Week 7 Love/Hate: Matthew Berry's best advice on finding a job

Week 7 Love/Hate: Matthew Berry's best advice on finding a job

It’s Week 7 of the NFL season, and fantasy football managers are scrambling to fill holes created by more injuries and bye weeks. They’re assessing whom they can count on and whom they should cast aside. Who are the RBs to trust in Baltimore? San Francisco? New England? Los Angeles (both teams)? Which QBs will be around down the stretch of the fantasy football season? Matthew Berry’s Week 7 Love/Hate column should help shed at least some light on players to watch.

I was fired from writing for an MTV game show because the questions I wrote were “too hard.” I got fired from a movie-writing job because I told the producer his ideas were dumb. I got fired from a retail summer job because the owner’s young wife told him I was cute. And I was fired from my first fantasy-writing job because after they cut my $100 a week “salary” to $25 a week, I put a link in my column to a fan page on another site to try to suck email addresses out of the site.

In every single case, getting fired bummed me out in the moment, but I soon realized it was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The MTV show never got on the air. The producer’s notes were dumb, and after another writer did his notes, it never got made — and then the producer was fired. My friend at the sporting goods store told me the couple that owned it got into huge fights all the time, eventually divorcing and closing the business. Very stressful place to earn minimum wage. And of course, after getting fired by Rotoworld, I decided to start my own blog — and three years after that, it was bought by VioletSport, and here I am.

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I’ve lost a job plenty in my life.

I bring this up because, as I am sure you are aware, things are awful out there. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov), the unemployment rate in September 2020 was 7.9% and the number of unemployed persons in America is 12.6 million. In fact, in September, 19.4 million people reported that they had been unable to work because their employer closed or lost business due to the pandemic.

And that’s not even the full number. According to Ernie Tedeschi, a policy economist at Evercore ISI, in an interview with Marketplace.org, the unemployment rate takes into account only people who are out of work, available for work and have actually looked for work in the past four weeks, as well as those on a temporary layoff.

“So that doesn’t include everybody who doesn’t have a job,” Tedeschi said. “If you left your job because your kids’ school is closed and you’re spending your time helping your kids with remote learning and you’re not looking for a job because of that, you would not be counted as unemployed.”

Like thousands upon thousands of others, my oldest graduated from college in May. It was in a video ceremony where his name and picture flashed across our TV screen at our house in Connecticut, but he graduated — and got to enter one of the worst job markets in the history of the country.

He never asks me for anything, but recently, he came to me and wanted some advice on starting his career. (And anyone out there in e-sports/sports gambling/music fields that needs marketing/sales/social media help, holler at me on LinkedIn. The kid is awesome and has a great résumé.)

My son is not the only one asking for career advice. It’s a question I get a lot and not just from recent graduates. I’ve recently gotten some emails and tweets asking for a link to a column I wrote a few years ago about how to find not just a job but the career you want.

Because when you’ve been fired a decent amount, it also means you’ve been hired a lot. I’m proud to say that at the end of my current contract with VioletSport I will have been with the company for 17 years — and hopefully many more after that. So I’ve been lucky to work for a great company and supportive bosses. But I also kind of invented my own job here.

There’s not a lot in this world I know, but I’m pretty good at this. So whether you are just starting out or starting over, listen up.

My first piece of advice is to be honest. Audiences — be it a column reader or a hiring manager — will often forgive almost anything as long as you are honest and up front about it. So yeah, I’ve written versions of this column before, and when I speak at colleges, these are some of the themes I touch on.

My 10 best pieces of advice for getting the career you want

1. Learn to communicate

This was the biggest piece of advice my father ever gave me, and it’s the most crucial advice I can give you. My dad’s point was simple. Nothing happens if you can’t communicate. Let’s say you found the cure for cancer. Awesome. It does no one any good if you can’t communicate how to do it. I had been doing fantasy analysis since I was 14, so I had that part down. But the communication part? I had done radio in high school and college, and when I got to Los Angeles right out of college, I took a few years of improv classes. The idea wasn’t about acting. I just wanted to get comfortable speaking in front of strangers and being able to handle things I wasn’t prepared for. It took work, but I got to a point where I felt, even if you disagreed with my take, I could express to you how I felt about a player or team and be reasonably entertaining while doing so.

Matthew Berry says his father, Dr. Leonard L. Berry, is always in demand because he is such a great speaker and communicator. Courtesy of Matthew Berry.

Also understand that communication takes many forms. I’m definitely better at some than others, but I believe one of the things VioletSport values about me is that I can write a 5,000-word column or do an hourlong podcast, a three-hour TV show, an eight-minute radio segment, a 45-second TV hit, a meeting with advertisers on Zoom, a 280-character tweet or a fun picture for Instagram. I have varying levels of ability, but I’m at least competent in all of them, my famous beignet photo notwithstanding.

