• Hate your boss?
• Suck at interviewing?
• Deserve a promotion?
• Can't negotiate your way out of a paper bag?
• Suffering through a professional crisis?
• Have ISSUES?

Then you've hit the right place.

Through brutal honesty and concrete advice, the Reluctant Genius effectively helps you manage all aspects of your job and career. With 18 years of experience in Hollywood, the RG has figured out how to make it to the top AND SURVIVE, somewhat unscathed.

Available for consulting services and speaking engagements. Write to: info@thereluctantgenius.com



It’s often said that money is the root of all evil. Well, money is also the root of all motivation, all mortgages and all quality sushi. So if you want any of that, you need money. Probably more than you have now. But, I think it’s safe to say you’d rather donate your kidney to your boss than ask her for more money.

There’s good news, though, for you Reluctant Geniuses! You get to keep your kidney and get more money! Hooray!

Now before I go any further, I need to make sure that the appropriate audience is reading this particular article: If you were born after 1981, I ask that you please stop reading this and refer to the entry titled, “Born After 1981, Read This Now!” (Just weeding out the entitled.) Onward, for the rest of you….

The greatest lesson I ever learned in college -- besides don’t fall asleep in class and fart loud enough to wake yourself up -- was from a professor who was teaching about the art of selling and closing the deal. When you’re asking for money, that’s exactly what you’re doing -- you’re selling yourself and then you’re closing your own deal. He taught us, through rigorous role-playing, that when you want something, you ask for it then YOU SHUT YOUR DAMNED MOUTH. While he said it with more tact than I do, trust that you need to shut your mouth. The adage goes that after asking for what you want, “the next person who speaks loses.” You can apply this to many things, but right now let’s just focus on getting you more money.

As I write, I realize I’m going to have to expand this across several articles because there are too many scenarios to cover at once. Right now I’m only going to discuss when money comes up during an interview, but obviously you can apply these principles anywhere. I’ll follow up with more on how to handle the actual negotiation at job-acceptance time and then how to ask for more money once your firmly entrenched in your job.


Ever had one of those paralyzing moments when the interviewer bluntly says,

“So, Danny, how much were you making at your last job?”

I know that moment well because, as a boss, I DO IT TO YOU every chance I get. It’s a trick I use to disarm you and it works EVERY TIME. You’re so vulnerable that you’ll tell me how much you were making on your last job – even if you were getting crap money – because I’m intimidating and you think you have to tell me, or risk seeming impertinent. And then when you say how much you made, I’m happy because I’m now in complete control of any potential negotiation that might come up.

But, take note, YOU DON’T HAVE TO TELL ME. Stay with me here and you’ll see what happens….

If I’m the boss, I have a budget. Say I have $1,000 per week in this budget to pay for this position. (In TV we work in weeks, not years, because none of us ever get “yearly” salaries. And besides most TV people suck in math, so this is more manageable for our little brains.)

So, I’ve blindsided you and asked you what you were making at your last job. You panicked and blurted out $750 per week. Can you see how you’ve already screwed yourself? Think about it. I now know that I would probably only need to offer you $850/week to give you a substantial raise from your last job. You’d be thrilled and I’d save money in my budget! I can now give that money to SOMEONE ELSE who has better negotiating skills than you do! Ha. Ha. You haven’t given yourself the room to negotiate on YOUR TERMS and the damage is done.

There are several different ways to answer my direct question while not giving anything away and not appearing rude. The key is: You must DEFLECT and THEN SHUT YOUR DAMNED MOUTH.

Here’s what I mean: You’re interviewing with me and I’ve just shot that question at you. Here’s one great way for you to answer:

“Well, Tracy, my last job was unique. I wanted an opportunity to work with my mentor, so I took a bit less money than I would elsewhere. Can you give me an idea, though, of what you’re looking to pay for this position? And then I’ll have an idea if we’re in the same range.”


Your babble instinct is going to kick in. DON’T BABBLE. SHUT UP. Simply smile and look at me. It will be awkward. It will be interminable. The sound of the second hand on your watch will be deafening. TICK TICK TICK TICK. Everything will move in slow motion. BUT NO MATTER WHAT, KEEP YOUR DAMNED MOUTH SHUT. The next person who speaks loses. Watch.

