I have almost no doubt you have heard plenty of talk about the importance of being social media savvy, especially when job hunting.  But is your account truly ready for potential bosses “checking in?”  Now that I am also researching and in some cases recruiting journalists for jobs, I am finding that social media accounts are a gold mine of information.  A lot of it you may not even realize.  Until now.

What prospective employers are looking at.

  • Your personality
  • Who your friends are
  • Who your friends are not
  • Potential liabilities

Prospective bosses are reading your tweets, FB postings and any other social media sites they can find you on.  If they get your name or a resume reel, they immediately hop online to check you out.  Count on the fact that they will read what you say from then on, regularly.  So if you complain that all the other women in the newsroom hate you, make fun of viewers, or gripe about everything under the sun, you are sending a clear message that you are a pain in the a#! and hiring you should be avoided.  I am not saying that every tweet has to be sunshine and roses.  You can be real.  You just don’t want to come across as bitter, neurotic, high maintenance or just plain difficult.  That will hurt you immensely.  Also, do not make your twitter account your outlet for your hobby only.  This is really meant for major sports buffs.  If almost every tweet is about your favorite team, consistently over several weeks, you won’t be taken as seriously. (I am talking to news people here, not sporto’s.)  Potential bosses are looking for people who provide thought provoking conversations on a variety of subjects.  They are looking to see if you have the ability to network, and how you interact with your “audience.”

Also, you should be aware that potential employers cruise through your list of friends on your social media accounts.  They monitor which groups you hashtag with regularly on twitter.  The reasons are fascinating.  In some cases, they are checking to see if you are already a Twitter pal with people in their own newsroom.  Maybe you are buds with another reporter/producer/anchor candidate up for the same job.  It is a way to see if you have “friends” in common.  Then they know of ways to check you out, besides that reference list you provided.

They also check to see who you are not friends with.  Do you tweet with coworkers at all?  Do you seem to only talk to fellow Giants or 49er fans?  Do you have broad appeal or are you a one subject wonder surrounded by “followers” of the same thinking?  By reading your friends list, a manager can figure out a lot about how well you integrate with all types of people.

Finally, they look for potential liabilities.  Do you tell off the viewer that balls you out on your Twitter feed?  Do you talk about getting drunk last night?  Do you use the f-word or make crass comments. (Yes, this includes posts on any personal accounts.  Assume they will get access one way or another.)  A lot of GM’s and ND’s have interesting Twitter identities you would never guess, just so they can check on unsuspecting employees and/or potential hires.

Now that you know what potential employers are checking out, make sure you give them a clear look at all you have to offer.  Show off your personality, networking abilities and interaction with your viewers.  Your social media accounts, especially Twitter, are an easy way to really give insight into your worth.  Just focus on your strengths, and give yourself an edge over the competition.

The one thing you should ask about in a job interview, but probably don’t

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Oct 032012

We have talked a lot about ways to feel out a station when job interviewing.  We have discussed not judging a place by its market size.  Now let’s talk about the one thing you should ask about in a job interview, but probably don’t.  It is: How does your boss juggle work and family life (and what does he/she do to promote family life for employees)?

Stations continue cutting back on resources and many are chronically short staffed because of budget cuts and the constant threat of layoffs.  So, this may seem like a crazy question to ask in a job interview.  It’s not though.  The reason:  You have to be able to balance your life wherever you end up.  If you have a workaholic, eat three meals a day at the office desk, sleep on a cot when necessary kind of boss, then you can pretty much kiss quality family time goodbye.  If the boss doesn’t get it, you don’t get it either.

Of course all of us understand that TV news is far from a 9 to 5, punch in and out, kind of job.  (If you don’t you are going to be very frustrated!)  Still, some managers take gross advantage of salaried status and work us to death.  Often it isn’t even because of short staffing.  It is simply poor organization.  If you read through our section “Picking a Shop” you will see this is a big theme.  Poor organization, means poor management, means premature greying and a possible heart attack or bleeding ulcer for you.

Sitting in a job interview and asking a potential mentor how he/she manages to juggle work and family is a fair question.  You are getting advice.  You are also getting great insight into how this manager ticks.  Is this a person who will be reasonable when a life crisis happens?  Is this a person who will consider a crews safety during dangerous stories, like natural disasters?  The simple, “How do you juggle family/work?” question helps you naturally delve into these types of scenarios.  You will get great intel on your potential future boss.

