’re truly committed to serving the country, it really makes it all worth it.

Other Government Opportunities

If the CIA is not your thing, you can find out what other government agencies are hiring on

See yourself in the CIA? Let me know by posting here.

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Written by Reginald Bautista

September 11, 2009 at 4:02 pm

“Burn Notice”- Dream Job Pursuit Turns To Nightmare

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Officially beginning “Burn Notice” withdrawal. In the summer finale, Michael’s shot at his dream job turns into a nightmare. It brings to light the issue that sometimes, the new job you just landed isn’t what it turns out to be.

Michael’s “professional” relationship with Strickler goes sideways when he’s forced to lie during his case review to get back into the CIA, in order to serve Strickler interests. Strickler also “excludes” Fiona from Michael’s future by attempting to auction her off to the highest bidding adversary. Michael “terminates” his partnership with Strickler and rescues Fiona from becoming an auction item. The episode emulates a familiar situation to job seekers- when the new job doesn’t turn out to be the opportunity they were looking for.

Sometimes, no matter how diligent you are in vetting your new offer, as I wrote in a previous post “Lesson from ‘Warehouse 13’- Look Before Leaping Into Your New Job“, the unsuitable aspects of your new job won’t be discovered until you actually start on that job. When it all becomes too much to bear, you have to discuss the matter with your new manager. Since there’s no way to predict whether they’ll accommodate you or fire you, you also need to be looking for another job anyway, which is what Susanne Lucas advises in “What To Do When a Dream Job Isn’t“.

In the event that you are terminated, be sure to update your professional and social networks that you’re back on the market. Also, you can leverage social media to do additional research on potential employers to find company buzz and even former employees.

Hopefully, you’ll be able to catch the warning signs before getting into a suspect situation, but should you find yourself in one, remember that there’s always a way out.

See You Soon, “Burn Notice”

Really gonna miss this show as it takes its hiatus. For the fans, I think the people who burned Michael are back, but then again I am a serial guesser. I’ll have to live on the show’s website, Facebook and Twitter offerings in the meantime.

Left or saved a job gone bad? Post it here.

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Written by Reginald Bautista

August 7, 2009 at 6:31 pm

Lesson from “Burn Notice”- Ask A Spy (For Career Tips)

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Yeah, it’s NOT ACTUALLY from an episode, or from any season in general, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention this great bit of social media content that not only provides tips on how to spot a liar but also gives advice on how to navigate the workplace. All you have to do is ask.
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Gotta hand it to the USA Network. They really know how to do social media. Given their business gives them an advantage on what to offer, their “Burn Notice” website is still one the best social media offerings out there. Yes, I’m biased but judge for yourself. “Ask A Spy” is a collection of short video tips from Michael Westen. While you’ll get tips on how to survive a bar brawl and what to do when your car brakes are cut, you’ll also get tips for the workplace such as how to get promoted and what to do if a co-worker is bullying you. You can submit your questions for Michael Westen to answer on USA’s message board.

Even if you’re not a fan of the show, the videos give advice from a unique perspective- a spy’s perspective. Sounds fanboy cheezy, but if you think about it , spies are really good at reading people, reading situations, and getting out of tight spots using a bit of psychology, a silver tongue, and a good poker face. Skills applicable anywhere, especially the workplace. It’s my favorite aspect of the show. Forces me to remember that no what tight spot you’re in, you can always get out of it if you know who you’re dealing with, what’s at play in the situation and what you have to work with.

Got a good example of media content from your favorite TV show? Post it here.

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Written by Reginald Bautista

July 29, 2009 at 5:43 pm

Lesson from “Burn Notice”- Surviving the Fallback Job

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To celebrate the “Burn Notice” appearance at Comic-Con in my own non-privileged way, I’m pulling another lesson from one of my favorite shows- how to survive the job you’re stuck in.

In the latest episode, Michael is compelled to help a teenage boy stay with his mom in a custody battle with his abusive father, whose brother is a local crime lord. For those who didn’t see the pilot, Michael Westen comes from a broken home where his father beat him. It’s natural he would identify with his latest client, and ultimately find something of value in his current line of work (which he still scorns)- fighting for those victimized as he was in his childhood.

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Hard Lemonade

Like Michael, many people are forced by circumstance to work in fallback jobs just to make ends meet. The way things are going, they’ll be stuck in those jobs for some time. So if you’re fortunate enough to have any job, but not fortunate enough to be doing something you enjoy, there are things you can do to make your situation more tolerable. Rachel Zupek has a list of suggestions in “Are You Stuck in Job Prison?” to include changing your perspective on your current job, identifying the good and bad parts, and focusing on the positive aspects. Zupek also writes that you should still be pursuing the work you desire by networking, continuing education, and coaching. Volunteering for something within the company that excites you , as Zupek writes, can lift your spirits and provide more opportunities to get a better job. For whatever reason you’re stuck in a job you don’t like (whether it be fear, financial necessity, or both), making the most of what you already have, in addition to pursuing your career goals regardless of difficult economic times is what’s ultimately going to help you through.

As For Me…

While I’m not currently working, I’m doing what I can to make the most of it, as many others are. As I’ve written before, I continued my education, I’m networking, and I’m blogging. I’m also taking the time to really enjoy what I have, such as the TV shows I write about, and also my very supportive family. Times are rough, but they’re more bearable when you’re not struggling alone. I commend anyone fortunate to be working now, regardless of what it is, and if they’re still pursuing the work they desire, I hope they get it.

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Written by Reginald Bautista

July 25, 2009 at 11:46 am

Lesson from “Burn Notice”- Using a Recruiter

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No, I don’t watch just 3 TV shows. There’s more. Trust me. This particular lesson is rather timely.