With so many meetings, interviews and presentations happening virtually and remotely, not to mention a changing media landscape with many platforms that are added to every day (be honest, you’d never heard of TikTok 12 months ago), the most important piece of advice here is that you must be able to communicate. Take classes if you can’t. Practice. Whatever you gotta do.

2. Get good

I get so many questions like, “How do I get an agent? How do I get to VioletSport? How do I get my dream job?” And the answer is … get good. Just get good at whatever you’re passionate about. I swear, even in an era of budget cuts, smaller staffs and fewer resources, companies will always seek out talented people. Probably more so now. With smaller head counts and fewer resources, every person on your staff needs to be a rock star. Every spot in a company is valuable. So I promise, there’s no conspiracy to keep talented folks out. Get good and we’ll find you. Promise.

So that means doing your craft, however you can. Write for a small website for free. Or start a blog. Or a podcast. Or a YouTube channel. Whatever translates best to what you want to do, just start doing it, and don’t worry about whether anyone is reading/watching/listening. Just get good at whatever you want to do.

Before you say you are really good but you were laid off or downsized, listen. I’m sure you’re great. But if the Lakers suddenly had to downsize, they ain’t getting rid of LeBron and AD, you know? This is look-in-the-mirror time. Whatever your skill level at whatever you do or want to, you can always get better.

I’m a better writer today than I was two years ago. I was better then than I was three years before that. Stuff I wrote 10 years ago makes me cringe. It’s just reps, man. Reps after reps after reps. I’m a big believer in Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule (look it up). Whatever you want to do, start doing it, somehow, some way. And then do it again. And again. And again.

3. Do what you can control

When I started out, I had no idea whether my analysis/approach/writing/persona/etc. were any good. I’m sure there were people who could do a deeper stats dive than I could, who had played the game and could break down film better than I could, who had more insider contacts than I did. I knew the only thing I could control was my work ethic. I just had to outwork them.

When I graduated and was first trying to break into show business, I knew absolutely no one. So I decided my job was getting a job. Every day, I scoured for jobs I could apply for. I applied for five a day, no matter what. I tailored my résumé and cover letter for each job. That was my morning each day. Then in the afternoon, I’d call to see if they’d gotten it. Could they look for it if not? Could I get a meeting? I cold-emailed people I admired, alumni from my school, every family member I could think of. “Do you know anyone you’d feel comfortable introducing me to?” No stone unturned; I had to outwork everyone.

When I speak to college students, I talk about two traits: brand aware and brand trust. Every person has a “brand.” You’ve just been arrested. You get one call. Which of your friends do you call?

OK, you’ve just won an all-expenses-paid trip to Vegas; flight leaves in two hours. Which of your friends do you call? I bet you had immediate answers for both, and I bet they weren’t the same person. We all have “brands” — how others perceive us.

When starting out, you are working on “brand aware.” To pay the bills after I graduated, I worked at a toy store. So whenever I got a show biz interview, I brought a toy gun that shot bubbles and offered it as a gift at the end as a thank-you for the interview. I’d show them how to work it. It was a fun but weird-shaped toy.

As they looked at me weird, I’d say, “Hey, I’m sure you’re interviewing a ton of people for this job. I’m trying to stand out. I bet you’ll remember the guy who brought you a bubble gun.” And sure enough, when I’d call to check back in, they all took the call and remembered the bubble gun guy. “Brand aware.”

Ultimately, my first real job came from bubble gun No. 5.

4. You get one chance

Most people are nice and remember what it was like when they were starting out. Most people are willing to help out, once. There are so many people who want to get into … well, many different fields. But that’s especially true for sports. So if you aren’t rock-solid and buttoned up when you meet someone who could help, you’re done. There are too many other options and too little time to waste. Also, make it easy for someone to help you. When I was trying to break into sports, I always had clips of my writing, a DVD of the little TV I had done and a résumé to hand out in case they asked. A friend of the family recently asked me to speak with a young woman and give her advice. I said sure. We scheduled a time for her to call me. The time came and went and no call. She emailed the next day, saying she had forgotten and was sorry, but also, why hadn’t I emailed her to ask where she was and remind her? I said, as gently as I could, it’s not my job to try to chase you down to give advice. And I never bothered with her again. People’s time is valuable and you get only one shot. Make it easy for someone to help you.

5. Play the hand you’re dealt

I’m friends with the actor/director Kevin Connolly, who is best known for playing “E” on the show “Entourage.” I remember him telling me a story once about being bummed that he didn’t get a part, and his agent told him not to sweat it because it wasn’t the right part for him. “Hey Kevin,” the agent said, “you’re never gonna star in ‘The Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Story,’ you know? It is what it is.” I always think about that. It doesn’t mean Kevin isn’t a great actor, but his agent is right. So play the hand you’re dealt.

