Yes, Appearance is a Big Thing – From College Kid to TV Pro

Back in August, I gave a presentation at the AMS Broadcasters Conference about how to help entry-level meteorologists make the jump from college to local television. I finished the presentation about two minutes early and had time for one question from the audience. Way in the back, a student raised his hand and asked me, “But looks matter too, right?”

Yes looks matter, perhaps more than we wish they did, but television (and a lot of online media) are visual. Viewers, as well as News Directors, judge us first on appearance before we ever get a word out of our mouths. It’s something that we need to be aware of and take into consideration as broadcast meteorologists develop in college. If you are going through college and preparing for a career in broadcast meteorology now is the time to take an honest look at your appearance and make a few changes as needed. You might find that a couple of tweaks are all you need to go from college kid to tv pro.

It starts with awareness. College kids look like college kids because that is who they are, but just like you need to clean up your social media profiles as you prepare to enter the professional world, you need to clean up your appearance as well. You need to be able to take an honest, objective look at yourself and decide where you might need to make changes. That can be really hard for a twenty year old. Unfortunately, that is the business you are getting into and if you want to play the game, you need to learn the rules. Ask a trusted friend or adult for objective advice. Encourage them to be critical. Telling you that you are perfect to pad your feelings will not help you get to where you want to be. Here are the four big areas you should look at.

Body shape – People who are fit will have an easier time getting  jobs than people who appear not to be fit. Perhaps its not right to hire that way, but that has been my experience. It’s also the hardest thing here to change. You don’t have to be a supermodel or a bodybuilder, but you’ll do better if you are active and support a healthy weight. It might be a hard thing to come to terms with, but if you keep it positive and work on it through college, it might help more than just your career prospects in the long run.

Clothing – College budgets are tight, but you’ll need to own clothes that help you look good on camera. It doesn’t change when you start working in local television. Buy suits and outfits that are versatile and fit you well. There are plenty of ways to make that one outfit last with ties (for the guys) and accessories (for the women). You can always test something out at the wall before you go live with it. Add to your clothing collection and gradually add some variety from what you have to wear. Proper fit is key.

Hair – You’ll need to start looking a little older. The entry-level market is competitive and it’s too easy to pass over the fresh kid with college hair for the older met who looks a little more seasoned. You want your look to instill credibility, so you might need to clean up your current style for something more professional. When you get your next haircut, explain to your hairdresser that you are trying to look a little older and more professional. It might be a little different for you at first, but you’ll appreciate how it looks on camera, and your résumé tape. Broadcast mets might have to grow up a little faster than other college students, but that’s just how it goes.

Smile – People like to see you smile. They want to know that you enjoy what you do. You’ll need to have and use a nice, authentic smile. I often encourage my students to smile more, but ultimately they just need to get comfortable enough on camera so that the smile comes naturally. You can see the difference on the air, and for some it takes a little while to get there. You can brighten your teeth if you need to, but in the end a good smile comes from deep down.

Appearance is a big thing, but it’s not the only thing. Who you are on the outside might get you the job, but who you are on the inside will get you the career. People might start watching you because you look the part, but what you end up saying will leave the bigger impression. Be aware of your appearance  and make the most of it. Then move on to the important stuff. If you care about what you do and the people you do it for, things have a way of working out.


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