In the most recent episode of “Burn Notice”, Michael encounters a mysterious figure named Tom Strickler (played by Ben Shenkman), a self proclaimed “Agent to The Spies”, as the witty signature captions in the show illustrate. Makes sense the writers should introduce Strickler now. Michael is still burned by the CIA, and the mysterious organization that got him burned no longer controls, or protects him.  He’s completely unemployed.  Hence, another archetype of unemployment comes on to the scene- most of us call them “recruiters”.

Jeffrey Donovan & Ben Shenkman on "Burn Notice"

Jeffrey Donovan & Ben Shenkman on "Burn Notice"

How a Recruiter Can Help (Maybe)

In the episode “The Hunter”,  Strickler sets up the main plot  by tipping Michael off to an old adversary that’s come to Miami to settle a score, in which there happens to be monetary reward for disposing of him. After Michael dispenses with his old foe, Strickler attempts to solidify the relationship by offering Michael his cut. Because he doesn’t want to be a mercenary, Michael refuses, and Strickler asks Michael what he wants to do with his skills, without anyone of consequence to work for, or protect him.  A question many of us ask as we continue our job search. Using a recruiter can be a powerful resource in your job search, but you have to know how to work with one. Selena Dehne has some tips on working with one in “What Works When Working with Recruiters“. Keep in mind it’s a business relationship. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to dictate what kind of job you want your recruiter to get for you or where, especially now. Recruiters are in essence matchmakers. If they have a job spec and it appears that you fit the spec, you’ve got an opportunity. Like any relationship matchmaking service however, it can take some time.

As For Me…

Many of my past positions were landed through recruiters. There were very helpful in interview preparation and were interested in continuing a business relationship after contracts were done. However, even as I committed to a certain career track, recruiters weren’t able to match me with future opportunities. Not for the lack of trying. Most gave a concerted effort, and that’s why I say it may not work for anybody. You still need the right education, qualifications and experience to readily fit into opportunities a recruiter receives on a daily basis, which means you can’t take work solely on financial need. You need clear vision of your career path-where you’ve been and where you’re going. I know I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but sometimes the most valuable lessons are the ones you have to learn over and over again.

I’m working with a recruiter now from Kforce. It’s uncertain what might come of it, but no matter what happens, there’s always something to learn. Regardless of your job hunt status, whether you decide to use a recruiter or not, getting all the help you can is always a good thing.

Written by Reginald Bautista

July 18, 2009 at 7:06 pm

Lesson from “Burn Notice”- Recovering From a “Burn”

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Jeffrey Donovan as Michael Westen on "Burn Notice"

Jeffrey Donovan as Michael Westen on "Burn Notice"

One of my favorite shows (when it’s on) is “Burn Notice” (Thursdays @ 9pm on USA). For the uninitiated, it’s about a former spy named Michael Westen (played by Jeffrey Donovan) who was blacklisted or “burned” by the CIA and dumped in Miami with nothing. While trying to figure out who got him burned and finding his way back into the CIA, he’s asked to use his espionage skills against criminal elements victimizing the innocent. On the surface, it’s about a cold, calculating, and dangerous individual that finds his humanity with his friends and family who back him up in his exploits, but it’s also about a story many of us have lived through. For reasons justified or not, we were dismissed from the jobs we loved and left alone to figure out our next move. So if you’ve been fired, sacked, laid off, or burned, what’s your next move?

Look Back Before Figuring Out What’s Next

As of the episode entitled “Signals and Codes”, Michael is hell-bent on getting his old job back, but it’s obvious to his friends, family, and even the fans that he’s already made a good life with his friends helping the innocent, and getting his old job back would be toxic to both him and the CIA. While most are smart enough not try and get their old jobs back (though numerous are still prone to pining for their exes), many don’t take the time to take a step back, go over what’s happened, and determine whether a change in career path is warranted. That’s what Anthony Balderrama from suggests in his article “Make Getting Fired Work for You.”

In many cases, a change in career path is exactly what’s needed to develop new skills, appreciate new aspects of a career and recognize countless other opportunities that would’ve gone unseen if plodding along the same path. Not saying changing direction is always the case. It depends on you. If you can honestly say that doing the same thing for another company or for yourself is what’s best, go for it. Unfortunately that’s not the case for Michael. While he has aced the looking back part by figuring out who burned him at the end of last season, there’s a lot he still doesn’t know about them.  He doesn’t look forward to what opportunities he has in his current situation either. He has a chance to rekindle a relationship with his ex-girlfriend Fiona (played by Gabrielle Anwar), work with his best friend Sam Axe (played by Bruce Campbell) helping those in need and to re-connect with his estranged family. He also has a chance to practice his espionage skills without having to compromise his morals or ethics- a rare benefit indeed. So if you’re “burned”, take that step back. Figure out what happened, what needs to change. Make plans and go forward.

As For Me…

While I’ve taken a hard look at all the jobs I’ve held, taken stock in all that’s happened, made moves I thought were in the best interests of a career, I’m still waiting for the payoff. Yes, it can take some time, but in many cases, it eventually yields more than what was originally imagined. Vanessa Williams comes first to mind, but there are many other examples, famous or not, that have made the best of an unfortunate situation. Sure, fear and desperation can derail you, but it’s just a matter of keeping your chin up, your friends close, and remembering there’s still a lot of life left to live out there.

So do you have a career lesson from TV?  How did you, or how are you handling your job search or career? I’m happy to hear from you. Just a few ground rules- no personal attacks, name-calling, or otherwise ruining a perfectly good discussion. I’ll put up a new post in a few days. Talk to you soon.

Written by Reginald Bautista

July 11, 2009 at 11:21 pm