As April rapidly approaches, it’s becoming crunch time for graduating broadcast meteorologists to organize and edit their weather resume tapes. It’s sort of “Hunger Games” for new grads where dozens of hopeful mets will vie for a handful of entry-level job openings over the summer. The best broadcast meteorologists with the best tapes will secure the first good openings, while other mets who might not be as strong, or with as good of a tape will wait. I make it a priority for my students to help them become the best they can be over their junior and senior years, with our last semester dedicated to putting their best material together as a portfolio for prospective employers.
News directors and chief meteorologists need to see what you can do. They need to see that you can handle a live, three-minute weather hit. When they are looking at your tape, they understand that you are just coming out of college, but they need to see what you look like, how you speak, and how you tell the weather story. You need to be able to show them all that in a clean and organized package. You have less than thirty seconds to get their attention, and less than five minutes to convince them you would be a good fit for their station.
It is important to have the skills employers are looking for, but it’s often just as important to have a great quality tape that is able to show off those skills. This boils down to four specific types of resume tapes. You can do a YouTube search for weather resume tapes and see tapes in all four of these categories.
Category One: Bad Tapes with Bad Broadcasters – This is exactly where my tape was when I graduated with my meteorology degree. I didn’t get enough experience on camera while I was in college, and I had very little idea on putting together a tape. I didn’t have one complete show that was free of mistakes (either technical or my own) to put on a tape, although I really didn’t start collecting shows until the April before graduation. In May, I took what little material I had, and did my best to edit VHS to VHS. I ended up with a disaster of a tape, but having already graduated, it was all I was going to have. I spent the summer sending out dozens of tapes, but never got a call back. I ended up going back to school to get a broadcasting degree, but if you’ve already been swallowed up by college debt at this point, this might not be an option for you.
I hate to see mets in this spot, because I know what it feels like. They didn’t know what was expected of them, and they didn’t have the means in their college program to get there. They might be just figuring it out in their last months of college, but this is really something they should be working on starting junior year or sooner.
Best Bet: Go back to school and work on getting some on camera experience, or go to Plan B and find a meteorology job away from local television news.
Category Two: Bad Mets with Good Tapes – These tapes belong to the interns. They are the mets that spend the summer with a local television station and in the very last week, they let the student spend a morning in the studio to make a tape. With all the great lighting and with all the fancy graphics, the broadcast met goes through dozens of takes until the hit looks as good as it will get. Their college program may lack the facilities to allow them to practice and develop any more, and at the end of their senior year, they end up sending out a ten month old weather hit that they did in one day. The student thinks they are in great shape because the tape quality is top-notch, but I don’t think news directors are fooled. They don’t really believe you were live on Good Morning America or CBS Boston. There is a big difference between doing something on tape and doing something live. The work on this tape doesn’t accurately reflect your true ability, but you really have nothing else to show.
Best Bet: Mix in some of your internship content with material from your local campus station, even if the broadcast quality isn’t that great. If that doesn’t work, see if you can’t get back into that internship station for another shot at some wall work.
Category Three: Good Mets with Bad Tapes – I root for these mets. I consider them the underdogs. After my failure the first time, I went back to college to get a degree in broadcasting. They didn’t have a meteorology program, but they did have a chroma-key wall, and I convinced them that I could make graphics on my own computer and do live weather updates in between commercial breaks. They let me do it, and I got the experience I needed. With my crummy weather graphics I made myself, I was able to get on camera for 90 seconds every weekday, and that helped me get better. My tape wasn’t the best, but at least it showed my live potential over the course of an entire semester. I could show them good weather days and bad weather days, and moments that you just can’t get in more morning at an internship. Maybe the tape quality wasn’t exceptional, but it showed what I could do. Three days after graduation, I was offered a part-time weather opening. Thirteen years later, I’m still here and still very happy.
Best Bet: Do the best with what you have. Today’s technology is way better than what it was when I was in college. Focus on building skills and getting good feedback. Make the most of every weather broadcast and save every hit for potential resume tape material.
Category Four: Good Mets with Good Tapes – Most broadcast meteorologists get here after their first local television job. You have the opportunity to work with better equipment, and you get in live broadcasts every week. A news director will be able to watch your tape and know exactly what you have to offer. The trick is getting this as a college senior. This all comes down to your college program and your drive to take advantage of it. You should be in a broadcast meteorology program that offers you live, weekly shows using an industry standard weather computer like WSI. These programs are out there, including the one I help out with at Lyndon State College. You get the feedback you need from industry professionals, and the opportunity to develop your skills on a weekly basis. When you graduate in May, your tape rivals broadcast mets who have worked at small market stations already.
Best Bet: Have a rough draft of your tape ready to go before Spring Break, and continue to improve it in your last weeks of school. Start sending out tapes as early as mid to late April.
I write this blog because I hate to see any college broadcast meteorologist in those first three categories. I know what it’s like to have that dream to become a successful broadcast meteorologist, and realize that it just might not ever happen because I didn’t plan ahead, or know what to expect. Judging by what is up on YouTube, there are a lot of mets like this out there.
If you have any questions about this kind of stuff, please don’t hesitate to post a comment or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be happy to check out your tape and let you know what I think. Good luck.