April 2012 marked the end of a daunting job search that lasted more than six months. Goal: Land in a Top 20 Market or stay at my current station and wait for my contract to expire. The challenge was laid out, and it was the longest fight — albeit psychological — in my life.
Yes, I said fight, and one that took endurance. After sending emails with links to my demo reel and resumes to news directors across the United States, I am happy to say that I am heading to Tampa to report for WFTS, the ABC affiliate. This job search taught me a lot of hard lessons. I want to share these lessons with all the other up-and-coming reporters who are fighting the same fight, about to, or on the ropes and ready to throw in the towel.
While my experience focuses on the television field, these lessons really apply to any young journalist.
1. COMPLIMENT YOURSELF AND YOUR WORK
There is no doubt, I am the reigning queen of self-criticism. During a period of two months when I heard nothing, I would say horrible things to myself like, “I am such a reject” and “a loser.” Doing this did not help. It only led me into a downward spiral of self-abuse. I scoured my demo reel over and over again looking for problems. Instead of looking at what I was doing well and what made me stand out, all I saw were flaws that existed in my head.
2. DON’T HANG ON EMAILS/WORDS
Email is free. And, while that can get your demo reel into the hands of managers quicker, remember, it is also an easy way for them to email back in a non-committal way. For instance, I would get emails stating, “Got your stuff … thanks,” or “please apply online.” I would hang on these words, analyze them and re-read them endlessly. (For example: When the news director told me to apply online, did that mean they were interested? Why would they waste my time? They must be interested, right?) Not one news director who emailed me like that ever followed up again. Bottom line: If a news director is interested, he or she will pick up the phone. Don’t bother reading into a one-line email.
Yep, let those tears flow. Not hearing back from stations can wreak havoc on your emotions. Once you realize a job search is a roller-coaster ride, give yourself some breathing room. Tensions will rise, and you may be the runner-up for a job and not get picked (this also happened during my search). It was a cry fest, but after it, I felt better.
4. QUIT WAITING BY THE PHONE/COMPUTER
Waking up in bed every morning, I would turn to my smartphone and check my Gmail inbox. It became a routine and would dictate how I felt throughout the day. Stop waiting and compulsively checking on things. The news director who ended up hiring me didn’t email or call. His assignment manager did.
5. STATIONS WORK ON THEIR TIMETABLE, NOT YOURS
You cannot rush a station to make a decision to hire you, no matter how many emails you send, thank you notes following an interview, etc. There is often a hierarchy, and the news director has to meet with the general manager, and then the GM has to present you to corporate. All the while, these individuals have to keep a newsroom up and running. Hiring you is a second priority.
6. COMMIT TO A TIME LIMIT
Searching for a job is a full-time job. Limit your searching and email blasting to a couple of hours each week. If you don’t, the search can and will consume you.