by Mike Brannen
So you’re months away from getting a diploma and heading out in the real world. You’ve been studying journalism, or mass communications, or another field, and you’ve learned all you can in the classroom.
Your professors have given you lessons on how to land a good job. Be polite, well-polished, have a good resume. Those are no-brainers. There are certain things that your advisors prep you for, and some things they can’t.
I finished school this October and have been job searching since September. I studied broadcast journalism and am looking to produce at a local affiliate. Although I haven’t signed on the dotted line at my TV station of choice, I can give you a heads-up on some things that will help your
NOTE: For the non-TV folks, substitute “station” with “newsroom” and the same tips still apply.
1. Expect to spend AT LEAST two months getting the job you want.
I sent ten resumes and DVDs on September 22. I got my first call October 1 from a Hearst station. About a week later, I got a call from a Raycom station. Two weeks later, a call from a Gannett station. It took more than three weeks for that station to get back to me, and it was the station I wanted most.
The Hearst news director I spoke with said many of these jobs remain open until the right candidate becomes available. Rarely will a station get desperate to fill a spot immediately with someone they feel is unqualified. I thought there was no way a station would hire me during the November sweeps period. As the news director said, they will hire when the candidate is there.
2. Be careful telling stations about the other ones you are talking to.
The key thing is to not mention other stations until an offer is made.
The Hearst station wanted to fly me out. They said they were 85% sure they wanted to hire me. The Raycom station had a more appealing opening. I told the Hearst station I was not 85% sure I wanted that job. That news director said Hearst stations typically don’t like to be competing with others for candidates. They want people who have Hearst as their number one. Needless to say that bridge was burned. To make matters worse, the Raycom station filled the appealing opening.
I’m still in limbo with the Gannett station, but I’m slowly talking with a Belo station in a higher market. If I tell Gannett about Belo, Gannett will say “great, take that job if you’re looking. We’ve got other candidates who REALLY want to be here.” BUT, if Belo makes an offer, then I could go back to Gannett and mention how a higher market wants me. I would then also tell Gannett that they are more number one choice. Stations get a little jealous (and competitive). A station like Gannett would then feel like they a getting a great deal because this producer could
have gone to a higher market.
3. Flying out to the station is not an offer.
I mentioned how if I was to fly to the Hearst station, they were 85% sure they wanted to higher me, and that I should be 85% sure I wanted to work there.
However, the Gannett station flew me out last week. At the end of the interview, I was told I was on a “short list” of candidates. I assume I am not their number one candidate. Talk about a gut-check. I don’t think there is a clear way of asking if you are the number one candidate. Just assume you are not until they make an offer.
4. Apply high.
The worse thing these stations can do is say no to you. The Gannett station is in a pretty high market considering my age (24) and experience (2 years), but it’s worth taking a shot. The executive producer wasn’t too keen of me because of my inexperience. However, I’ve got an interview under my belt. If I go elsewhere for a couple of years, I have a great chance of working for Gannett in the future.
5. Be picky, be happy.
Take the job you want, not the one that is available. Remember, you’ll have to work there probably at least two years. Go to a place that will make you happy to be there. Same thing goes for position. I know I don’t want to work mornings because I’ll be unhappy. I’m waiting to find weekend jobs so I don’t have to work at 2:00 a.m.
6. Who’s in charge?
Find out who the top editor or news director is and mail your resume to them. NEVER SEND TO HUMAN RESOURCES. The people in HR really don’t want to do the hiring. Do your work and find out the name of who is making the news decisions.
7. Check your connections.
Many former grads came to my campus for Homecoming in October. An alumnus mentioned a student who sent a resume to her station. This student never contacted the alum. Now, the alum says she won’t make the effort to help because the student didn’t do his homework. Sounds catty, but some alumni have a pride about getting fellow alums in the same newsroom.
I interned with a FOX O&O after my freshman year. In a small world, a reporter and producer at the Gannett station both previously worked at that FOX station. I emailed some folks back at the FOX station to put in a good word for me. Thankfully they did because I left a good impression when I was an intern.
8. Spice up your cover letter
Tell a story, talk about when you had to make a big decision in a heartbeat. Avoid cover letter templates. They’re boring, unoriginal, and unimaginative.
9. Say Thanks
My sister gave me the tip to follow up interviews with thank you cards. If someone at Station X wants fill an opening within their station, and you end up getting that job, you might need something extra to justify the hiring. A thank you card to the news director or executive producer speaks volumes. And not a thank you email. A snail mail thank you card. It sets you apart from everyone else.
10. Save the Money for Later.
Wait, wait, wait for the station to make an offer and a salary value. Let them bring it up on their terms. If you bring it up, it gives the impression that money is your priority, even if it isn’t.
When they give the offer, negotiate a little bit. They will lowball you, so push for a little bit. It shows you have a little backbone and that you are not a pushover.
Everybody’s experience will be different depending on the medium, the city, the newsroom environment, and the job opening. Just be yourself and you’ll do fine. If you’re curious about my experiences in this job search or want to talk further about my tips, you can reach me by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mike Brannen recently completed his thesis, Motivational Use of Twitter, and received a Master’s Degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia. He has worked various positions at KOMU-TV during the past four years. He is currently a newscast producer and producer supervisor.