Summer is my time to catch up on reading, and one of my favorite books from the past few months has been The First 20 Hours: How To Learn Anything… Fast! by Josh Kaufman. Josh writes about rapid skill acquisition, and how anyone can become competent at a new skill quickly by giving it focused attention. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
Most meteorologists start out the same way. We get hooked into weather as a kid and it never lets go. We become drawn to the power of nature and grow up watching the evening local weather forecast. Continue reading
As much as we try we can’t predict the future, especially when it comes to our careers. While you are still in college, you should take some time to put together a plan for when things don’t go as expected.
We’re not all living the dream. For some broadcast meteorologists, recent graduates discover that either they don’t like the job as much as they thought they would, or that the job doesn’t like them. Some meteorologists have unrealistic expectations of what the job will pay, or what the hours or work might be like. Others find that no matter how many tapes they send out to even the smallest of stations, the phone will just not ring.
When I graduated college, I didn’t have a Plan B. I was six months out of school, working in retail and my college loans were coming due. I had sent out dozens of tapes with little more than a ‘no thanks’ in return. My Plan B ended up being me going back to college to get a broadcasting degree. Three semesters later, I was able to land my first broadcast meteorology gig, which is actually at the same station I’m at today, thirteen years later.
It’s the start of the Spring semester, and the Lyndon State College broadcast meteorologists are ready to go. For me the Spring semester is all about the transition to bigger and better things.
For the Juniors, who spent most of the Fall semester working in our classroom studio, the Spring brings opportunities for live shows in our campus studio. The safety of the classroom is ideal when a student is starting out. It prevents the fear that your first ever weathercast is going to end up on YouTube. It allows us to work out the nerves, and learn how to put together great weathercasts. You can mess up and not worry about it. Eventually, students get to the point where they are ready to get out there, and that is when we start to introduce them to live newscasts. There is a big difference between practicing in a classroom, and working with an entire team doing a live newscast.
How great would it be to get one-on-one weathercast coaching from The Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore? If you are a senior broadcast meteorologist at Lyndon State College, that is exactly what you get to do. Jim Cantore (Class of ’86) offers his time and expert advice every November to help Lyndon State broadcast meteorologists become the best they can be. We just wrapped up another Jim Cantore workshop this past weekend, and it was another excellent experience.
Jim starts the full day workshop with a general presentation about the state of the business and trends within the field. We were joined again this year by meteorologist Kerrin Jeromin (Class of ’08). Together they talked about the process of getting your first job in broadcast meteorology, and tips to be successful at your first job. We were fortunate this year to be joined by talent coach Lou Michaels from Talent Dynamics via Skype. Lou is a pro in helping broadcast professionals improve their résumé tape, develop their on-air presence, and find success in their careers. We learned a lot about the role of social media, advice for looking our best on-air and tips for the job search. Special thanks to Jim for helping set that up. It was a great experience for the students and there was a ton of helpful information.
College campuses are busy again and like every Autumn, the campus television stations are getting ready for another semester. If you are a student meteorologist interested in a career in broadcasting, these campus stations are your best bet to get the practice you need to be good enough to land that first job. Some campus stations are run by college broadcasting or journalism department and can give students a real taste of live television news. Other campus stations are student led free-for-alls that lack any kind of structure or leadership. These are in the majority. While TV clubs are a lot of fun, usually they are not going to help you get as good as you need before you graduate.
If you are serious about your future in broadcast meteorology, you need to take a hard look at what kind of experience you are planning to get this semester. Here are a few important things to consider and look for:
Live daily newscasts are better than taped weather cut-ins. Does your campus television station offer live daily newscasts? Many campus stations tape their newscasts or only offer cut-ins for weather. It’s important to be part of a full newscast to learn anchor chat and the ability to work with others. If you are only getting a minute or two per weathercast, you are missing out on a full news show experience. Some campus stations only air newscasts once or twice a week. If its not a daily newscast, and you are not the only broadcast meteorologist in the program, there is no way you’ll get enough shows to get to where you want with your skill.
Campus TV clubs usually don’t sport the gear you need. You are going to want a chroma-key wall, a news set and some good lighting. Chances are your résumé tape material will come from the shows you do on your college television station. If the set or lighting looks like it came from the high school A/V club, then you are probably not helping your chances. You also need a weather computer that provides live satellite and radar data, and the ability to draw your own surface maps. Anything less and you might as well be doing the weather from your bedroom webcam. Not only are theses computers great to have for your shows, but they also give your résumé a huge boost if you know how to use them. Find a college that is serious about putting out high-quality newscasts.