If family is very important to you, it is best to be upfront about that from the get go.  If this is a run and gun, take no prisoners, work until you drop type station then you are going to be miserable.  It is possible to balance family life and be a successful highly productive journalist.  It requires organization.  And not just from you either.  Team effort is crucial.  You are not being selfish wanting to protect your family life.  You are maintaining a balance, so you can excel while at your job, because you know your family is fine at home.  A lot of managers get this, but even more need to be reminded.  Small rewards, like occasionally letting you head home early when your work is done, lead to big gains.  When the breaker happens on your day off, you are going to be more apt to call in and offer to help.  Managers, who respect you, get respect and extra effort in return.  It’s only natural.   So, go ahead, ask the question.  Your personal success is at stake.

 

This summer I have had both experienced journalists and soon to be grads asking how to prepare for a job interview.  As great as we journalists are about researching issues, we sometimes fall short when it comes to job interviews.  In fact, several times when I was asked to interview people, I was struck by how little information they seemed to know about the prospective city and the station.  You have to do your homework!  You are providing a first impression of what kind of skills you will provide the station.  If you come across as thinking, “I’m here and my work on my reel stands for itself.” you are letting management know you are not dedicated to research.  Why does this matter?  It makes you look sloppy, self indulgent and therefore a potential liability.  You want to let your potential new bosses know that you are genuinely interested in the area you may soon call home.

So how do you this?  For starters you must catch up on current events in the city where you will interview.  The internet and Twitter are great places to see what’s happening.  Next, watch the station’s newscasts online.  Get a feel for the news philosophy and what skills you might be able to bring to the shows.  If you are a producer, look for ways you could improve the show you are interviewing for.  If you are a reporter, look for the type of perspective that might be missing in the newscasts that you can then offer.  This will also entail researching the news director and Assistant News Director to see what their news philosophies are.  ( See “When the interview really counts” and “Interview the station” for more on how to do that.)  Have some ideas on how you would help cover a local event at the station where you are interviewing.  Be prepared for the question, “So what would you bring to this story today if you worked here.”

It is not uncommon to be given a pop quiz on the movers and shakers in the city where you will interview.  I was given tests like this many times.  Stay current on where you are living also.  ND’s gave me pop quizzes on stories from where I currently lived to make sure I stayed on top of issues even when out of town.

You can also give a sort of pop quiz to the ND.  ND’s especially like to tell you “war stories” while in an interview.  They like to check out your reactions and they are trying to see if they relate to you.  A great way to facilitate a connection is to research the ND and bring up a story he/she once covered and ask for more details.  This also helps you get a moment to catch your breath, while the ND tells you all about covering that event.

Another interesting question you should prepare for:  “What are you reading right now?”  This is trickier than it may seem.  The ND probably doesn’t want to hear about a trashy romance novel.  A super highbrow book may not actually impress either.  Again, the ND wants to see how curious you are as a person.  (Read “Reality check” for more on the reasoning behind this.)  Do you research things besides news?  What subjects are you passionate about?  This not only helps the ND get a feel for you as a person, it also helps him/her figure out if there’s a “beat” available that fits you well.

Finally, be prepared to get a little personal.  I had many deep conversations about “life” with prospective ND’s and GM’s.  They might go there and ask you if your spouse is ok with a move or if you can find a church to get fulfillment.  We’ve talked kids, insecurities that drove us and also about bad decisions made that motivated us to be better.  Covering news is voyeuristic.  It can be intensely personal.  There are a lot of issues that need rational minds to really delve into.  Your ND will do whatever she/he can to see if you are a good fit.  Get ready to get real.  Stay true to who you are.  After all, many journalists give a piece of themselves in every story:  Might as well in the job interview too.

 

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.

Good luck.

Oh, and please wear a suit during your job interview (sounds basic, but you’d be surprised….)

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Kenny King is a morning anchor for ABC 6 News in the Rochester, Minn. market. He joined the ABC 6 News team in December 2011, following a stint at KSAX Eyewitness News in Alexandria, Minn.
Follow Kenny on Twitter: www.twitter.com/KennyKing4
Friend Kenny on Facebook: www.facebook.com/KennyKingABC6

I get a lot of tweets about what it takes to get into larger markets.  That’s always the goal right? The bigger you go, the better the money and the easier the job because you will have experienced co-workers around you.  You have to aim high.  Or do you?