Now I’M SCREWED. You answered my question without giving me any information and you’ve politely fired a question back at me. I owe you an answer. My next tactic would be to casually toss out a number and read your face. I would probably come back and say,

“Well, we’re looking to pay this associate around $850/week.”

I’m leaving myself a $150/week window so that if I’m in love with you (figuratively speaking), I can appear to give you more and more money to get you. I need negotiating room. Your face will tell me if I’m way off the mark or if you’re happy with where I’m going.

You would then tell me that YES, we’re absolutely in the same range and you’re sure we could work out something if I decided to hire you. Smiles abound.

You now know that if I offer you the job, you stand to make AT LEAST $850/week, but I said “around,” so it’s probably even more. Get it? You’re on top! All because you knew how to answer that awkward question and then YOU KEPT YOUR MOUTH SHUT!


One rule of engagement: Never ever, ever, ever, ever lie about how much money you made.

It’s too easy for me to find out and, if you lied, you’ll never work for me or anyone I know -- and we all know lots of people no matter what industry we’re in. Besides, if I do find out that you made $750/week, you’ve already told me WHY you were willing to work for that salary. No harm, no foul. You’ve handled it all very well.

As I said earlier, I’ll have more on this topic for different situations soon. In the meantime, I think you can see why that professor’s message has stuck with me all these years.

Suffice it to say, I learned the two most valuable life lessons in that sales class at the University of Kansas:

1. State what you want and then shut your mouth.

2. Never fall asleep in public.

You gotta love state school.

LAURA INGRAM -- "DON'T COME IN MY EAR" -- This sums up life in TV



Tracy Mazuer’s coaching skills are entirely responsible for elevating my career and status in the television industry. Tracy has recognized and helped to define a vital yet consistently overlooked part of building and maintaining a successful career in the entertainment industry – how to successfully market yourself.

I have worked in television as a Producer/Director for many years. Prior to discovering Tracy’s abilities, I promoted myself so poorly that...(read more of this testimonial)

"In a town that really has no rules, its nice to know that there's someone out there on your side. The stories use the entertainment business as a background, but all the examples and lessons are applicable to anyone in the working world. And coming from someone that has been getting advice from the Reluctant Genius for over 8 years, let me just say...Its worth the read!" - David Tobin, Producer

"Tracy has been a great coach and mentor to me in my current job search. Having worked for the same companies for many years, my idea of networking was to call my past employers and beg for work. With Tracy’s help I have re-energized my job search, making new contacts and taking meetings more successfully. Her positive and pro-active approach has given me a new way to “work the room.” I feel more in control and positive in meetings than I have in years. Thank you, Tracy." -J.G. Writer/Producer

"Tracy Mazuer's advice and guidance not only helped me to overcome my fears of asking for what I want (and become successful at getting it); she also helped me to realize the true value of my worth to the creative world! After consulting with "The Reluctant Genius", I landed more meetings, got my ideas more streamlined, and most importantly learned the sacred art of kicking ass! She is a rockstar in the consulting world! I would recommend "The Reluctant Genius" to anyone who is looking to get what they want!" --Johnny Appleseed (aka Shawn Colin Young)

"Tracy Mazuer's genius has saved me from many heartaches and headaches. I was reluctant to be as bold as I am in business until I started working with Tracy. She helped me take what I learned in the independent world and bring it to a larger audience. Tracy is part of the genius behind the creation of Stirring Up Trouble! If you are ready to go to the next level (no matter what level you're at) then you must consult with 'The Reluctant Genius' I don't know what I would have done without her!" -filmmaker, writer and host of Stirring Up Trouble
Tracy has a way of teaching you something without pointing her finger, being condescending or coming at it from a “I know it all” attitude, because frankly she doesn’t and nobody does, but she admits it, and that is what makes her “real” and most certainly approachable! Tracy has a way with words and people, truly a gift and surely something that can’t be taught, but she treats you like her equal. She has always been my boss, never vice versa but it’s always seemed as though we were fighting the same battle and we were at war side by side. (read more...)

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Connecting Reality - Wednesday, 29 October 2008
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