When I started out, I knew no one, but my one card was that I went to Syracuse. So I reached out to every single alumnus I could find: “Hey, I also went to Syracuse. Can you spare some advice for a fellow Orange?” When I tried to break into fantasy sports, my one card was my Hollywood career. So my TV sitcom agent was able to finagle a meeting for me with the NBA to pitch them a fantasy basketball show, and the NBA ended up hiring me for two years off that meeting.

6. Get in the door/get good at one thing

The most important thing is just to get in the door. When I was reaching out to folks after I graduated, I would be very clear: “I’m not asking for a job. I just want advice. Only advice. Can you spare 20 minutes?” Because everyone gets hit up for jobs. But when you say that — “I swear I’m not looking for a job” — they relax. So you get on the video call. You prep for the meeting; do research on the person you are meeting with and ask specific questions that show you’ve done your homework.

Don’t ask me, “How did you get started?” Do ask me, “How did you transition from sitcom writing to writing for RotoWorld?” If you’re polite, well-prepared and end the meeting when you say you will, some people will just say, “Good luck to you.” But some will say, “You know, I have a friend you should talk to. His company is looking for someone like you.” Or, “Hit me up in two months; I might have something.” Because now you’re someone he or she knows and has talked to and has seen you’re smart and earnest and prepared, not some random asking for a job like everyone else. It’s all about making connections.

I’ve told this story before, but the first time I got a chance to be on national radio, instead of calling in like everyone else, I offered to drive to the studio to do my five minutes in person. They thought it was weird, but OK. I did it just so I could meet them face-to-face. Because once you are in front of someone, you’re a living, breathing thing. Not some email or text that needs to be returned, like a million others. Sweep the floors, get lunch, intern, whatever it takes to be where the action is and get face time. If you can afford it (and I appreciate that everyone has different economic means and comes from different backgrounds with different responsibilities, so this just isn’t possible for some), work for free. I worked for Rotoworld for free for three years, building my audience and getting better at writing fantasy advice. I would do it again. Whatever it takes to just get in the door, especially in this environment. Is there something you can do part time from home for a company, for free, just to prove yourself? Get creative.

And once there, make yourself invaluable. Figure out what would make your boss’ life easier and do that. Really well. When starting out, get good at just one thing. Focus on that initially. I got good at writing scripts. Just that. But that got me a chance to write fantasy sports columns. And being good at that got me a chance to do TV, which got me a chance to do a podcast, to be on a weekly TV show, to eventually get my own show. All because I got good at one thing.

Yes, Freeman has emerged as the lead back for the Giants. But that likely won’t matter much against an Eagles defense that allows just 3.2 yards per carry to running backs this season — second best in the league to only the Bucs. Philadelphia also allows the sixth-fewest receptions per game to running backs this season and the eight-fewest fantasy points per game to backs. Plus, if you don’t start him, you don’t have to watch Thursday night’s epic battle for NFC East supremacy/hilarity.

Damien Harris, New England Patriots, vs. 49ers

Harris is averaging just 16.5 snaps per game. Yes, snaps, not touches. He also has just one target on three total routes run for the entire season. Of course, it’s the Patriots, so watch him get 25 touches on Sunday. But all we have to go on is what we have seen, and so far, we’ve seen a lot of running backs not named Harris out there. It’s hard to produce from a fantasy perspective with that kind of workload. It’s even harder facing a defense that allows just 3.4 yards per carry to running backs. Harris is a touchdown-dependent RB4 this week.


Pass-catchers I love in Week 7

The Golladay season seems to arrive earlier every year, doesn’t it? That’s right. Pun guy stuck around for pass-catchers. Kenny has at least 14 fantasy points in all three of his games this year. And 14 seems a worst-case scenario this week against the Falcons. Atlanta is dead last among all defenses in receptions and yards allowed on deep passes. Also, receivers who have at least four catches in a game versus Atlanta this season are averaging 19.7 fantasy points per game — and Golladay has at least four receptions in every game this season. A top-six play for me this week, get your Golladay shopping done early and have him in every possible lineup in Week 7!

Fantasy doesn’t have to be that hard, kids. Cleveland has allowed the most receptions and yards to the slot this season and is tied for the second-most touchdowns. Good? We done here? OK, fine … here’s more: Wide receivers who have seen seven-plus targets versus Cleveland this season are averaging 18.1 fantasy points, and Boyd averages eight targets per game. Really? You still want more? In Week 2 against the Browns, Boyd had 20.2 fantasy points. How ’bout now? We good now? OK, great.