When I graduated college, I quickly had an opportunity in a good station in what was market 28 at the time.  I was intimidated but a professor of mine said, “Newsrooms are all the same, just go for it.”  Guess what?  They are not all the same.  I have worked in small, mid and large markets.  Small markets have a high novice factor usually.  Large markets have some novices, incredible rising stars, people burning out and veterans enjoying the professional success they have.  There is definitely more of a cut throat feeling (at least in my experience) in large markets.  However, I learned the most from them because of that diversity of people.

Mid markets are often little gems many people overlook.  Nowadays many mid markets pay more than large markets.  Yes.  You read that correctly.  The mid markets appreciate their talent and try to encourage them to stay, so the newsrooms are often more stable.  Small markets know they are largely revolving doors, training grounds for reporters and producers.  Large markets know everyone wants to come work there.  Competition is fierce getting there, and doesn’t let up once you arrive.  It can be thrilling, until you want to settle down and have a family.  Mid markets realize this and tend to offer very talented journalists nice contracts and more stability.  You get to live in a place that’s great for raising kids and you get respect for who you are as a journalist.  That can be harder to come by in small and large markets, though not impossible.

So when considering a market, focus less on the ADI size and more on whether the place will fit well with your lifestyle and, if applicable, whether it’s a good place to raise children.  You may end up a lot happier that way.

I’m guessing the title of this article got a few sarcastic chuckles.  If you have had at least one job in TV news, it has probably has happened to you.  First you move and give up everything familiar.  Then you get to the station and boom!  “Oh you thought we hired you to do the 5pm?  No, you are actually producing the noon.”  “We’ve made a few changes since you interviewed.  You won’t be on our special projects unit, you will be dayside reporting.”  “Yes, we hired you to anchor the weekend shows, but so and so is leaving so you will be on mornings.”  I can honestly say, a third of the time in my career, I arrived at stations my first day and was given a new, unexpected assignment.  When asked what happened to the plan that I would produce XY or Z, the answer was always the same, “Well we just need you here now.”  It sucks and makes you hate the boss right away.   Thankfully, there was a silver lining for me.  Every time, I ended up with the show I came there to produce.  I would sit down with management and ask what it would take to get the newscast I wanted.  Then I would deliver what they said.  Sometimes it took a few months, sometimes a year.  The key is saying, “I am here to help. I will do what you ask and give my all, but I came for a specific reason.  At some point, I want that addressed.”

Request specific parameters you must meet to get the gig you were promised.  This is going to be easier to pull off for producers and reporters.   Write those parameters down in front of the boss, then repeat them back and date it.  That way you have documented the conversation.  I know that sounds silly and technically would not hold up in court.  But it is not a document most managers want sent to human resources in a few months, along with a letter explaining how you were promised XY or Z.  It can sometimes help you leave early if you end up in pure hell.  In one case I saw a producer that was promised a weekend shift and ended up on mornings, turn in a document like this and get the weekend gig.  Another producer I knew used a document like this to get a gig I was promised.  We were both told we would get the same show!  We were hired within a week of each other.  Each of us were put on different newscasts than what we were promised.  She had several conversations with management about it, turned in documentation to human resources and got the newscast first.  It took me several months of bouncing around newscasts and raising ratings to demand I get a turn.  It worked out and I got the gig.  But if her ratings had been higher, I would not have, because she documented right away.  I also knew of reporter who was able to leave a station before his contract came up because he was placed on a different shift.  He did not have an agent by the way.  But he did have documentation.

Don’t sit and complain everyday about the screw over.  It will alienate you from the staff.  Besides you moved there and you are probably stuck for a while.  Sometimes the new shift actually works out better.  Try and keep an open mind.  Again, I speak from personal experience.  It can be hard to let go of the initial screw over.  Instead of dwelling on the situation, set goals for yourself of what you want out of this job.  Then do all you can to get more out the place than it gets from you.  What I mean is that if you focus on improving your skills one of two things will happen.  Either the station will see your growth and promote you, or you will gain a new or improved skill set and leave for greener pastures.  You will end up the winner in the end. Remember that.  Also remember that many journalists come to newsrooms for a certain job, get the gig then, lose it.  There are no givens in the news business.  At least if another shift change is presented to you that you don’t want to do you can try and say, “Hey I already took one for the team.” It might provide more long term stability.

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