With graduation right coming up, hundreds of student reporters, photographers and meteorologists will be flooding local news stations with hopes of snagging an entry-level job. Landing the first job is always the scariest and most uncertain, and probably also the hardest job to get. Continue reading
There are a lot of broadcast meteorologists out there. Its a cool job and a lot of people want it. There are also a limited number of jobs openings, especially if you are just out of college. In order to stand out from the pack, you need an edge. You should have something in your bag of tricks that makes you a better candidate than the rest of the competition. Keep in mind, these skills don’t take the place of being a knowledgeable meteorologist who knows what to do at the green wall. Those things need to come standard. Here are a few bonus skills that will help get your resume to the top of the stack.
Reporting, Shooting and Editing – This one is easily at the top of the list. Most entry level meteorologists start out as a weekend met/weekday reporter. Most meteorologists either don’t have a journalism program available at college, or are just too busy to take advantage of it. Those that do get some reporting skills have a big advantage right off the bat. You save the news director from having to train you on news gathering, and allow yourself to jump right in and be ready to go. You don’t necessarily need to get a journalism degree or minor, but knowing your way around a camera and edit deck are two excellent things to have on your resume.
I’m happy to report that another Lyndon State alumni is moving up to a new job. Hayley LaPoint (’09) is leaving her job in Fargo, North Dakota for a morning job in the Champlain Valley at WPTZ. Hayley was great to work with during her time at Lyndon State, and excelled at the reporting and news anchoring as well as the broadcast meteorology. You could always tell that she was determined to do well and knew where she wanted to go. After two years out west, I know that she is happy to be returning to New England.
WPTZ has a history of hiring Lyndon State College graduates. Cindy Fitzgibbon (’95) and Keith Carson (’05) have also spent time at the Plattsburg station. Hayley will now make for three Lyndon State broadcast meteorologists doing the morning weather in the Burlington/Plattsburg market. She’ll be joining Gary Sadowsky (’92) and Kerrin Jeromin (’08) who are already working the early shift at WCAX and Fox 44, respectively. Counting Hayley, we’ll now have five Lyndon State alumni working on-air in the Champlain Valley.
I know that Hayley will a good fit at WPTZ. Hayley also says that now she is back in New England, she’s looking forward to working more with Lyndon State, and helping the upcoming broadcast meteorologists. I think hearing the stories and advice from alumni are some of the best teaching tools we can provide for new mets. I look forward to having Hayley back in the market, and hope that we can work together on future projects. I’ll update her links in the Lyndon State alumni section has soon as she gets started at her new station, sometime in mid August.
I was getting on the Interstate in Burlington, Vermont yesterday and saw a hitchhiker with a sign that said ‘Boston’. With Boston being about three and a half hours away, I had to think that the chance of someone coming by, picking him up and taking him to Boston had to be pretty slim. He was going to have to be either really lucky, or really good at hitchhiking. I think the same goes for starting out in broadcast meteorology.
Maybe instead of trying to hitchhike to Boston, this guy could have had a sign that said ‘Montpelier’. Its on the way to Boston, but only about thirty minutes away. Chances are probably a lot better that he’d make it there. After that, he could try for Lebanon, NH, then Manchester, then finally it would be a much more hitch-able ride into Boston. It would probably take more time and work than getting one ride from Burlington to Boston, but the chances of getting there would be a whole lot higher.
Its usually the same path for broadcast meteorologists. Television markets in the United States are ranked by size from number one (New York City) to 210 (Glendive, Montana). A new broadcast meteorologist will likely start out in a bottom one hundred market, somewhere from Evansville, Indiana to Glendive. You’ll usually spend two or three years there, and then move on to a 50 to 100 station, possibly from Buffalo to Charleston. Finally if you keep at it, and have the skill and ability, you can land in a top fifty market. You’ve managed to hitchhike to Boston.
Graduation seems like it was ages ago. You were pretty fired up to get that first job in broadcast meteorology a month and a half ago, but today you are starting to feel a little disheartened about the whole thing. That’s okay, but I’m here to tell you its way too early to throw in the towel.
Hopefully you know already that there are more broadcast meteorologists out there than jobs available to fill them, so the field is pretty competitive. You might have been the best in your graduating class, but there are plenty of other schools putting out good broadcast meteorologists as well. In addition, you might be up against more seasoned mets who have been working for a year or two who are looking to make a lateral move, or bump up from part time to full time. So right from the start, you’ve got a lot of qualified people all applying for the same jobs you are. That doesn’t mean you won’t find your spot. You just need to keep working at it, and planning for the long run.
Here are a couple of things to consider if you are still looking for that first job in broadcast meteorology:
It looks like such a glamorous career with the bright studio lights and television cameras, broadcasting live to homes every morning and evening. Many students are drawn to the profession because they think they’ll find fame and fortune. Well you might get some fame, but the fortune part is a little bit harder.
Your starting salary as a broadcast meteorologist will likely be between $19,000 and $24,000. I’ve seem some mets start out with more, and others offered even less, but in my best guess, this is what you should plan on for the first two years out of college.
It all revolves around the perception of local news. The public, in general, is under the impression that we make more, which makes more students coming out of high school want to join the field. After graduation you’ll find that there are likely more mets than jobs to place them all, which creates a glut of talent at the bottom. With dozens of eager mets all competing for the same open spot, News Directors have the power to offer very little for the position. If you won’t work for $20,000, there are a bunch of others that will. Its not like small market stations are making that much money to begin with anyway.
