Updated: 0 2/20/2017
Apart from actual paid, on-the-job experience, internships end up being the most important "plus" on your résumé.
Among other things an internship suggests that you have been serious about the field and that the school-to-job transition should be easier.
Because union rules often discourage or prohibit stations from hiring interns that are not in school, you need to pursue this option while you are still a student.
Internships can also provide important professional contacts. By keeping in touch with people you meet and work with during an internship, you will often know about job openings in advance of seeing them posted on the Internet or in professional publications.
One of the best ways to keep in touch with these people is by maintaining a permanent e-mail address. This link has details on that.
Keep in mind that landing your first job will probably be the most difficult because most people hired in TV come from other stations and have that valuable qualification called experience.
Résumés and Cover Letters
For each job opening there will generally be a number of interested candidates. Only one will get the job.
When you first apply for a job you will probably be represented solely by your cover letter and résumé.
Without dwelling on the need for impeccable writing, organization, etc., let's just say that your résumé and cover letter have to be strong enough to get you invited in for an interview.
This link has information on writing résumés and cover letters, as well as important related information.
The computer scanning of résumés is becoming more commonplace. This can work to your advantage if you understand the process. The article, Tips on Preparing Résumés That Will Be Computer Scanned, explains this.
Webcam interviews are also becoming more commonplace. How To Prepare For a Webcam Interview covers this.
Preparation for landing that first job must start long before the interview. You need a head start on such things as internship experience and compiling an impressive résumé.
Let's look at some résumé considerations.
Because on-the-job training (and mistakes) are costly to an employer, experience is ranked at the top of desirable qualifications.
Not everyone will be fortunate enough to spend a summer or two working at a TV station. But for those who have been able to get even part-time jobs in the field, employment prospects will be better.
Unless you can "feather out" your résumé with professional experience, don't neglect unrelated employment, especially if you are just graduating.
Showing an employer that you have held down a job -- any job -- indicates that you've learned to deal with responsibilities and deadlines. Plus, it will provide an employer with some "real-world" references.
When listing your experience on a written résumé don't overlook extracurricular activities. Have you produced or directed a TV show or a series at your school? Have you won any awards? Such things may separate you from other applicants.
The Résumé Reel
While in production classes be sure to save examples of your best work for your. (Even though we are an in era of DVDs, the term "reel" is still used.) Most employers will assume that serious student applicants will have a résumé reel of their work.
In assembling your reel, don't save the best to last. Those reviewing a stack of DVDs often don't take the time to view more than an opening cut.
Ideally, you'll want to lead off strong and finish strong, and make the whole résumé reel no longer than 5-10 minutes. (After you produce or direct several network productions and a few national commercials you can make it longer-and expect it all to be watched!)
Employers know that anyone can make exciting segments out of exciting events. The real test is if you can make more mundane subject matter interesting.
Use a computer to make a professional label and be sure you include your name and contact information. Rather than just stark black lettering on a white label, more creative applicants have been known to capture an impressive frame out of their video to use as a background for the label.
Being creative and computer literate (without being ostentatious or pretentious) are important qualifications in this field. You will, of course, include a cover letter with more information.
It's a good idea to try to tailor your résumé reel to the job you are applying for.
Is the job in sports, weather, field reporting, studio anchoring, or interviewing? Make sure your résumé reel emphasizes what you are interested in while not closing the door to other possibilities.
Study the station's local programming if at all possible and include only what seems to fit into the job description and their approach to things.
In order to have this flexibility you will need to have a lot of raw material to select from.
If you are not going to have ready access to video editing equipment, you might consider equipping your computer with an editing program and DVD burner (recorder). Once you do, you should be able to quickly assemble tailor made résumé reels as the need arises.
Unlike many fields that may sift through applicants for days or even weeks, jobs in broadcasting generally need to be filled quickly. This means that the standard "business school advice" on perusing employment may not be valid in broadcasting.