The big difference between a news anchor and a broadcast meteorologist is that the newsie reads a pre-written script, and the met usually ad-libs. What is ad-lib? It’s the ability to speak off the top of your head on a certain topic, and its a skill you can learn and improve. Its harder than it looks, and not something you can just tackle in a week or two. The key is to sound informative, but still conversational at the same time. You can know all there is about the weather, but if you can’t communicate it effectively, then you are not going to get your forecast across.
Ad-lib is not about making it up as you go along. Your best bet for success is to follow a couple of important concepts.
Know your topic. You can talk the easiest about what you know the best. Today in class I had the students do a two-minute ad-lib on themselves. It’s probably the easiest topic to ad-lib about. Most broadcast meteorologists do pretty well talking about the weather too, especially when you throw in some weather graphics. Not only should you know the forecast, and how weather systems behave, but you should also have a handle on the local geography. Knowing your cities, states and major highways will make it easier to describe where the weather is, and where it is going.
Its hard to believe that the start of the Fall semester is less than four weeks away. August 30th will be our first Broadcast Performance for Meteorologists class of the semester. Our Juniors studying Atmospheric Science at Lyndon State College will stepping into our classroom studio, and we’ll begin the process of developing broadcast meteorologists. These students have already spent two years learning the meteorology and will now be learning how to communicate those concepts on camera.
Its a great time of year because everyone is fresh and ready to go, including me. Most students are pretty excited to start the broadcasting part of their college career, but there are usually a bit of nerves mixed in as well. We deal with all of that in our first few weeks, and September is usually a busy month. Its very cool to see a student go from their first weathercast on camera to their first live weather update, usually sometime before Thanksgiving. They usually come a long way in their first couple months, but no one goes on until they are ready. We try to keep those YouTube moments in the privacy of the classroom. They all come back in the Spring for a second class which focuses more on polishing their broadcasts, learning more about weather graphics, as well as covering severe weather and outdoor live shots.
Earlier this week I updated the Lyndon State Alumni section on Broadcastmet.com. With the help of Tim Lewis, co-chair of the Electronic Journalism Arts program at Lyndon State College, I was able to track down 46 broadcast meteorologists. I attached links to their local television news profiles, and their Twitter accounts where I could find them. I think its interesting to look back and see how past graduates have done and hopefully your meteorology program keeps track of alumni as well. Alumni are be a valuable resource.
With social media, we are now connected more than ever, and a network of alumni can be a great asset for looking for job opportunities or just asking for some advice. Every broadcast meteorologist likely had some help from someone who has come before them. I’ve found that most veteran mets are usually willing to offer some assistance to the new broadcasters coming up the pipe.
A broadcast meteorology program with a long list of successful alumni will not guarantee you a good job after college, and knowing someone who works somewhere doesn’t always get you an ‘in’. It will always come down to whats on your resume tape, but having a strong network of alumni who are willing to point you in the right direction can be just the edge you need.
If you are looking into going to school for broadcast meteorology, ask to see a list of where past broadcast mets have gotten jobs. Knowing that the program is producing meteorologists that are currently working in the field and doing well is a good sign. If you have a favorite local tv met, go online and check out their biography to see where they went to college. You’ll usually find that alumni are the best advocates for the programs they graduated from.
Alumni have been there. They’ve taken the classes, eaten the dining hall food, and know what you are going through. They also graduated, got a job and moved on. Eventually you’ll be doing the same. Look to alumni when you are having a tough time and need some objective advice. Just be sure to pay it back to someone else when you are the one with the nice broadcast meteorology job.
Stephen King wrote in his memoir that when he was learning to write stories as a kid, imitation preceded creation. He would often take stories and characters he was familiar with and work them into works of his own. He was still in grade school at the time, but his mother would encourage him to create stories and characters of his own. As he developed his skill, he began drawing on his own experiences and his world to create his best selling works today.
I often see similar development patterns in early broadcast meteorologists. They come into class, having grown up with watching a certain meteorologist for years and years, and broadcasting in a style that is not truly them. They might be really technical, or really goofy, or get hung up on certain words or phases. I’ll ask a student where they are from, and who they grew up watching, and you can see someone else’s on-air presence being mimicked by the student. It’s true that imitation often precedes creation when you are starting out. That is fine, but I push students to discover their own broadcast style.