Every broadcast meteorologist has a dream job. Its a position in a market that they’ve either grown up in, or always wanted to work in. What comes as a surprise to many graduating mets is the reality that getting to that dream job can be a long journey, that usually begins with a job in a small market television station. Many mets might be reluctant to work at a tiny station, or move hundreds of miles away from home, but those that do find themselves one step closer to where they ultimately would like to be.
Plan on starting in a bottom 100 market. Those are markets in the 100 to 200 range. You can find the whole list here. The bottom hundred is filled with smaller towns all over the country, which usually pays smaller wages, and more likely to hire mets just out of college. If you can start in the top 100, great. I’ve had several students at Lyndon who have done it, but if you set your sights too high at the start of your search, you might miss out on some opportunities.
Be willing to travel, perhaps far from home. The more flexible you are on where you are willing to go, the more likely you’ll be to spend your summer working on-air, rather than at Home Depot and living with your parents. The sooner you get started, the quicker you’ll be moving on to your next gig, closer to that dream job.
Be ready to stay a while. Most entry-level job opening will likely to have you sign a two year contract. They are going to spend some time training you and promoting you, so they’ll want you to hang around for them to make worth their time. Contracts are binding, and something you should take seriously, so make sure you know what you are getting into.
After a few years working in the industry, you might find that the job you thought you wanted, isn’t where you want to be today. Life changes, and so will your goals for the future. Don’t stress out so much about where you want to be, and try and spend more time thinking about what you want to do today.
Where is your dream job?
Ah summer.. some parts of the country wait all year for these few months. Its time to get out with friends and family, and enjoy concerts, weddings and parties.
That is, unless you are working weekends. Most broadcast meteorologists starting out get stuck with working the weekend shift, and it can be a frustrating time of year if you are used to getting out and being social with the rest of the world. You’ll find that with everybody else off on Saturday and Sunday, most summer events are scheduled for those days, and getting any time off to be there can be a bit of a challenge.
Here are a few tips for mets who need help surviving the weekends:
- Bond with you coworkers – New reporters, photogs and producers are in the same boat you are, and probably closer in age and interests than a lot of the veterans. Get to know them outside of the office.
- Take advantage of the weekdays – While everyone else is working, life can be a lot less crowded. Hang out with people with similar schedules and enjoy restaurants, beaches, and golf courses without the weekend rush.
Believe me, it doesn’t get any easier. One thing you need to know is that there are no good shifts in local television news. From weekends, you might move up to mornings, where you’ll get up at 3am (or earlier). After that, there is the prime time shift that runs evenings and nights past the 11pm news. So weekends might not be all that bad. Things are usually a little less formal around the office on Saturday and Sunday with fewer people in the building. And you still can go out and enjoy happy hour.. it just starts at midnight.
- The long lunch – Evening breaks between the 6pm and 11pm shows can be useful in popping into quick social events to keep contact with your workweek friends. You’ll want to avoid the alcohol, and its never easy going back to work in the middle of the fun, but at least you can make an appearance.
I just wanted to say congratulations to one of my first students, Bryan Shaw. He has just started a new job at WIVB in Buffalo, NY. I met Bryan on my very first day of teaching at Lyndon State College in September 2007. I could tell he was driven, and he was very focused on doing what he needed to do in his Senior year to get his career going.
Bryan got his start working for a few stations in West Virginia, and now he’s getting a shot in a bigger market. Being from western New York and life-long Buffalo Bills fan myself, I couldn’t be happier for him. Here is a little introduction segment with him they did last week.
I feel like every graduate eventually finds their spot, and I think the Bryan is on his way to finding his. He’s done a nice job so far and I’m sure he’ll continue to do great things.
In June, with most colleges out for the summer, the focus for most new broadcast meteorologists is either on internships or the job search. I’ve always felt that getting the first job out of college is the hardest, and it can be a real stressful time for new grads. Its like jumping off the diving board, hoping the pool is really full of water.
So hopefully, you’ve got a great resume tape. If you don’t, that’s a topic for another post. Now that you are out of school, its time to hit the pavement and grab that first entry level job. The first thing you’ll want to do is reconnect with professionals you might know from internships or conferences. They usually have an ear to the ground and might know of an upcoming or current opening in their market. You don’t want to be a pest, but a quick email should do the trick. If they know about something, and want to give you a hand, you’ll hear back.
The one-stop shop that almost everyone uses is TVJobs.com. You pay to get access to the job database, but the cost is reasonable for an annual subscription and well worth it. That is where I found my job at WCAX in December 1998, and more than ten years later, its still the place to go. Medialine.com is also a good resource, not only for finding openings, but posting your tape as well. The WxLine forum is also very good there to see what mets are talking about. It does cost money to post your reel and look at openings, but if you are actively looking, its a good investment.
If you are trying to save some money, or if you know the region you’d like to find a job in, you can search television websites directly. Most stations post their openings somewhere on their site. Each station is different, so it can be a little frustrating and time consuming at times, but sometimes you’ll find that unadvertised job you weren’t expecting to find. To get started, try Newslink.org. There you will find a pretty good index of local television stations organized by state.
I see a lot of graduates sending out blind tapes, meaning that every station within a three hundred mile radius of where they live will get a DVD popping up in the mail. I’ve never felt that unsolicited tapes help give you an edge. I think that if a station needed to fill a position, even if it was in a pinch, they just wouldn’t hire the person who showed up in the mailbox that week. They are going to find the best person they can, and with so many mets looking for jobs, it would be crazy to just hire anyone.
Its a process, and it takes time, so no matter how good you think your tape is, be patient and persistent. Things usually have a way of working out. Any tips or tricks you’d like to share on how and where to look for broadcast meteorology gigs? I’d be happy to hear from you.