Working in media means more than knowing how to write, shoot and edit. There are many lessons you will learn when you enter the profession. But here are a few tips to help you along the way as you begin your internships and first jobs.
- Don’t be late. If you’re late or miss a meeting, make sure you’re sincerely apologetic and profoundly thankful if they’re willing to reschedule. Most people will write off even the most talented students or interns if they bail on them. Not respecting the value of other people’s time is a huge red flag and it will severely damage your chances of getting and keeping a job. People talk to each other in this business. If someone asks about you, don’t let the answer be that you don’t care and you’re rude because you think your time is more valuable. Not only is this important to your success, it also affects how willing professionals will be to help other students in the future. Unfortunately, I know many great media professionals who refuse to help interns because too many interns have behaved in such a way that they look ungrateful. If you ever insult or offend a professional who is helping you say, “I am so incredibly sorry. I know your time is very valuable and I sincerely hope you’ll accept my apology,” then do something to make it up to them so they know you won’t do it again.
- Get to the point. Do not waste people’s time. For example: “Hello, I am writing to you in regards to…” I’ve already deleted your email. Get to the point because if you don’t, then people feel like you’ve disrespected their time. This rule is one of the most important in our business, both in your writing, and verbal communication. Being wordy is the easiest way to get people to not like you. In this field, people need to like you, or you’ll most likely not succeed.
- NEVER ask someone a question that you can answer yourself on Google. If you ask for directions, an address, or contact information it may cost you a future job. Asking someone for something you should know how to find is the same as telling them you don’t have basic journalism skills, and/or you’re too lazy to open your browser so you will likely not be a hard worker. I’ve seen many managers refuse to speak to someone because of this.
- Never use more than one question mark in a row. It comes off as hostile, overly aggressive, and disrespectful.
- When you’re new, you will need help to get by. That’s great because it offers you opportunities to get to know people. But don’t only take. Give. Whatever that means, figure out a way to repay people who help you, either by helping them back, or giving them a token of appreciation. Sometimes that means a thank you coffee, baking cookies, staying late to help them wrap cables, running scripts, giving them story ideas, etc.
- Don’t wait for people to tell you what to do. Jump in and figure out what people need help with, without always asking them. Take initiative.
- No one is thankful for your content if they have to work for it. Always finish through and don’t put any work on anyone but yourself. Complete everything before you give it to someone to air or post. If they want to change it, they will. But don’t give them your rough draft or pieces. Every second someone else has to work for you, is an opportunity to push people away. So, work hard! This is an incredibly competitive field so if you want it, you must work for it.
- Don’t reply all unless everyone needs to know what you have to say. People will dislike you if you constantly fill their email with reply alls. On the other hand, if everyone needs to know the information you have, make sure to send it to everyone. Don’t expect one person to relay your info.
- Don’t get discouraged if it takes you a while to get a job. Most people apply to tons of places before they get a job. But, remember, the best way to get a job is to network. Spend your time networking instead of applying to 300 jobs.
- Don’t forget that having a successful career starts with getting the job that’s best for you. That means your online presence needs to be on point so you don’t lose out on your dream job. Make sure your website is responsive. Always test your site on your phone and different computers and browsers. Maintain a professional presence on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube/Vimeo and LinkedIn by posting all of your best work and posting often. Especially on Twitter, FB and IG, you should aim to post at least a few times a week. Posts should be of value.
- Don’t post anything on social media that doesn’t make you look like a good hire. If you wouldn’t proudly show it off during a job interview, don’t post it. Your social media presence is a reflection of you and your value to a company. Don’t let your social media presence cost you opportunities.
- Treat your social media profiles like your resume.
- Hustle all day every day. This industry is a lifestyle. If you don’t want to give everything to your career, find a different one where you can make more money per hour. You have to be passionate about this field to make it worth your time. Jump head first into everything and give it your all (yes even on weekends and holidays).
- Treat your internship like a job interview. Managers there to test your worth, not teach you. Prove to them why they should hire you. Don’t assume people at your internship will train you. Many interns assume they have no responsibility and treat their internships like school. Don’t complain that no one is teaching you… that’s what teachers are for. You are there to provide the company value. In return, you get experience and networks. If someone decides to take time away from their work to help you, you should be eternally grateful. Most people are too busy to train you. You have to figure it out for yourself. TAKE INITIATIVE.
- Help other people get jobs. Karma is huge in our business, so if you help other people succeed, you will also be helped when the time comes.
- Compliment people who you notice do a good job. While you’re learning from others, tell them you appreciate learning from them. People are more likely to keep helping you if you tell them you recognize specific things they do well.
- Watch the station’s shows. Understand their brand. Be familiar with how many shows they create, what time they air, and know the names of all reporters and anchors BEFORE your interview.
- Keep smiling. We are in a stressful deadline-driven business. Many people around you may have just returned from an emotionally draining murder scene etc. So don’t take it personal if people don’t always smile back. But do your best to spread positivity in your newsroom or office. It will help you get through a hard day. But it will also help you get promoted, and get other jobs in the future.
- Respond to emails immediately. Make sure the people in charge are on your VIP list in your email so you get a push notification anytime they send an email. The faster you reply, the better your chance is of making a good impression.
- Once you get a job, document everything. Keep track of your hours every day, and all the days you’re called into work on your day off. Expect to work way more than the hours you’re paid for. That’s just how it goes. But if it gets to the point where you can’t live with it anymore, then it’s helpful to have documentation ready. If you’re being harassed, save the text or email. Our business is filled with managers who break worker rights laws. Human Resources is not always your friend, so they won’t take your word for it when you need it. Protect yourself. Also make sure you document any deals or promises your manager makes with you. If a manager promises you a raise or promotion, get it in writing. There’s a high turnover rate in management, so you never know when your manager may quit or be fired.
- When you get a job offer, don’t be so excited that you forget to read your contract. Many positions in our field will require that you sign a contract. Read it. You may also want to show it to a lawyer. Usually, newsroom positions come with contracts, while production jobs are hourly. Some contracts are insane and could force you to pay the company thousands of dollars if you quit, even if the reason is because you need to go home to a dying parent for example. I’ve seen people be tied up in $70,000 in debt after trying to quit a job before their contract is up. Contracts are very serious. Sometimes they can ensure that you get severance pay if you’re laid off. But mostly, contracts are more likely to hurt you if you don’t understand them. I’ve heard of some companies that will sue you if you get another job within six months after your contract is up (even if you leave on a positive note and do not terminate). Can you afford to not work for six months? Or are you willing to leave the viewing area to get another job? Do not sign a contract if you are not comfortable with the deal. You can tell a hiring manager that you will only accept a job if they adjust the contract. They may adjust the contract, or perhaps you won’t get the job. Either way, make sure that you know what you’re getting yourself into.
- Some managers are great, others are not. Let the great ones inspire you, but don’t let the bad ones get you down. Remember you didn’t get into this field for them, so don’t do your job for them. Do it for yourself and the pride you have in doing a good job.
- Go get what you want. Don’t wait for it to fall in your lap.
- Always keep learning.