We usually need the courage of seeing someone else do it before us. It’s usually what inspires us to get up and do it in the first place. A broadcast meteorologist will eventually find more success in what they do when they figure out who they are as broadcasters. When they start listening to that voice, they become much more authentic and effective as broadcasters. Stephen King would have never become the writer he is today if he had continued to write stories based on what was already out there. Instead, he was challenged to write from within, and he eventually found his own voice.
We’ll still have a fondness for broadcast mets we grew up with, and who are still great at what they do. We can learn a lot by watching them and picking up on what they do well. The best broadcast meteorologist you can be is the one who is closest to who you are in real life. That is the person viewers are going to want to get their forecast from.
Broadcastmet.com has been up for about a month now, but there is still a bunch of features I”ve been meaning to add or improve on. I’m hoping to get a chance to get to a few of those this week. Here is what is on the to do list:
Expanded Lyndon State Alumni page – If you watch the weather on television, chances are you know a broadcast meteorologist who graduated from Lyndon State College. There are about three years of alumni on the site already, but our database goes back to the late 1970s. I’d like to get that information on the site this week, with links to station profiles and Twitter accounts where I can find them. If you are a Lyndon State broadcast met alumni and want to be sure you are included, please shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Expanded Broadcast Meteorology Schools page – There are a lot of great meteorology schools out there, and a lot of great broadcasting programs out there. I’m in search of colleges and universities that are excellent at both. I have a list of schools on the page already, but the list is incomplete and missing a ton of links. I’m going to clean that up this week and provide better links directly to the programs, where I can find them. If you go to a school with a great meteorology program, I’d like to hear about it. Please send me an email to email@example.com with any links that might point me in the right direction.
I’ve got other ideas for features that I’d like to launch before the end of the summer, but this will keep me busy for a few days. If you have an idea for something that would improve the site or an idea for a blog post, I’d be happy to hear from you. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for checking out the site, and have a great week!
One of the best parts of my job is getting to meet new students. We had a group of sixteen high school seniors visit Lyndon State College today, interested in atmospheric science as a major. They couldn’t have had a nicer day. Dr. Nolan Atkins from the Atmospheric Science department gave the students a tour of the meteorology facilities, which concluded with the launch of a weather balloon on the observation deck. After that, I brought the group over to News7 for a tour of our campus studio and a crash course in broadcast meteorology.
They were a great group and I’m glad I had the chance to be on campus and meet them today. I’m not sure how many of them were interested in the Broadcast Meteorology track, but we also offer National Weather Service, Private Sector, and Graduate School tracks. It might be fair to say that most students don’t exactly what they want to do early on, so selecting a school with some flexibility is important.
Picking a college is one of the most important decisions someone makes, so it was nice to talk with them and let them see what Lyndon has to offer. There are a lot of other factors that go into picking the right college too. Students need to weigh the cost, location, and the surrounding area in order to make sure they have the right school for them.
When I was looking for a college, it was all about fit. It’s a feeling you get when being on the campus just seems right. It’s a feeling that tells you that this is where you would like to be. There is a lot of other criteria that also plays into the big decision, but usually the ‘fit’ and the facts coincide pretty well.
Our next open house for prospective students is July 29.
Here’s a great clip from the Weather Channel featuring everyone’s favorite storm tracker, Jim Cantore. The Weather Channel did a nice job putting this promo together. Thanks to @weather_Jake for tweeting the clip.
I can’t imagine why anyone would run from Jim Cantore. You really have to have a passion for what you do to spend the amount of time on the road as he does. He’s been with the Weather Channel since the very start, and hurricane coverage wouldn’t be the same without him.
I actually get to work with Jim once a year at Lyndon State College, and you really couldn’t find a nicer guy. Jim is an alum of Lyndon State and comes up to campus each November for a weekend workshop with the broadcast meteorology seniors. Its great to get feedback from meteorologists who have been out there and seen it all, and Jim is clearly one of the best. I’ve seen him do great things will students first hand, and I appreciate the time he puts into the program.
So hopefully the hurricane season will be kind to Jim. I’ve personally learned a lot about broadcasting from him and I look forward to his next visit up to Lyndon in November.