There may be a lengthy telephone interview prior to an in-person interview. Thus, you should be prepared (with possibly some notes handy). This link and especially the "Notes on Interviews" should help with that.
TV production awards can make a résumé "sparkle."
Consider entering some of your best work in some of the many video contests. A search of the Internet should net you many possibilities, including this one, which has almost 200 categories.
There are also the annual DV Awards, Telly Awards, Ava Awards, Aurora Awards, and the New York Film & Video Awards, to name a few. For college students the Broadcast Education Association has its own video awards.
C-SPAN has more than $50,000 in prizes in their yearly StudentCam video contest which is open to middle and high school students. They have a web page on their StudentCam page that explains the yearly contest, and includes information, suggestions and an entry form.
As a judge in some of these video contests, I can attest to the fact that some have few applications in some categories and your chances for netting yourself an award -- even a national award -- can be good.
Just keep your model releases handy in case they ask for them, and be
very wary of contests that require a substantial entry fee.
Women In Broadcasting
It may be difficult for today's TV viewers to imagine a time when every face in TV news (with the possible exception of a bubbly "weather girl") was male.
For decades it was assumed that women could not impart the same authority to TV news that men could -- especially in anchor positions. Thus, ratings conscious program managers kept women out of key on-air news positions.
A number of research studies directly challenged this view, including one done by this writer and a graduate student.
After identical newscasts were delivered by several network level male and female newscasters, written tests were given to audiences to determine such things as recall and credibility.
The results, which were published in the Journal of Broadcasting, found that there was essentially no difference between the male and female newscasters.
Although research dispelling the myths surrounding the credibility of female newscasters may have helped, it was the government mandated equal opportunity laws in the mid-to-late 1900s that were mostly responsible for opening the door to both women and racial minorities in broadcasting.
It Took 50 Years
It took 50 years after evening network news started in the United States before a woman was entrusted in the sole evening anchor position for a major commercial network.
That woman was Katie Couric, one of the most popular network personalities in morning television, who took over the evening news position at CBS in late 2006.
However, she couldn't pull the CBS nightly newscast out of its third place ratings position. On April 26th, 2011, CBS announced Couric was leaving that anchor position.
But the door had been opened, and in late 2009 it was announced that Diane Sawyer would be replacing the Charles Gibson as the anchor on ABC's World News.
Some 25 years before that Lynn Sherr was put in a quasi news anchor position for a limited time at PBS.* But even at the progressive PBS network, the news anchor position soon reverted to a male anchor for their evening news.
The major organization for women in broadcasting is Women in Media. Founded in 1951, this organization, "promotes progress and advancement for all women in media through education, advocacy and outreach."
Not only have things changed for women in broadcasting, but even in film, a field long dominated by men, women have apparently "arrived."
For the first time in its more than 80 year history of giving the top directing award to men, Kathryn Bigelow, won at the 2010 Academy Awards for The Hurt Locker, a film that also won Best Picture.
Looking For Work In
All the Right Places
CyberCollege and the InternetCampus have links to scores of job listing services.
Large media corporations publish monthly bulletins of jobs.
There are also numerous media employment agencies. Make sure you check them out before you invest any money. Your school's placement service may have additional information.
Several broadcast-related trade publications, including Broadcasting and Cable, regularly carry ads for jobs.
When all other leads dry up, you can use the "shotgun approach" of sending out unsolicited résumés to selected TV stations and production facilities.
By checking TV station web pages on the Internet or by looking up stations in the latest edition of Television & Cable Factbook you can find the names of personnel managers and department heads.
If at all possible, direct your letter to a specific person by name and title. By the way, the three-volume factbook is very expensive, so see if your library has it. On the web it's Television & Cable Factbook.
Even though you may not hear from many of the people you write to -- they are very busy -- they may keep your résumé on file and you may get a call when a job opens up.
