There are few things more discouraging than applying for jobs in TV news. You’ve spent the last four years of your college career dreaming of this time. You’ve interned (you better have interned), you’ve watched the news religiously, you’ve practiced reading in front of the mirror. You’re ready to work.
The only real rule these days is that all the “rules” that existed, don’t apply anymore. When the “How To Get A Job In TV News” book was written, social media wasn’t prevalent. E-mail, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, etc. have changed the landscape of the job search. Today, I “know” people solely through Twitter. I stay connected to people from my internships through Facebook. My resume and demo was submitted (for both of my jobs so far) via e-mail. Things are much different now than they were even just five years ago, and they’ll continue to change.
There are no rules anymore, but there are some guidelines that may help you, the wide-eyed fresh graduate, navigate the vaguely-charted waters of getting a TV news job in 2012.
One mistake fresh grads often make (I made it), is we apply too early. I sent out dozens of DVDs and resumes months before graduation. I’m a planner. I’m futuristic. I was antsy to bypass my last few months of school and jump into my first job. When people asked me, “What are your plans after you graduate?”, I wanted to tell them about a job I’d secured. I’m no expert, but what I have noticed is that when my station has openings, we wanted to fill them yesterday. If you send in your materials, but haven’t graduated yet, you’re not what we’re looking for right now. This isn’t to say you won’t be thrown into a pile, to consider later; but whatever job you’re applying for during March is not the job you’ll be considered for after you graduate in May.
Another mistake, we apply places we don’t want to live. Bottom line, you work less than half of the day. You will have afternoons and/or evenings, and weekends in your new city. Don’t make it the last place you want to be. If you’re miserable in your personal life, you’ll be miserable at work, and it will seep into your work. You’ll become lazy, complacent, and spend half of your day sifting through job openings. Obviously, your first job will not be your final stop. But if you loathe the Midwest, don’t apply there. Yes, this job is a stepping stone; but if you treat your time there as a temporary inconvenience, you will be miserable. Apply in places you’d like to live, and enjoy your time there. Use this as an opportunity to experience something new, and soak it in. On the flip side, don’t limit your job search to just one region or state. Be open minded, and flexible. If you’re neither open minded, nor flexible, you should probably start looking for a new major. TV news isn’t for you.
Mistake number three is one I made at an internship, so I was able to course correct before it came time for my first job. However, since I’ve been working, we’ve had interns and job applicants who’ve made this same mistake as I did.
Q: Why do you want to get into TV news?
A: I want to be an anchor. I’d also love to host my own talk show.
WRONG ANSWER. Here’s your new script: “I want to be a reporter.”
Most reporters want to be anchors. Granted, there are some reporters that love reporting, and would turn down an anchor job for a chance to be out in the field, but those reporters are extremely rare. Fact is, most reporters want to be anchors. They like to be seen, which is why they’ve chosen TV as opposed to radio; there’s nothing wrong with that. Chances are good that if you truly want to be an anchor, you’ll have an opportunity at some point, in some capacity during your career. Once you’ve secured a job, you’ll be able to fill in on a weekend, a holiday, or while an anchor takes maternity leave. If you’re good, you’ll be considered for an anchor role when a position opens up. Those opportunities are rare, but they do happen. Be patient, be available, be willing to work the “bitch shifts” and you’ll get your shot. And don’t assume that because you anchored on Christmas, management automatically know you’re interested in the job. Fill out an internal application, and make it known to your boss that you would like to be considered for the vacant anchor job.
Lastly, don’t get discouraged. If you’re meant to work in TV, you’ll find work. If you’re willing to work (for CHEEEEEAAAAAAP!), willing to learn, and a fast learner you’ll find a job eventually. There are lots of burnt-out people in the business, and energetic, eager blood is always a nice change of pace.
So, get those DVDs burned, make sure your Facebook/Twitter accounts are future employer-friendly, and send out your stuff.
Oh, and please wear a suit during your job interview (sounds basic, but you’d be surprised….)