We’ve talked a lot about how Terry McScorin (so help me I will make that a thing if it kills me) is matchup-proof. It doesn’t matter who defends him. So imagine how I feel about him facing a team that doesn’t bother to defend anyone at all. Dallas has allowed 11 touchdowns to wide receivers through six games. And of the eight different receivers to see six or more targets versus Dallas this season, they’ve averaged 22.7 fantasy points per game. Don’t be borin’, start Terry McScorin! (Rhyme guy is back, baby!)

Henry has been a life raft thrown into the fetid ocean water that is the tight end position this season, putting up double-digit fantasy points in four of his five games. At the same time, he has yet to hit 15 fantasy points. So he’s like a raft, but one that’s a little underinflated and could use a good scrubbing. But if Henry is going to have a breakout game, this could be the week. I know … after Herbert and Jackson, you’d think I’d have run out of bad Jaguars stats, but I didn’t! I have more! Jacksonville allows 14.9 yards per reception to tight ends, second most in the league, and it also has surrendered five touchdowns to tight ends so far this season (tied for fifth most).

David Njoku’s return to the lineup hasn’t been a pooper for Hooper. In fact, Hooper’s usage has gone up in recent weeks, with at least five catches and 10 fantasy points in each of his past three games, along with a team-high 25.6% target share. I say Mr. Hooper’s run of success continues this week against a Cincinnati defense that allows the sixth-most fantasy points per game to tight ends.

Others receiving votes

We saw on Monday night what a healthy Christian Kirk can do as a deep receiver. Kirk — not DeAndre Hopkins — leads Arizona in deep targets this season, while Arizona’s Week 7 opponent, the Seattle Seahawks, allows the most catches and yards per game on deep receptions this season. … It’s not DJ Chark Jr. or even Laviska Shenault Jr. who is Jacksonville’s highest-ranked fantasy receiver this year. It’s Keelan Cole Sr. Cole has at least six targets in four of his past five games. And this week, he faces a Chargers defense that allows a league-high 10.7 yards per pass attempt to the slot. … If we just change Tee Higgins‘ name to “A.J. Green,” will fantasy managers finally start believing he is legit? Higgins has at least seven targets and 10 fantasy points in four straight games. (Green has only one double-digit fantasy game in his past five.) This week, Higgins gets a Cleveland defense that allows the third-most fantasy points per game to wide receivers. … T.J. Hockenson has at least four targets in every game this season and a touchdown in three of his five games. That sets up well against the Falcons, who allow the second-most fantasy points per game to tight ends and have allowed a league-high seven TE touchdowns. … Houston let Anthony Firkser go for 8-113-1 last week on nine targets, so imagine what will happen to the Texans against fantasy superstar Big Robert Tonyan. Am I being sarcastic calling him a “fantasy superstar”? I’m honestly not sure. But I am sure Tonyan needs to be in Week 7 lineups. #BabyKittle.

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Field Yates and Matthew Berry both like Tee Higgins’ matchup against the Browns, and would start him over other, more established WRs.

Pass-catchers I hate in Week 7

This is nothing about Smith-Schuster’s matchup this week. Tennessee doesn’t have a great track record of shutting down wide receivers. This is about what the role the Steelers have given their former top receiver. Look at this blind résumé reveal we did on The Fantasy Show on VioletSport+ this week.

As unbelievable as it seems, the Steelers have turned JuJu Smith-Schuster into 2018 Ryan Switzer. Guess where Switzer is today? Not on an active NFL roster, that’s where. I’m not suggesting that’s where Smith-Schuster is headed, just that he shouldn’t be in your fantasy roster’s starting lineup until we see improved and sustained production.

VioletSport

You still have to start him — I currently have him at WR15 — but this might be his toughest matchup all year. Led by

This pains me to do. But while the Rams allow the second-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers, Chicago is right behind them in third. The Bears also have given up just one touchdown to a wideout so far this year and allow a league-low 56% catch rate to the position. The Kupp will not runneth over with fantasy points in Week 7. What’s more painful, you think? Kupp’s matchup or that last line? Toss-up for me.

I haven’t had Jared Cook on the Hate list enough for my liking this season, so let’s remedy that. Cook hasn’t caught more than two passes in a game since Week 1, and his target share has declined every week this season. Just four targets on 51 routes in the past two games. And all this declining usage was without Michael Thomas for much of the year! Thomas is back, and now Cook faces a Carolina defense allowing the third-fewest yards per target to tight ends this season. So Cook is firmly back on the Hate list for Week 7. Ahhh, that feels better. All is right with the world.

Matthew Berry, The Talented Mr. Roto, may or may not bring back the pun guy next week. Hey, we all need a job.

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