If you can get an invitation to the National Association of Broadcasters convention, which is by far the largest professional broadcast organization, you can visit the job placement services, meet station owners, and learn about the latest broadcast technology.
The NAB convention is generally held in April each year in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The Broadcast Education Association can provide passes to the annual NAB convention, plus it offers many important services to students including a job placement service.
Those who belong to broadcast organizations have a definite advantage in job hunting. In addition to those mentioned, professional broadcast organizations include:
An Internet search will provide the names of many broadcast organizations at the state level.
Handling the Personal Interview
If you get called in for an interview, make sure to do your "homework" before you arrive.
Know everything possible about the facility. If you can, talk to some present and maybe even some past employees.
Surveys of employers have turned up some shortcomings of recent U.S. graduates that, if detected during an interview, can knock a candidate out of the running.
Although you might consider some of the following a "bad rap," you still need to know that many employers are on the lookout for these weaknesses.
Because of the problems inherent in firing employees, when faced with some questions about a prospective hire, many employers and personnel managers simply adhere to the saying, "If in doubt, don't."
In a competitive field like television there are just too many qualified applicants to take a chance.
Suffice it to say, keep these "big five" knockout factors in mind and don't give a prospective employer any reason to doubt your suitability.
The Five Knockout Factors
1. Inability to follow instructions - Employers have said that new hires have difficulty following instructions, either preferring (with limited knowledge about why things are done in certain ways) to "do it their way," or simply not being able to carefully listen to and carry out instructions.
2. Promptness and reliability issues - It's alleged that many new hires, especially those who have not successfully held a job before, don't appreciate the need of getting things done right (the first time) and on time.
3. A need for constant supervision - It's alleged that many new hires sit around wait around for someone to tell them what needs to be done, instead of being "self-starters" (being able to figure out what needs to be done and doing it).
4. Attitude problems - This knockout factor parallels #2 of the 7 criteria for success listed at the beginning of this module.
We're talking about the general positive or negative demeanor of individuals, whether they are pleasant to work with, how they accept assignments, and how they take suggestions and criticism.
5. Slovenly work habits; slovenly personal habits. This relates to everything from being neat, well-groomed and organized to following through on important details in work assignments.
The Ability to Effectively Communicate
Although this consideration isn't as applicable to broadcast communication majors who should already have proficiency in this area, in published studies personnel managers in list "the inability to effectively communicate" as their number one knockout factor in candidates they interview.
They cite an inability of a candidate to clearly and effective express thoughts, problems with English grammar, and a lack of personal confidence all as factors that significantly lower the candidate's employment prospects.
Personnel managers know that these weaknesses not only make working with the employee difficult, but, since the employee to a degree represents the employer, these problems can, by extension, reflect negatively on the company.
A factor that was not mentioned, but one that represents a decisive knockout factor, is substance abuse (primarily drugs and alcohol).
Both are clearly linked to accidents, absenteeism, and problems in the work place. No employer wants to risk the problems either represent.
Personnel managers are also aware that smoking has been linked to health problems, absenteeism, and reduced efficiency.
So, when a personnel manager faces a choice between two equally qualified candidates.....well, you can figure that out. (And, yes, it is lawful in some states to refuse employment on the basis of smoking.)
Not surprisingly, promotions and advancement are also related to all of the above factors.
Unfortunately, some people only find out about these realities after having been repeatedly fired from jobs or regularly passed over for promotions.
Once you have a string of "negatives" of this sort on you record, getting subsequent jobs and promotions becomes increasingly difficult.
If you receive a job offer, it may be a mistake to simply jump at the opportunity without taking some important things into consideration. If you find yourself at that point you need to read Handling a Job Offer.
This file on Finding a Job Today has some of the latest information on employment prospects.
* Lynn Sherr 's 25-year struggle to be successful -- some would say survive -- in a male dominated profession is documented in her book, Outside the Box.
In the next module we'll conclude this course.
The final Matching Quiz will be after module 70.
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